Commodore George Dewey was ready for action immediately following the declaration of war against Spain, a sharp contrast to the slow pace of events in Cuba. The American fleet had been stationed at Hong Kong, but moved directly to confront the Spanish fleet in the Philippines.
Much has been made of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt’s earlier instructions to Dewey to prepare for attack against the Spanish in the Far East, but Dewey acted properly under formal orders from his military superiors.
On May 1, 1898, Dewey's fleet sailed into Manila Bay under the cover of darkness. At dawn, the Americans engaged the Spanish fleet in a battle that would last seven hours. The result was a spectacular victory for the Americans, who lost a single sailor — to heat stroke.
Despite his complete victory, Dewey lacked the land forces necessary to occupy Manila. He was forced to remain aboard ship to await the arrival of American forces. Fighting continued on land between the Filipinos, intent on independence, and Spanish soldiers.
American occupation forces arrived on August 13, the day following an armistice between Spain and the United States. An insurrection quickly ignited when it became clear to the Filipinos that their independence was not on the American agenda.
The position of the United States was not uniformly approved at home. William Jennings Bryan wrote: "If it is right for the United States to hold the Philippine Islands permanently and imitate European empires in the government of colonies, the Republican party ought to state its position and defend it, but it must expect the subject races to protest against such a policy and to resist to the extent of their ability."
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