The practical results of the combat at Manila were stated in a letter by Mr. Beach, an engineer officer on the Baltimore during the battle:
We feel that we have had a great victory here, which we ascribe to several causes. First, the Spaniard is always behind the times. He knew that an American fleet was expected and was so sure of his tremendous superiority that he took absolutely no precautions. The night we ran by the forts (in the early morning of the engagement) the Spanish officers were all at a grand ball. The entrance to the harbor was planted with torpedoes; he thought that was enough, and had no patrol, picket-boats or torpedo-boats on watch. The result is that we ran by their magnificent guns guarding the entrance to Manila Bay, and were out of range inside before the Spaniards knew it.
Another reason for our success was due to Commodore Dewey's orders. Not one of the ships had any intimation that we would run by the forts as we did until thirty miles away. We were by the Spanish forts and at the fleet by 5:30 a. m. on Sunday, May 1. They were ten fighting ships strong, carrying 116 modern guns, to which we opposed a superior fleet of six ships carrying 135 guns. Two of their ships were over 3,200 tons displacement, and the rest were modern gunboats. This fleet was assisted by batteries on shore armed with modern guns, which made their guns superior in number to ours. In number of men engaged they were undoubtedly far superior to us. The Spaniards were absolutely confident of victory. No other outcome was anticipated by them; no preparation was made for a different result. I think that their ships, combined with their forts, made them equal to us, so far as powers of offence and defence were concerned. They had as many modern guns approximating to the same size as we had, and more men to fire them. They should have been able to fire as much weight of shot in a specified time as we did.
The whole result, in other words, lay in the fact that it was the American against the Spaniard. Every shot fired from our fleet was most deliberately, coolly and pitilessly aimed. The Spaniards fired an enormous number of times, but with apparently the most impracticable aim. Shells dropped all around our ship; we were in action for over four hours; hundreds of shot and shell fell close to us. Only five or six pierced us, and they did no damage.
The damage done by our ships was frightful. I have visited all of the sunken Spanish ships, and had I not seen the effects of American marksmanship I would hardly give credit to reports of it. One smokestack of the Castilla, a 3,300-ton Spanish ship, was struck eight times, and the shells through the hull were so many and so close that it is impossible that a Spaniard could have lived on her deck. The other large ship, the Reina Cristina, was perforated in the same way. We disregarded tactics because there was little use therefor. There were our opponents and we went for them bullheadedly and made them exceedingly sick.
The lesson I draw from the fight is the great utility of target practice. The Spaniard has none; we have it every three months. Strengths of navies are compared generally ship for ship; the personnel is just as important. I am confident that had we manned the Spanish ships and had the Spaniards manned our fleet, the American side would have been as victorious as it was. The Spaniard certainly was brave, for he stuck to his guns to the last.
The effect of such a crushing defeat upon Spain was correspondingly disheartening. The riots that ensued in her principal cities compelled the government to proclaim martial law in several provinces. In the Cortes the opposition taunted the government with incapacity and supineness, and recrimination became both bitter and loud. The government had not counted upon nor made plans in the event of defeat any more than had its officials in the Philippines. Yet, with the usual methods of influencing the Spanish people through its power of suppressing or manipulating information in the press, the Cabinet turned to Admiral Cervera's squadron, yet lingering at the Cape Verde Islands, and made ostensible preparations for reprisal.
The threat of sending to the Philippines a new Spanish fleet, much stronger in fighting power than Commodore Dewey's, awoke the Americans to immediate action. The President assigned General Wesley A. Merritt to the command of an army corps of occupation to proceed at once to the support of our fleet at Manila. The forces were to consist of 4,000 regulars and 16,000 volunteer troops, to be accompanied by the cruiser Charleston, and the monitors Monterey and Monadnock. Upon General Merritt was conferred also the supreme power of Military Governor of the Philippines, and an establishment of aides was created to seize and administer the government of those islands under the military laws of the United States as applied to conquered territory. The preparations were carried forward with utmost speed and in a few weeks the first division of the new army was upon the Pacific, preceded by the Charleston with supplies of ammunition and stores in convoy.
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