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George Dewey
Personal Information
Born: December 26, 1837(1837-12-26)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: January 16, 1917 (aged 79)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: File:Flag of the United States.svg United States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: United States Navy Seal United States Navy
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Admiral of the Navy
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Battles: American Civil War
*Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip
*Battle of New Orleans
*Battle of Port Hudson
*First Battle of Fort Fisher
*Second Battle of Fort Fisher
Spanish-American War
*Battle of Manila Bay
Relations: {{{relations}}}
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

File:George Dewey signature.jpg

George Dewey's autograph.

George Dewey (December 26, 1837 – January 16, 1917) was an admiral of the United States Navy. Many historians called him the "hero of Manila." He is best known for his victory (without the loss of a single life of his own forces due to combat; one man died of heat stroke) at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. He was also the only person in the history of the United States to have attained the rank of Admiral of the Navy, the most senior rank in the United States Navy.


Dewey was born in Montpelier, Vermont to Julius Yemans Dewey and his first wife, Mary Perrin.[1][2] His father was a physician, having received his degree from The University of Vermont. Julius was among the founders of the National Life Insurance Company in 1848.[1] According to the "Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont" by Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont, his fellow founders included among others Paul Dillingham, later Governor of Vermont.[3]

Mary died from tuberculosis on 3 September 1843.[1][4] Julius had two later marriages without issue, to Susan Edson Tarbox and Susan Elizabeth Griggs Lilley.[5] According to "A concise life of Admiral George Dewey" (1899) by William J. Lawrence, "Of the mother of the admiral, who died when he was still a lad, not much need be said. She was of the best type of bright-minded, warm-hearted New England women, growing somewhat stately, as her social position and wealth advanced, but respected and beloved by every one for her kindliness of heart and good deeds— a lady whom her children remember with admiration and gratitude as well as love. Incidentally it may be remarked that the Dewey family has always maintained a dignified degree of "style." Mrs. Dewey always drove about Montpelier in a low-hanging barouche, on whose horses silver-plated harness clanked. When the townspeople saw the barouche approaching, they said, half in awe, half -jesting, "Here comes the Prince of Wales' carriage." " [6]

George had two older brothers and a younger sister. His eldest brother Charles Dewey was born on 27 March 1826. His second brother Edward Dewey was born on 27 March 1829. Their sister Mary Perrin Dewey was born on 26 October 1838.[4] Charles would later serve as president of the National Life Insurance Company. Edward would become vice president .[1] Mary married George Preston Greeley in 1861.[4]

Early life[]

According to his biographer William J. Lawrence, Dewey was born in a cottage on the Main Street of Montpelier, directly opposite the Vermont State House. His father was a deeply religious man, adherent of the Episcopal Church. Julius was among the founders of the Christ Episcopal Church in Montpelier. George would receive his baptism in said church and later attend Sunday school there.[6]

Childhood pastimes[]

"Both his brothers were considerably older, and already busy with school or work, so that he was left much to himself in his play, as a little boy, when his sister, two years younger, was his untiring companion and slave, never happier than when she was permitted to go fishing with him, and bait his hook; and many a weary mile the two children trudged together. If they were wanted and were not within call it was pretty safe to say that they were wading the shallows of the brawling and beautiful Winooski, or imagining themselves in wonderful adventures along its shelving banks." ... The "swimming-hole" of the Montpelier boys was in a bend of the Winooski or Onion River, not far from George's home; and there he was foremost in daring. He once remained under water so long in diving in competition with others that every one thought him gone, and some men near by rushed in and dragged him out. But he was not drowned — only holding his breath to the last gasp; and the


According to Lawrence, Dewey read "Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe and was inspired to act the part of Crusoe while playing in the "islets and sandbars of the Winooski". His sister Mary was cast as his Man Friday. He found another hero to emulate when offered a biography of Hannibal. "The village historians say that it was winter when this book opened a new world to the eager lad, and snow lay thick on the steep slope behind the statehouse, upon which had frozen a crust like glass. "To ten-year'-old Hannibal," to quote a reminiscence, "here was a Jungfrau ready to hand and well-nigh as formidable. Orders were at once issued to sister Mary, in this instance the army and all the appurtenances thereof, who cheerfully left her 'Child's Life of Queen Bess' and the cozy fireside to follow her captain over the Alps — no mean undertaking — and afterward to pay for her loyalty, poor little soul, by a week in bed. History does not mention what happened to George. ... It is said that he never lost an occasion to organize his friends into companies and play marching Hannibal's army over the Alps, until he got too large to do so with the dignity that is so precious to every right-minded lad." [6]

