Classic History Books


The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

city, he discovered the Spanish fleet, half a dozen miles to the southeast, at the naval station of Cavite.
Still without a pause, the American squadron moved to the attack.

The Spanish Admiral Montojo tried, though ineffectually, to come to close quarters, for his guns were of
smaller caliber than those of the American ships, but he was forced to keep his vessels for the most part

in line between the Americans and the shore. Commodore Dewey sailed back and forth five times, raking

the Spanish ships and the shore batteries with his fire. Having guns of longer range than those of the

Spaniards, he could have kept out of their fire and slowly hammered them to pieces; but he preferred a

closer position where he could use more guns and therefore do quicker work. How well he was justified

in taking this risk is shown by the fact that no man was killed on the American fleet that day and only a

few were wounded. After a few hours' fighting, with a curious interval when the Americans withdrew

and breakfasted, Dewey completed the destruction or capture of the Spanish fleet, and found himself the

victor with his own ships uninjured and in full fighting trim. By the 3d of May, the naval station at Cavite

and the batteries at the entrance of Manila Bay were in the hands of Commodore Dewey, and the Asiatic

squadron had wrested a safe and commodious harbor from the enemy.

Secure for the moment and free, Dewey found himself in as precarious a strategic position as has ever
confronted a naval officer. With his six war vessels and 1707 men, he was unsupported and at least a

month's voyage from America. It was two months, indeed, before any American troops or additional

ships reached him. Meanwhile the Spaniards held Manila, and a Spanish fleet, formidable under the

circumstances, began to sail for the Philippines. Nevertheless Dewey proceeded to blockade Manila,

which was besieged on the land side by the Filipino insurgents under Aguinaldo. This siege was indeed

an advantage to the Americans as it distressed the enemy and gave an opportunity to obtain supplies from

the mainland. Dewey, however, placed no confidence in Aguinaldo, and further was instructed by

Secretary Long on the 26th of May as follows: "It is desirable, as far as possible, and consistent for your

success and safety, not to have political alliances with the insurgents or any faction in the islands that

would incur liability to maintain their cause in the future." Meanwhile foreign nations were rushing

vessels to this critical spot in the Pacific. On the 17th of June, Dewey sent a cable, which had to be

relayed to Hongkong by boat, reporting that there were collected, in Manila Bay, a French and a Japanese

warship, two British, and three German. Another German man-of-war was expected, which would make

the German squadron as strong as the American.

The presence of so large a German force, it was felt, could hardly fail to have definite significance, and
therefore caused an anxiety at home which would, indeed, have been all the keener had Admiral Dewey

not kept many of his troubles to himself. European sympathy was almost wholly with Spain. The French,

for instance, had invested heavily in Spanish bonds, many of which were secured on the Cuban revenues.

There was also perhaps some sense of solidarity among the Latin races in Europe and a feeling that the

United States was a colossus willfully exerting itself against a weak antagonist. It was not likely that this

feeling was strong enough to lead to action, but at least during that summer of 1898 it was somewhat

unpleasant for American tourists in Paris, and an untoward episode might easily have brought unfriendly

sentiment to a dangerous head. Austria had never been very friendly to the United States, particularly

since the execution of the Emperor Maximilian in Mexico, which his brother Francis Joseph believed the

United States could have prevented, and was tied to Spain by the fact that the Queen Regent was an

Austrian Hapsburg.

It was evident, moreover, that in Europe there was a vague but nevertheless real dread of the economic
potentialities of the United States - a fear which led, in the next few years, to the suggestion that the

 

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