By Patrick McSherry


 The gunboat CALLAO was captured by the United States Navy early in the Spanish American War and was subsequently used by the U.S. Navy. The vessel was used by the Americans in the final attack on Manila on August13, 1898


CALLAO was built at Cavite, Philippines as a gunboat for the Spanish navy. At the outbreak of the Spanish American War, the vessel was on a cruise around Luzon. Her crew was not aware that war had been declared or that the Spanish squadron had been destroyed at Cavite in the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite on May 1, 1898.

About six o’clock in the morning on May 12, 1898, the CALLAO entered Manila Bay, and was headed for the harbor.  The RALEIGH weighed anchor and started for the vessel.  When it determined that the vessel was a Spanish gunboat, RALEIGH, OLYMPIA and BALTIMORE opened fire on her. The CALLAO, hopelessly outgunned, lowered her colors and raised a white flag. The surprised crew later commented that they did not realize that they were being fired upon immediately, believing instead that the American vessels were actually the Spanish squadron at target practice.

The CALLAO’s crew and personal effects were landed at Cavite and paroled. It was later rumored  that the commander of the gunboat was sentenced to be executed for not battling the American vessels.

The CALLAO was immediately pressed into service by the Americans, with Lt. B. Tappan in command, though the actual commissioning did not occur until July 17, 1898. For the remainder of the war, the vessel served as a tender for Rear Admiral George Dewey’s flagship, OLYMPIA. During the final assault on Manila, the shallow-draft CALLAO was stationed close inshore, off of fort San Antonio. Her 37 mm gun was put to use, to the appreciation of General Merritt and his men.

After the conclusion of the Spanish American War and the beginning of the Filipino Insurrection, CALLAO patrolled the Philippine coastal waters to suppress smuggling, aid the army in its operations, transport troops, provide support fire, etc. On February 21, 1901, CALLAO was decommissioned for repairs.

On December 20, 1902, the vessel was recommissioned, and ordered to carry supplies around Philippine waters. In February 1903, CALLAO began thirteen years of service along the Chinese coast and rivers. She was finally decommissioned at Hong Kong on January 31, 1916, and was laid up at Olongapo, Luzon.

The CALLAO returned to service  in June of 1921, serving as a ferry until being sold on September 13, 1923.


Classification: Samar Classs Gunboat
Completed:  1888
Two masts
Armament: One 3.5"(87/27 mm) breechloading gun
One 37 mm Gatling gun
Contractor: Cavite
Length: 119 feet
Beam: 17 feet, 6 inches
Draft: 6 feet, 6 inches
Displacement: 208 tons
Complement: 35 Officers and Enlisted Men
Engine type: Two boilers providing 250 hp., powering two shafts
Coal Bunker capacity: 32 tons
Speed: 9.7 knots
Armor: Unarmored


Mitiuckov, Nicholas, naval historian, Izhevsk, Russia (personal correspondence).

Naval History Department, Navy Department, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Vol. 4, (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1969) 107.

Valdivieso, Mario, Naval Engineer, (personal correspondence).

Young, Louis Stanley, The Cruise of the U.S. Flagship "OLYMPIA" from 1895 to 1899. 87.

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