"One hears various accounts of the theatricals that the children used to have in Dr. Dewey's barn, which sometimes took the form of acting little plays of heroism or romance, and sometimes essayed "nigger minstrelsy". In every case young "Dod," as his indulgent father called him, was manager and leading actor combined, with his sister Mary as the leading lady, whenever she could not beg off. This sister is now living in Montpelier and is the widow of Captain George P. Greeley, who served as surgeon of a New Hampshire regiment throughout the Civil war. For a curtain they hung a buffalo robe; and there was no lack of "action" in the performances, which were the delight of the school-children of the village. The Rev. Mr. Wright, now a prominent clergyman of Montpelier, was one of these, and tells how on one occasion the "leading lady" of that time being absent, Mary, who had not prepared herself as an understudy, was dragged forward from the retirement of a back seat in the audience. Her plea that she didn't know the part was of no avail. She was compelled to try; and as George fired off his pistol at an awkward crisis, Mary got through her part creditably, and the play was wholly satisfactory to an enthusiastic audience, who had never learned to make fun of barn-stormers. This pistol-shooting, according to Dr. Wright, proved to be an effective drawing card, and attracted crowds; but it was too realistic a sort of drama for the neighbors, and Dr. Dewey put an end to histrionic displays which were likely to increase his surgical practice and set fire to his premises. "[6]


"It is perhaps unfortunate, but true, that the things best remembered of the future admiral's school life are his fights. His older brothers say he was a perfect little gamecock. George was never a bad boy —a malicious or mean boy; but he had inherited from his father a quick temper, he had boldness and courage in a high degree, and a country boy's full measure of health, strength and vivacity. He was small for his years, but would face a larger, bullying boy, with utter fearlessness ; and in general wanted it understood that in fighting he was better than any one else anywhere near a match to him. This came to be acknowledged among the boys, after considerable practice; and a blow he had learned to deliver straight on the nose is said to have been especially dreaded. His brother Charles relates how once he stalked up to a lad twice his size, with the remark: 'I want you to understand I can lick you.' "I know it, Dod," was the answer; "but don't do it!" Many's the time he has pounded some big bully who was "picking on" a weak boy at school."[6]

"Yet it must be confessed that he was ringleader in the reprehensible, but in those days common practice, of abusing any new school-teacher that couldn't prevent it. The boy was sent, as soon as he was old enough, to the village grammar school. As to what happened there many stories are related ; but the best account known to this biographer is that by Mr. William Johnson in Tite New Voice, which runs as follows: "In the early Montpelier days it was the custom of the schoolboys to throw the master out in the snowbank. If the attempt failed there was no more trouble during the term of school. If it succeeded, it was accepted as a 'vote of lack of confidence' on the part of all concerned, and was followed by the teacher's resignation. Young Dewey was usually the leader of the 'opposition' in these cases, and the assault on the dominie was generally successful. One winter when old George Reed was the school committeeman, three ...teachers were pitched into the snowpile, and no more teachers were to he found. ... Finally Reed himself, who was something of an athlete, opened the school in person. "His opening address was short. but pointed. He said : 'Boys,- you have thrown out three of my teachers this winter, and now I am going to see if you will throw me out. Whenever you get ready just come along and we will have it out.' The 'opposition' was a little dismayed at first; but in a few days under George's leadership they rallied to the assault. ... After the defeated lads had retreated to their seats, Reed seized a few of the leaders by the coat collar, jerked them out on the floor, and 'snapped their heels in the air just to keep his hand in,' he said. The boys hung to their desks, but the teacher tore desk and all from their fastenings. Reed was not much on 'book larnin' but he finished that term with the profound respect of the boys.[6]

