Monday, July 18, 2011

Embedded journalists reporting on the Battle of Manila of May 1, 1898.

Photo of screen image of original copy of the New York Journal of May 8, 1898  in the collection of the Newseum, Washington DC.

We enjoyed the Newseum (short for news museum) on Pennsylvania & Sixth, a short walk from the National Mall in Washington DC, because it afforded us historical reportage and current multi-media coverages of significant American and international events.

We've known the Newseum for quite some time through its website. We knew what to expect.  Thus, we gave ourself a day to enjoy the Newseum beginning with its collection of original editions of American newspapers that capture significant moments in history from as far back as the colonial period.

We were not surprised to find the May 8, 1898 edition of the New York Journal that headlined Gen. George Dewey's victory at the Battle of Manila.

The Journal front page spread was the "detailed American account of the Great Battle of Manila from Journal correspondent John T[inney] McCutcheon on board the United States gunboat McCulloch," his special cable dispatch six days after the defeat of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay on May 1:

     Hong Kong, May 7.—This is the result of the great fight in Manila Bay:

     Eleven Spanish ships destroyed.
     Eight Spanish ships captured.
     Four shore batteries at Cavite demolished.
     Three forts on Corregidor Island reduced.
     Four hundred Spaniards killed.
     Six hundred Spaniards wounded.
     Spanish supplies lost and captured to the amount of $5,000,000.
     American loss:
     Eight men slightly wounded.
     One thousand dollars damage.
     Those are the figures of victory. The story of the battle will live forever. 
     The names of its heroes can never die.
     The fighting began at 5 o’clock in the morning.

     The Spaniards  surrendered at 12:40 in the afternoon. 

Aside from McCutcheon, there were two other journalists embedded with Dewey's fleet to cover the Spanish-American war in the Asiatic region.  These were Edward Walker Harden and Joseph L. Stickney.

McCutcheon and Harden were reporting for the Chicago Tribune, and Stickney for the New York Herald. We are sticking to these assignments even if there are accounts that say Stickney reported for Chicago papers. Their battle of Manila stories could have been syndicated by their papers, which may explain how McCutcheon's account found its way to the New York Journal

He started with the Chicago Morning News as an artist in 1889, worked as cartoonist of the Tribune from 1903 until he retired in 1946, and was awarded the Pulitzer prize for cartoons in 1931.   He wrote eleven books,  one of them Stories of Filipino Warfare (1900).  His articles covering Dewey's victory until the "taking of Manila" in August 1898 were included in the collection of stories on the war in Cuba and the Philippines by the reporters of the Chicago Records (1898). 

Harden was the financial editor of the Chicago Tribune when he volunteered as  war correspondent with the US Navy for his paper and the New York World in 1898.  He later reported on the "Financial and Industrial Conditions of the Philippines, 1898" based on the studies he did for six months as a special commissioner of the United States.   

McCutcheon and Harden were actually close friends, and according to one account, they accompanied each other to the Far East, "where they joined Commodore Dewey's Asiatic Squadron."  McCutcheon was best man when Harden got married in New York on September 9, 1903.

Joseph Stickney, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, was a naval officer before he opted to become a reporter.  He was in Tokyo doing intelligence work for the New York Herald when the US declared war against Spain.  He wrote --

"... I had gone to Japan to keep a look-out upon the British, Japanese and Russian fleets in the Far East, because there were such indications of tension among the Western powers that it was desirable to be in the neighbourhood of Asiatic waters for any war that might occur between Russia and Great Britain. 

“Being in Tokio (sic), Japan, I cabled to Commodore Dewey on Saturday, April 9th, as follows:

“”The Secretary of the Navy gives me permission to accompany your squadron to the Philippines if you do not object. May I go with you, agreeing not to send while with you any news except when approved by you?  If yes, shall I come immediately? Stickney, Imperial Hotel.”

“I received next day the following reply, dated Honkong (sic):

“”Yes; come immediately. Dewey.”

Stickney even got designated as Dewey's aide.  Here's his account of his appointment --

“As a non-combatant, I felt that I had a right to no privileges except those granted me by the Admiral.  On Saturday I asked him if I might be allowed a position on the forward bridge, if a battle should be fought.

