Military Wiki
Third Battle of Manzanillo
Part of the Spanish-American War
USS Hist.jpg
USS Hist
DateJuly 18, 1898
LocationManzanillo, Cuba

Decisive United States victory

  • Spanish squadron destroyed
Spain Spain United States United States
Commanders and leaders
Joaquín Gómez de Barreda Naval jack of the United States (1896–1908).svg Chapman C. Todd
Naval jack of the United States (1896–1908).svg Adolph Marix
4 gunboats
3 armed pontoons
3 steamers
2 gunboats,
3 auxiliary cruisers,
2 armed tugs
Casualties and losses
4 gunboats destroyed
3 pontoons destroyed
3 steamers destroyed

The Third Battle of Manzanillo was fought in the harbor of Manzanillo, Cuba on July 18, 1898. A large squadron of the United States Navy consisting of gunboats and auxiliaries attacked and cleared the harbor of a comparable force of Spanish vessels in the third largest naval battle of the Spanish American War.


Manzanillo had been a refuge for blockade runners and gunboats since the beginning of the war, and the United States navy had sent two reconnaissance expeditions to the harbor to determine its defenses. An expedition made up of the gunboat USS Hist, USS Hornet, and USS Wompatuck attempted to clear the harbor on June 30 and a second force made up of USS Osceola and USS Scorpion was sent and repulsed on July 1. Both attacks on the harbor were failed due to superior numbers of Spanish Naval forces.[1] What few ships were sunk in these attacks were refloated and repaired leaving the largest remaining Spanish naval force in Cuba relatively intact. As a result of the failure of the two previous squadrons to eliminate the Spanish gunboats at Manzanillo, Commander Marix requested for armoured vessels to be sent in order to ensure the next assault would be successful. Although Marix had requested heavier units the Navy sent him the gunboats USS Wilmington and USS Helena.[2] The American squadron now under command of C. C. Todd, captain of the Wilmington, set off on July 18 to clear Manzanillo harbor of Spanish presence once and for all. One fort and one shore battery with ten guns protected the harbor and about 1,000 riflemen were at these positions and were in sight of American forces.[3]


The American commander split his force into three sections so as to prevent any Spanish forces from escaping the harbor. The two gunboats Wilmington and Helena entered via a channel on the northern side of the bay attacking from the left, Osceola and Scorpion attacked from a channel directly opposite the city, and the other three American vessels moved in from the right through one of the bays southern channels. All three of the American squadrons timed their passages through the channels to enter the bay concurrently.[4] At 7:04 the battle began when Spanish batteries in the city sighted the Americans and opened fire, some 15 minutes later Scorpion and Osceola replied by attacking the shore batteries.[5] As soon as they were in range Wilmington and Helena began attacking the merchant steamers El Gloria and Jose Garcia as well as the blockade runner El Purísima Concepción. Several of the Spanish gunboats in the harbor sailed out to challenge the American fleet but were repulsed by heavy fire.[6] Hist, Hornet, and Wompatuck pursued the gunboats to their moorings and engaged them.[7]

The American vessels continued to advance on the harbor but were hampered because of the shallow depth of Manzillio's bay forcing them to reconnoiter passages so that the deeper drafted gunboats would not beach themselves. Advancing upon the Spanish positions, Commander Todd realized that his forces were focusing to much of their fire upon transports taking refuge in the harbor as well as the hulk Maria which had been converted to an armed immobile pontoon, he ordered the Helena to engage the more dangerous gunboats instead of assisting the Wilmington in engaging the targets of lesser importance. Helena then changed targets and began to systematically engage the Spanish gunboats. Three of these caught fire and exploded while one grounded on the beach and sunk while another grounded and was thought to have been disabled, she was later scuttled. By the end of the battle the entire Spanish flotilla at Manzanillo had been destroyed or disabled. At 10:22 Todd gave the order for the American forces to withdraw and had the Helena lay down suppressing fire while the rest of the squadron sailed out of the harbor.[8]


By 10:35 the battle was over. The Spanish lost five gunboats, three transports and one pontoon while the Americans took no casualties. The only significant damage the Americans took was a three pounder gun that broke loose from its rivets on the Wompatuck though one of USS Wilmington's guns was disabled due to enemy fire for a few minutes.[9] The threat posed by the Spanish flotilla was eliminated, and the American squadron returned to the main fleet, with Wompatuck leaving the rest of the victorious vessels and instead arriving at Guantanamo Bay to bring the Admiral news of the latest American victory. Although the Spanish naval presence in Manzanillo was eliminated Spanish troops still controlled the town and it would not be until the very end of the war that Manzanillo fell to American troops after a fiece bombardment of the city and attack by Cuban insurgents.[10]

Order of Battle[]


  1. Everett, 141
  2. McKinley, 261
  3. Everett, 141
  4. New York Times, 1
  5. McKinley, 265
  6. Everett, 142
  7. McKinley, 263
  8. Everett, 143
  9. DANFS, Wompatuck
  10. McKinley, 306


This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain.

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