"Z. K. Paugborn, for thirty years editor of the Jersey City Journal was another teacher of the Montpelier school who was not vanquished. At that time George Dewey was but eleven years old, and his father was school committeeman. After the first day's experience, Pangborn went to the doctor and reported that his son was already getting obstreperous. 'If you can't manage that eleven-year-old boy you'd better resign your position,' replied the doctor grimly. Pangborn provided himself with a rawhide and awaited developments, resolved to give a good account of himself. The second day the first skirmish was fought. Next door to the schoolhouse was an old church where the boys were wont to ring the bell at unseemly hours. After school, 'Dod,' as captain, formed the boys into two brigades. One, he ranged in ambush behind a fence; the other, which he led in person, was hidden in the church belfry. All the 'troops' were armed with well-frozen snowballs. As the teacher came out, the battery in the belfry opened the engagement with a volley. At a signal from young Dewey, the reserves from behind the fence opened up, surrounded the enemy and the engagement became general. The battle was close and sharp. At one time'Dod' was astraddle the teacher's neck. Some of the boys were roughly handled, but the schoolmaster was soon forced to beat a hasty retreat. Pangborn was mortified at his defeat, and determined to make one more attempt. Instead of leaving town, he appeared at the school the next day. It was not long before trouble was renewed. The insurgent leader, Dewey, stood up and made this address to the teacher: 'We now propose to give you the best licking that you ever had in your life.' With these words, Dewey led the attack, striking out with his fist. The teacher replied with his rawhide, which staggered the leader a bit. The reserves, consisting of the big boys, then came up and were confronted with the teacher's rapid-fire battery, with hickory cord wood as ammunition. One boy was knocked insensible; others were cut and bruised, while Dewey was so savagely pounded that he had to be helped home with one hand in a sling. The wounded leader, assisted by the boys, went down the street, flinging defiance to Pangborn, who walked down the other side to present his case. Dr. Dewey heard both sides, tied up his wounded son's bruises, and thanked the teacher for the job. There was no more trouble at that term of school.[6]


"Young Dewey was undoubtedly a wild boy, but he was not a bad one, and he loved his father and respected his superiors, according to his lights. After Mr. Pangborn had thrashed him George became an obedient subject, and began to like his "dominie" so well that when the teacher moved to Johnson, in the same State, and opened a private school ... young Dewey asked, and was allowed, to go with him. He learned a great deal from this sturdy gentleman. It is said that as a boy the admiral was not fond of books, and that he has never become what is called a bookish, or even a well- read man, outside of his profession, to which he has given all the mental energy he cared to expend in the way of study. However that may be, he seems to have been convinced of the value of the education his father was anxious to provide for him; and when he was fifteen years old he willingly went to the Norwich Military School" [6] The school, better known as Norwich University, had been founded by Alden Partridge and aimed at giving cadets a well-rounded military education. Dewey attended for two years (1852–1854).[1]

Lawrence reports that "the choice of this school is said to have been a compromise, however, between himself and his father. George wanted to go to sea, in the merchant service or anyhow. His father opposed this idea vigorously, and as a compensation let the boy go to a military school with a view to preparing for West Point. The result only regulated, instead of eradicated his original notion. The taste of military life he got there simply confirmed him in the desire to shape his course toward the navy instead of the army. He talked this plan over one day with a schoolmate, George Spalding, only to find that Spalding was nourishing the same ambition. So the two became friendly rivals in the race for Annapolis. "Meanwhile young Dewey's old love of settling questions and establishing his position and other facts by fisticuffs varied the monotony of his schoolwork by occasional encounters, and more than once, as a result, was he made a spectacle for the school, by being obliged to pace, sentry-like, around a certain tree on the campus as punishment for fighting. He studied, nevertheless, and kept his eye on the navy. His father objected and opposed his plans, and Spalding's mother was equally discontented with her son's designs. Both, however, had friends in Senator Job Morrill and Senator Foote, and finally the latter gave Spalding the appointment for the year 1854 and made Dewey alternate. Then Spalding's mother, having exhausted argu-ment, turned to entreaty ; and her tears conquered. Spalding decided not to go, and Dewey went down for examination, his father having relented. He passed, and at the age of seventeen entered the class of 1854 at the United States Naval Academy. And so it came about that the Rev. George B. Spalding preached a war sermon, in Syracuse, New York, upon the occasion of his old schoolmate's victory." [6]

Naval career[]

Naval Academy[]

Dewey entered the Naval Academy in 1854. According to Brian Miller, "The conventional four-year course had just been introduced in 1851 and the cadet corps was quite small, averaging about one hundred "Acting Midshipmen". Normally only about half the class, and sometimes considerably less than half, remained to receive their commissions at the end of four years."[1] According to Lawrence, "Out of all that entered in his year only fourteen stayed through the course. He was not only one of these, but stood fifth on the class roll at graduation. This means that he must have been both able and diligent." [6] He graduated the academy on June 18, 1858.[1]