“He answered: “I think you’ll be satisfied.” After the council of war, when the officers had returned to their respective ships, he sent for me to come to the quarter deck, and said:  “Mr. Stickney, Mr. Caldwell [his naval secretary] has volunteered for duty at the guns, and I have decided to appoint you my aide.  You will take station with me on the forward bridge.”  He paused and then added with a quizzical twinkle in his eye: “Satisfied?” 

While in Hongkong, Dewey imposed restrictions on what the three embedded reporters could send to their papers.  “The commodore," McCutcheon would recall later, "has asked the three newspaper men with the fleet to send no cablegrams which might reveal the plans of the fleet, because these cablegrams would be returned at once to Madrid and from there to Manila.  Consequently there are a good many things which it would be inadvisable to have printed at this time and which it would not be well to cable.”

In Manila, Stickney had all the advantages over Harden and McCutcheon. By being right beside Dewey on the Olympia all throughout the battle, he saw how the commodore directed the war.  The Chicago boys were on the gunboat McCulloch, which was positioned opposite the Olympia, where they could only see how the battle proceeded. 

It was six days later on May 7 that America would know of Dewey's defeat of the Spanish armada in Manila Bay because the story could only be dispatched by telegram from Hongkong.  

Before they all left Manila on board the McCulloch, Dewey again admonished them to file their stories only after his official report has been dispatched to Washington, and that they should not include any speculations about his post-victory plans in Manila.    

According to Lyons (1970),  "the biggest news beat of the Spanish-American War was scored by E.W. Harden of the New York World [Chicago Tribune?--LFR], who won a rickshaw race with Joseph Stickney of the New York Herald to the Hong Kong telegraph office to file a one-paragraph report of Dewey’s victory at Manila.  This was a whole week after the battle. For America had no Pacific cable.” 

Below is one account of how that happened although we doubt the part about the length of Harden's story-- 

"Upon arrival in Hong Kong, Consul General Wildman took a steam launch to the McCulloch to ferry the new arrivals to shore.  Even before the launch could tie up at the docks, Harden and Stickney were leaping ashore and racing for the telegraph office.  The younger Harden took a shortcut, arriving only minutes before Stickney.  While the clerk protested the lengthy (3,000 word) dispatch, Stickney arrived and went directly to the manager's office.

"Stickney's observance of office protocol earned the loyalty of the manager, who ruled that the first dispatch would the the Herald's.  Harden protested, ordering dispatches to the general manager of the telegraph lines in London requesting the immediate dismissal of the Hong Kong office manager.  The clerk refused to send Harden's complaint to the general manager after noting that it was NOT a WAR DISPATCH.  

"The crafty Harden finally resorted to bribery, informing the office manager he would pay for his dispatches in a rate THREE TIMES the commercial rate and NINE TIMES the press rate.  The bribe worked, and the office manager ruled that Harden's dispatch to the Tribune would go first, followed by Stickney's dispatch, and finally McCutcheon's.

"In keeping with the conditions imposed by Commodore Dewey, Harden advised the clerk that Lieutenant Brumby's dispatches must preceded them all, and specified that these official dispatches must be repeated.  Harden's instructions were in keeping with the LETTER of the conditions, though not the spirit.  In requiring that Dewey's dispatches be repeated, it mean delays at each of the six relay stations between Hong Kong and the U.S. Capitol.  At the first relay station, Harden's report of the battle passed the official report of Lieutenant Brumbly, arriving between 3 and 4 A.M. (hours ahead of everyone else), just in time to make the morning editions."

Lyons wrote that the first report actually came from Spanish sources but the garbled story had "Dewey's fleet retiring damaged."

We haven't laid our hands on Harden's and Stickney's stories but they could not have been any longer or more detailed than McCutcheon's considering the limitations of telegraphy.

Dewey's report was brief:
"HONGKONG, May 7, 1898. (Manila, May 1.)

