A Letter Home:

Capt. Charles Gridley's Letter to his Mother

This a view of Capt. Gridley, Cmdr. Lamberton (Gridley's eventual replacement) and Lt. Rees, aboard OLYMPIA


Below is Capt. Charles Gridley's letter to his mother following the Battle of Manila Bay. The note is interesting for several reasons. First, it is obvious that Gridley is in poor health. He mentions that he is under the awning, aft, and his writing ink is "not handy." His stateroom could have been no more than thirty feet away. The trip to get ink may have been too taxing on him. Within a month, he would be dead.

Secondly, it was Gridley's report to Dewey that the OLYMPIA was low on ammunition that caused Dewey to break off the battle and head towards the center of the bay. To avoid having the Spanish understand why he did this, Dewey had the other vessels in the squadron that they were beaking for breakfast. Gridley's report was found to be in error and the lull in the action was truly not needed. In this letter, however, Gridley simply notes that the ships "hauled off for breakfast" either attempting to perpetuate this myth which was widely reported on in the U.S., or he was not told the real reason for Dewey breaking off the battle.

The letter:

"My Dear Mother:

Excuse pencil, but I am writing on the deck aft, under the awning, and ink is not handy.  Well, we have won a splendid victory over the Spaniards.  We left Hong Kong on April 25, Mirs Bay, April 27, and arrived off Manila Bay at midnight on April 30.  We steamed in with our lights all out, and by daylight we were off Manila, where we found the Spanish fleet, or rather, at Cavite, seven miles from Manila. We attacked them at once, the Olympia leading, and, being flagship, she was of course the principal target, but we (our fleet) were too much for them, and after fighting two and a half hours, hauled off for breakfast, giving them another hour of it afterward. We succeeded in burning, sinking and destroying their entire force.  They were also assisted by shore batteries.  Their loss was very heavy, one ship, the Castilla, losing 130 killed, including the captain.

And now as to ourselves.  We did not lose a man in our whole fleet, and had only six wounded, and none of them seriously.  It seems a miracle.  Everybody fought like heroes, as they are.  The Olympia was struck seven or eight times, but only slightly injured, hardly worth speaking of.

"Stickney, New York Herald correspondent, and a former naval officer, was on board by permission of the department and acted during the battle as Dewey's secretary.  His account in the Herald will be full and complete, so you had better get it.  His reports will go in the same mail as this.

We have cut the cable and can only communicate via Hong Kong. The McCulloch will go over in a day or two, carrying Commodore Dewey's dispatches and this mail and bringing our mail I hope. -- I am truly thankful to our Heavenly Father for His protection during our battle, and shall give Him daily thanks.  Manila, of course, we have blockaded.  We can't take the city, as we have no troops to hold it.

Give my love to all and accept a large share for yourself.

"Your loving son,



Stickney, Joseph L., Admiral Dewey at Manila. (Chicago: Imperial Publishing Co., 1899) 58, 61.

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