According to Lawrence, the young men attending the Academy during these years were "as sharply divided as elsewhere on the great questions between North and South, then agitating the country so fiercely and so soon to tear it asunder". Upon entry Dewey did not protest at being called a Yankee by the Southerners. However when one called him a doughface, "the direct consequence was a knock-down blow in the taunter's face, and a battle in which the strong young Vermonter — who had been the "gamecock" of Montpelier — came off decidedly the victor. Some time afterward another malcontent hurled an inkstand at the new freshman's head in the reading room; whereupon the future admiral knocked that cadet down and bruised him sorely. This Southerner, however, did not let the matter end there, as a fair fighter would do, but sent a challenge to mortal combat according to the "code," suggesting pistols at close range. Whether young Dewey had kept up pistol practice since his dramatic exercises in his father's barn is doubtful. Probably not. It is likely he was entirely unskilled with the weapon, and the challenger knew it. But Dewey accepted promptly, all the same; the seconds were chosen and the ground prepared ; but at this point brother students, realizing the serious nature of the affair, informed the authorities, and the would-be duelists "were arrested and compelled to behave themselves." ... "After a time the quarrel was healed, and the would-be enemies became fast friends, respecting as well as loving one another." [6]


"As midshipman he first took a practice cruise in the ship Saratoga, going into Southern waters, and spending some time at Key West; and here he became popular among his shipmates, and respected, too, for his knowledge of a ship's wants, and his care in attending to his duties and tasks as a cadet officer. This caused him to be selected by his superiors for assignment to one of the best ships of the old navy — the steam frigate USS Wabash." [6] The Wabash under Captain Samuel Barron served as the new flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron. On July 22, 1858, the ship left Hampton Roads heading towards Europe.[1] Dewey served aboard the ship when she touched at her first port of call, Gibraltar, on August 17, 1858.

"The Wabash cruised in the Mediterranean, and the cadet officers aboard of it had their first taste of European life; for it was a part of the policy of commanders to let their young men go ashore as often as permissible, and see the cities of the old world accessible to them, often taking trips inland. Thus Rome and Athens and other cities were visited, and knowledge broadened. Among the noted places Midshipman Dewey visited was Jerusalem, while the frigate lay at Jaffa; and great larks it was for the middies, riding across the desert on camels." ... "George was assigned to keep the ship's log of this cruise. ... "A curious coincidence is, that the first vessel of war the Wabash encountered on that cruise was a Spanish corvette, with which the frigate exchanged the courtesies of the sea." [6] Wabash returned to the New York Navy Yard on 16 December 1859 and decommissioned there on 20 December 1859. Dewey would serve on two short-term cruises in 1860.

American Civil War[]

Assignment to the USS Mississippi[]

In January, 1861, Dewey returned to the Academy for an examination, prerequisite to a promotion.[1] "He passed the examination so well that he not only received the desired advancement, but was raised two numbers, making him third in his class. This was in 1860, and he was then given a leave of absence, and returned to his home at Montpelier, "on waiting orders, " to enjoy a well-merited vacation. The vacation was to be short. The country was in turmoil. War had been threatening between the Northern and Southern States. The instant Fort Sumter was fired upon young Dewey applied for active service, and received a commission as lieutenant ... , on April 19, 1861, eight days after the firing upon Sumter; and he immediately left his home to join the side-wheel steam sloop of war Mississippi, then commanded by Captain Melancton Smith, and attached to the squadron in the Gulf of Mexico, where the United States had just taken possession of Ship Island off the mouth of the Mississippi River as a naval base." [6] The fleet was under Admiral David Farragut for the duration of the American Civil War, enforcing the Union blockade.

The Mississippi,"together with many others, was engaged in the blockade of the mouths of the Mississippi River, but it was considered to draw so much water as to make it impossible for it to cross the bar. Moreover, there was for a long time a strange neglect of the strategic advantage and duty of sending a suitable naval expedition into the Mississippi, and taking possession of this great highway which might, in the early days of the civil war, have been done very easily, since the Confederates had been equally slow in recognizing the vast importance of this "backbone of the Confederacy," and in fortifying it or preparing to defend New Orleans, Vicksburg, Mississippi and other important river towns. It was not, however, until the end of 1861, when Commander David D.Porter urged action of this kind upon the Navy Department." ... "By that time the Confederates had formed immensely strong defenses along the lower river. The plan, which was put into operation in the spring of 1862, proposed a naval expedition, commanded by Flag Officer Farragut, intended to reduce the fortifications near the mouth of the river, and to capture New Orleans, to be followed by an army under" General Benjamin Franklin Butler which should then take possession of that city and region, after which the war vessels would proceed up the river, reduce the forts along its banks and co-operate with the gunboats already commanding the upper part of the valley, and later with the Union armies operating in Tennessee and northern Mississippi. This plan was ultimately carried out, but it required more time, cost of life and material, and hard fighting than were anticipated; and it gave young Dewey a "baptism of fire" such as falls to the lot of few officers of the navy anywhere." [6]