"The squadron arrived a Manila at daybreak this morning. Immediately engaged enemy and destroyed the following Spanish vessels: Reina Christina, Castilla, Don Antonio de Biloa, Don Juan de Austria, Isla de Luzon, Isla de Cuba, General Lezo, Marquis del Duaro, El Curreo, Velasco, one transport, Isla de Mandano, water battery at Cavite. I shall destroy Cavite arsenal dispensatory. The squadron is uninjured. Few men were slightly wounded. I request the Department will send immediately from San Francisco fast steamer with ammunition. The only means of telegraphing is to the American consul at "Hongkong.

Fuller reports from the embedded journalists would come later in American magazines.  While McCutcheon was a cartoonist, he was also a photographer, and his and Harden's articles would carry illustrations based on McCutcheon's photographs.  Stickney carried his own camera.

McCutcheon's photograph used in Harden's Dewey at Manila-One Year's Retrospect.

The Spaniards had their official accounts of their defeat. We have yet to see a Filipino reporter's coverage of the Asiatic part of the war between Spain and America, and we'd like to think that there could have been a feature about it in the Diario de Manila.  

McCutcheon's photograph used in Harden's Dewey at Manila-One Year's Retrospect.

The Philippine revolution was in exile in Hong Kong.  In about two months Manila would fall, and the US and Spain would sign a treaty of peace in Paris.  In the brief interlude, Aguinaldo came home and proclaimed independence on June 12 in Cavite.  

Little did McCutcheon imagine that that independence would be short-lived and his countrymen would be engaged in their first foreign war in Asia,  as invaders of an alien soil, when he wrote -- 

“In years to come, if the fond hopes of the Filipinos are to be realized, the 12th of June will be an occasion of rejoicing and jubilee.  It will be to the natives of these islands what the Fourth of July is to the Americans.  The declaration of independence will be read to the school children, every house will be gay with Filipino flags, and the sounds of parading bands will share the honors with the noisy firecracker and the soaring skyrocket.  It will become such an institution that the daily papers will speak familiarly of it as the”Glorious Twelfth,” and on the morning of the 13th there will be a great deal of fire news.

“On the afternoon of June 12 the formation of a provisional government was officially proclaimed in Old Cavite ...


You may want to read what the three embedded journalists wrote later after May 1, 1898. 
  • Harden, Edward W. (1899, May). Dewey at Manila. One Year’s Retrospect. Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly. 48(1): 21-38.  Available at [Harden wrote as the U.S. Commissioner to the Philippines. Illustrations were done by his friend John T McCutcheon.]
  • The Chicago Record’s War Stories (1898) by the staff correspondents in the field.  Available at Stories written by John T McCutcheon in this collection:  Dewey's Fleet in Mirs Bay, The Battle of Manila, After Dewey's Victory, On the Eve of the Battle, A Day Off Blockaded Manila, American Soldiers in Cavite, A Battle in the Night, The Taking of Manila, and Fighting at Malate.    The Battle of Manila and The Taking of Manila are blow-by-blow accounts of the May 1 and August 12-13 battles between America and Spain, respectively.  Fighting at Malate tells of his guided inspection with a Filipino general of the Filipino lines against the Spaniards. 
  • McCutcheon, John T. (1899, April).  The Surrender of Manila. (August 13, 1898.) As Seen from Admiral Dewey’s Flagship. The Century Magazine. 47(6):935-942.  Available at 
  • Stickney, Joseph L.  (1899).  Admiral Dewey at Manila and the Complete Story of the Philippines/Life and Glorious Deeds of Admiral George Dewey including a Thrilling Account of our Conflicts with the Spaniards and Filipinos in the Orient. Chicago: Imperial Publishing Company.  Available at [He wrote as Admiral Dewey’s Aide. Fully illustrated with photographs many of which were taken by the author during the battle, from the bridge of the flagship “Olympia” in Manila Bay.]
  • Stickney, Joseph L.  (1899).  War in the Philippines and Life and Glorious Deeds of Admiral Dewey. A Thrilling Account of our Conflicts with the Spaniards and Filipinos in the Orient including the Glorieous Deeds of the Great Commander and The Complete Story of the Philippine Islands, Historical and Descriptive. Chicago: Imperial Publishing Company.Available at [He wrote as Admiral Dewey’s Aide. Fully illustrated with photographs many of which were taken by the author during the battle, from the bridge of the flagship “Olympia” in Manila Bay.]
Other references used in this blog --

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