Shortly after 5 A.M., a strange ship was sighted off the McCulloch’s starboard bow. We rushed to intercept the stranger, but it proved to be an English merchant vessel bound for the Philippines. The squadron held the same formation as it continued to plow through rough seas. The low clouds were very dark and threatening.
The sky began to clear about nine o’clock. Aboard the McCulloch, gun watches were changed, and three-inch ammunition was shifted forward. Some of the men—myself included—received instructions in the use of sabres and pistols. A signal drill was held in the evening, and at 10 p.m. the ships were lashed by a fearful rainstorm.
There is a great deal of speculation about the outcome of our attack on Manila. A few officers believe that the American fleet will promptly silence the Spanish batteries, and that the conquest of the city will be swift. But, behind this show of confidence, there is a nagging doubt. The fact that the enemy naval vessels outnumber us—and the land force is formidable make an easy victory improbable.
The Baltimore was soon ordered to join the Boston and Concord. They had instructions to enter Subic Bay, thirty miles north of Manila. Before leaving Mirs Bay, Commodore Dewey had received reports that Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasaron had ordered some of his warships to Subic Bay.
The inlet was an ideal defensive position. The entrance was two miles wide, and in the middle of the bay was Grande Island that commanded both sides of the passage.
About 4 P.M., our squadron was a few miles from Subic, when the sails of a small schooner, flying the flag of Spain, was sighted. It reached the entrance to Subic Bay just as the Boston and Concord were coming out. The Olympia, Raleigh and Petrel rushed to cut the schooner off, and quickly surrounded the vessel. The McCulloch was signaled to assign an officer to board the Spaniard. A dinghy, with Lieutenant Joynes and an
interpreter, was sent over to the schooner. During questioning, the Spanish captain stated that he had not sailed from Manila, and did not know the location of any warships.
At five o’clock, the Concord, Boston and Baltimore rejoined the squadron, and all ship captains were ordered to report aboard the Olympia. Captain Hodgsdon returned to the McCulloch an hour later. The serious look on his face showed that the commodore had decided on a definite plan of action. Preparations for getting underway were immediately ordered. Battle ports were put up. The only light visible was a tiny stern signal,
enclosed in a box, so that its light could only be seen by the ship directly behind.
Shortly before sunset, a remarkable cloud formation was observed on the western horizon. It represented, without imagination, the turret and gun of a naval vessel. Coming at a time like this, the superstitious sailors believed it to be either a premonition of victory or defeat.
As the sky darkened, shadowy groups of men could be seen moving silently about the deck and bridge. There was almost no sound. This was a perfect night for running past the forts at Corregidor. There were heavy gray clouds in the sky which effectively hid a half moon. It was only when lightning flashed that the dark silhouettes of our ships could be seen.
It would take two or three hours for our squadron to arrive at Corregidor. All men not on watch were told to get some rest. Mattresses were scattered about the decks, and loaded revolvers and cutlasses were placed within easy reach.
A few minutes after 10 p.M., the ship’s crews were sent to their battle stations by word of mouth. Every gun was manned. Rifles were distributed, and ammunition handlers received their assignments. There was nothing we could do now but wait!