"The first obstacle to be overcome was the crossing of the bar at the mouth of the Mississippi River, in the Southwest Pass, where many days were consumed in dragging across the sand the large vessels whose draught was too great for the depth of the channel. With no ship was greater difficulty experienced than with that in which Dewey was now the executive officer, or lieutenant next in command to the captain. It was necessary to take out of her all her guns, coal, and most of her stores — lighten her almost to complete emptiness; and then, after days of ingenious devices and hard towing, she was ultimately dragged across. She was not as large as the Hartford (Farragut's flagship), the Brooklyn, Richmond or Pensacola, frigates carrying from twenty-four to twenty-six guns each, since she had only twelve guns; but she was associated with them in the foremost place of dauger. She was the only side-wheeler of the fleet, and like all the rest was simply a wooden vessel, whose only semblance to armor was acquired temporarily by hanging her iron anchor-cables in loops over the sides— advice suggested for all the vessels by Farragut, and afterward notably employed by the Kearsarge in her momentous duel with the Alabama off the harbor of Cherbourg, France.[6]

Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip[]

"The defenses of the river consisted of two immensely strong forts, Jackson and St. Philip, on the banks nearly opposite one another and about midway between the mouth of the river and New Orleans. Farther up there was also a series of strong waterside batteries at Chalmette, near the site of the celebrated battle of New Orleans, in ISU, and some lesser batteries here and there, the whole mounting as many and as good guns as the ships could bring to bear. In addition to this the Confederates had established a line of obstructions across the river below the forts, consisting of huge chains supported upon a line of anchored bulks and rafts; a great number of fire rafts intended to be ignited and floated down against the advancing fleet; and a number of ironclad floating batteries, rams and gunboats protected by cotton-bale walls, which were supposed to be very formidable. On the whole the defenses were such as it was supposed no naval expedition would try to attack, much less succeed in reducing. It is probable that no fleet alone could have overcome this opposition, had it not been aided by Porter's ingenious idea of a preliminary bombardment which should weaken the enemy's works and demoralize his men. This effect was accomplished by the novel introduction of mortar boats — a flotilla of twenty-one schooners, each bearing a mortar that spouted a thirteen-inch shell. They were anchored under protection of the banks and forest some distance below the forts, and for many days rained upon them such an accurate, incessant and awful fire as to half destroy the fortifications, and kill, utterly exhaust or unnerve, a large part of the garrisons."[6] This conflict is known as the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip.

Capture of New Orleans[]

The new Capture of New Orleans followed. "At the end of this preliminary bombardment a concerted attempt was made to run past the forts and the Confederate vessels gathered near them. This was begun about half-past two in the morning of April 24, 1862, the fleet moving forward in three divisions, the first under command of Captain Theodorus Bailey in the Cayuga, followed closely by the Pensacola (afterward under Dewey's command), and that by the Mississippi, in which he [Dewey] was executive lieutenant, as has been said. These big ships were compelled to keep near the west bank where the current was less strong and the water deeper; but this brought them right under the muzzles of the guns of Fort St. Philip, which had been little damaged by the mortar boats, and where every gun and every rifleman was ready to hurl destruction into the daring craft, and a perfect torrent of fire illuminated the night, each jet sending red-hot shot or bursting shells against the frail bulwarks or through the rigging. "On, on tliey steamed"... "a slow, stately procession that knew no check, until the flames of the broadside guns leaped into the very ports of the batteries and the shot struck in midair. So close were they that the gunners hurled curses at each other across the narrow space of black water. On the bridge of the side-wheeler, in the midst of belching smoke and flame, stood Dewey, guiding the Mississippi as calmly as though he were going up New York Bay on a still afternoon in Indian summer. He was perfect master of himself. " 'Do you know the channel, Dewey?' Captain Smith asked anxiously, and more than once as he paced from port to starboard. The lieutenant was very young, only twenty-four, and the situation would have tried a veteran. " 'Yes, sir,' replied Dewey, with confidence every time. But he admitted afterward that he expected to ground any moment." The same magazine publishes a reminiscence of the day by Chief Engineer Baird, United States Navy, who was one of the steamer's officers on that terrible night: "I can see him now in the red and yellow glare flung from the caimou-months. It was like some terrible thunder-storm with almost incessant lightning. For an instant all would be dark and Dewey unseen. Then the forts would belch forth, and there he was away up in the midst of it, the flames from the guns almost touching him, and the big shot and shell passing near enough to him to blow him over with their breath, while he held firmly to the bridge rail. Every time the dark came back I felt sure we would never see Dewey again. But at the next flash there he stood. His hat was blown off and his eyes were aflame. But he gave his orders with the air of a man in thorough command of himself. He took in everything. He saw a point of vantage and seized it at once." ... His commander, Smith, who said in his official report of the battle: "I have much pleasure in mentioning the efficient service rendered by Executive Officer George Dewey, who kept the vessel in her station during the engagement, a task exceedingly difficult from the darkness and thick smoke that enveloped us from the fire of our vessel, and the burning gunboats." [6]

"But the story is yet only half told, for it fell to the Mississippi to perform one of the most thrilling and important services of the day. The Confederates had afloat there an iron-covered ram called Manassas — a cigar-shaped craft, almost wholly submerged and looking more like a great fish whose back showed round above the waves, having a smokestack for a dorsal fin, than like anything else; but the fish's nose was a sharp iron prow, designed to pierce the hull, beneath the water line, of an enemy's ship. This ram had been greatly feared, and showed that she deserved it. She had rushed down the river at the first advance of the fleet, and darting boldly among them, had struck at everything in her way. Appearing suddenly from behind the Pensacola, when that vessel was slowing up opposite Fort St. Philip to enable her men to fire more effectively into the faces of the garrison, she had made a rush for the Mississippi; but Dewey- was on the alert, and steered his helm so as to avoid her prow and escape all but a glancing blow that did him no very serious damage. Then, her upper structure pierced with his shot, but her machinery uninjured, the ram continued om her destructive errand, and nearly destroyed both the Brooklyn and Hartford before she was driven away. Then she turned and ran up the river, in chase of Bailey's ships, which were leading the way so triumphantly toward New Orleans, and Farragut signaled to the Mississippi to run her down and smash her at all hazards. Now came the test of the young lieutenant's seamanship, and it stood it; the Annapolis training and the middy's cruising experience stepped to the front above bookish science. The sailor and fighter were required at the moment, with a clear head and a stout heart. The emergency called for practice, not theory ; and the man of action was there, knowing instantly and surely what to do. He comprehended without deliberation the right order to give, and a moment later the Mississippi was rushing toward the foe. But he, too, was on the alert; and just as the Union vessel was to override him, dodged the blow by a quick turn of the helm and ran ashore, where the crew swarmed out and deserted the stranded hulk. Commander Smith sent a boat's crew to set fire to it; and when they had returned he riddled it with shot until the half-consumed wreck went afloat, drifted a while and then sank beyond further harm or harmfulness.[6]

"Having got past the forts, the Mississippi swept up the river with the leading ships, until they came to the Chalmette batteries, where Dewey's guns spoke with the others in silencing those extensive fortifications and sending their garrisons on the run; and then the fine old ship was sent back with some others to a waiting position near the forts, to protect the landing of Butler's troops. Such was Dewey's first battle; and it showed that the heart which had made him stand up to bullies on the school yard, and fight hard and long, was equal to these deadlier combats where all the forces of gunnery were arrayed against one another. For the remainder of that year all that Farragut's fleet attempted to do was to patrol the lower river — an annoying and dangerous duty, for the banks swarmed with sharpshooters, lying in wait among the trees to pick off every Union man whom they could get a shot at. Here and there, also, an interval of quiet, would give the Confederates an opportunity to erect a concealed battery, the reduction of which would be speedily accomplished, but never without injury and loss of life on the part of the attacking ships. They had also a way of running two or three field guns up behind the natural breastworks afforded by the levee, and unexpectedly opening fire upon some ship passing unsuspiciously near the shore, or lying at anchor in fancied safety." [6]

Battle of Port Hudson[]

"At Port Hudson, Louisiana, the Confederates had been constructing and strengthening their second line of defense of the river valley during all this time, until they considered it impregnable. The national forces had been unable to prevent this; but when the spring campaign of 1863 began it was so important for the river to be opened, and for the naval and land forces below to be able to co-operate with Foote's flotilla of gunboats and Grant's army above Vicksburg, that Farragut resolved to attempt to run by the Port Hudson batteries, if he could not demolish them. The whole fleet was arranged for this attempt on March 14, 1863, at midnight, when Dewey saw fiercer fighting and more personal danger than he had known before, even when almost in the flame of the guns of Fort St. Philip, and more than he ever saw again or is likely to see. Port Hudson was and is a small town on the east bank of the great river, a few miles below Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at a point where the river makes a bend and the channel winds among islands and shoals that cause the passage there to be a subject of anxiety to pilots even in daylight and in time of peace. In the spring of 1863 a crescentic series of powerful fortifications, having a concentric field of fire, bordered the outside of the bend. The gunners were aided at night by the illumination of the water afforded by setting fire to huge beacons and rafts of pine knots; and had the assistance of submarine torpedoes in the channel and of several armed vessels and rams which together made the attempt of an enemy's fleet to attack or run by the place seem utterly foolhardy — in view of the fact that only wooden ships were at hand in which to make the overbold trial. Nevertheless Flag-Oflicer Farragut, with the full consent of his captains, prepared to try it." [6]

"The fleet, led by the admiral's flagship, the famous Hartford, stole up the river in midnight darkness and quiet, and were not discovered until opposite the forts, when a rocket rose from the shore, and a gun spoke, instantly answered from the Hartford. Following the flagship, so closely that it was with difficulty she avoided colliding with her, came the Richmond, her guns blazing incessantly; and then came the Monongahela, the Kineo and the Mississippi — the last still in charge of George Dewey as executive officer, under Melancton Smith as commander. All these ships were fighting furiously while the shore-guns, sometimes only fifty or sixty yards away, were replying as fast as they could be worked. The roar of cannon was incessant, and the flashes of the guns, together with the rose-red flight of the shells from the distant mortar boats, made a combination of sounds and sights that can hardly be imagined. Into this mingled beauty and horror of war the young officer, on the high bridge of the Mississippi, coolly and skillfully guided his vessel, which was pervious to every ball that came from the enemy's works. It would be difficult to prepare a situation much more dreadful or perplexing. "To add to the horrors of the night," writes an eyewitness, "while it contributed toward the enhancement of a certain terrible beauty, dense clouds of smoke began to envelop the river, shutting out from view the several vessels and confounding them with the batteries. It was very difficult to know how to steer to prevent running ashore, perhaps right under a Confederate battery, or into a consort. ... So thick was the smoke that we had to cease firing several times . . . and the battle of Port Hudson has been pronounced by officers and seamen who were engaged in it, and who were present at the passage of Fort St. Philip and Fort Jackson, as the severest in the naval history of the civil war." [6]

"The Hartford got past and sailed on; but an accident to her machinery compelled the Richmond to try to turn around and escape before it was too late. She did so successfully; but when at the center of the semicircle of batteries the Mississippi, close behind her, ran aground, and instantly there was concentrated upon her the whole of the enemy's fire. This deadly work continued for half an hour, the Confederates pouring a perfect shower of shot and shell, which riddled her hull, ruined her upper works and smashed her machinery. All this time the fated vessel was replying with such vigor that more than two hundred and fifty shots were sent ashore in spite of the frightful punishment the vessel was getting; and the executive officer directed the shooting as coolly as before. Then Captain Smith, seeing that there could be no hope of saving the ship, ordered every man to leave her. "But before you go spike the guns," shouted Dewey; and he saw that the order was obeyed. The boats were then manned, the wounded (there were surprisingly few, considering the punishment received) were transported to the Union gunboat Genessee, which had approached to render assistance ; the men were mostly landed in safety on the west bank, and a journey was made to and from the Richmond to place wounded men and oflficers on that vessel.[6]

"All of this time the fire of the batteries continued, and Captain Smith and Lieutenant Dewey stayed on board and directed operations. A man was next sent to set fire to the fore storeroom, and did so; but before his blaze got well started, three of the enemy's cannon-balls came through that part of the ship and let in water enough to drown the flames. Then other fires were started elsewhere in the cabins and hull, and the last boatload waited to see that they got well a-going, for it was not intended that the Confederates should profit by the capture of a good ship. "Are you sure it will burn, Dewey?" asked the captain, when none but the two remained on the shell-swept decks; and in reply the gallant young lieutenant went again to the cabin, reported the fire blazing effectually, and exhibited burned coat tails to show how true was his statement. Then both officers leaped into the last boat, and made their way through a storm of cannon balls and rifle bullets to the friendly shelter of the Richmond, a mile below. Lightened of weight by the fire and by the removal of some three hundred men, the ship presently lifted her keel from the treacherous mud and floated down the river, firing her still shotted guns and exploding one by one the shells that lay upon her decks, until she became almost as dangerous to the Richmond and other Federal vessels near which she drifted as she would have been had an active foe been guiding her helm." [6]

"Standing on the deck of the Richmond, Dewey watched the good old ship that had won such historic renown in all the oceans of the globe, and had been the scene of so momentous a year of his life, drift, blazing and glorious, fighting to the last with invisible enemies and guided by unseen hands — a sort of furious spirit of a ship, expiring in a terrific explosion as the fire reached her magazines. Dewey, like every one else, lost everything he possessed in the destruction of his ship." [6]

Assignment to the USS Agawam[]

Dewey was highly complimented, however, not only by Porter and other of his more immediate superiors, but by Farragut himself, who now appointed him executive officer of the Agawam — a small gunboat, which the admiral made frequent use of as a dispatch boat, and for his personal reconnoitering. This little vessel was frequently fired at, by concealed sharpshooters or temporary batteries, as has been explained ; and a story has been told of one such occasion which illustrates both the service and the men. Once, when Farragut was aboard and had sailed close up to the levee to examine something he was interested in, the enemy suddenly ran up a couple of field guns and opened a point-blank fire. Farragut saw Dewey duck at a passing shot, and remarked to him : "Why don't you stand firm. Lieutenant? Don't you know you can't jump quick enough?" A day or so after the admiral dodged a shot. The lieutenant smiled and held his tongue; but the admiral had a guilty conscience. He cleared his throat once or twice, shifted his attitude, and finally declared : "Why, sir, you can't help it, sir. It's human nature, and there's an end to it!" "[6]

In July of that year these covert attacks brought about a small engagement at Donaldsonville, Louisiana, in which Captain Abner Read, commander of the Monongahela, was killed and his executive officer severely wounded. Dewey was present, and was so conspicuous for gallantry that he was recommended for promotion on the strength of it; and meanwhile he was given temporary command of the frigate."[6]

Assignment to the USS Colorado[]

"In the latter part of 1864, after some service in the James River under Commander McComb, Lieutenant Dewey was made executive officer of the first-rate wooden man-of-war Colorado, which was stationed on the North Atlantic blockading squadron under command of Commodore Henry Knox Thatcher.

Battles of Fort Fisher[]

The blockade was an exceedingly important part of the plan of the war, and it was no reflection upon an officer's courage or efficiency to be appointed upon it. On the contrary, that service called for the highest ability, not only in vigilance and activity, but in quickness and coolness in an emergency. The blockade was never made so perfect that no vessels could pass through, but it became nearly so toward the close of the war, and this was a matter of international importance as well as belligerent value in stopping the Confederates from receiving the foreign supplies upon which they so largely depended." [6]

"Large numbers of blockade runners were captured or driven ashore and wrecked. The profit on a single cargo that passed either way in safety was very great, and special vessels for blockade running were built in England. The Confederate government enacted a law providing that a certain portion of every cargo thus brought into its ports must consist of arms or ammunition, otherwise vessel and all would be confiscated. This ensured a constant supply. ... Clothing and equipments, too, for the Confederate armies came from the same source. ... To pay for these things, the Confederates sent out cotton, tobacco, rice, and the naval stores produced by the North Carolina forests." Strenuous efforts were constantly made to shut off this trade and communication, which made the traders of Great Britain and other European nations practically allies of the confederacy, and such officers as Lieutenant George Dewey had shown himself to be were needed, especially in the North Atlantic division, which covered such ports as Wilmington, where blockade running flourished." [6]

"It was to close the port of Wilmington, as much as to reduce the only coast fortification left to the South, that a powerful expedition, in which the navy was to co-operate with the army, was organized against Fort Fisher, at the mouth of Cape Fear River, in the early winter of 1864-5. An attack delivered at Christmas proved a failure, and the land forces were largely withdrawn for service elsewhere." [6] This conflict is known as the First Battle of Fort Fisher (December 7–27, 1864). It was followed by the Second Battle of Fort Fisher (January 13–15, 1865).

"The navy remained, however, and in the middle of January made a second attack, assisted by some soldiers under Terry, who were reinforced by marines and sailors from the ships. This was one of the hardest fought engagements on land and sea of the civil war; and it resulted in a Federal victory, in which the navy, afloat and ashore, carried off the principal honors. The Colorado, being a wooden ship, was placed in the line outside the monitors and other armored vessels; but as might have been expected Dewey managed to get for her a full share of the fighting. Toward the end of the second engagement, when matters were moving the right way, Admiral Porter signaled Thatcher to close in and silence a certain part of the works. As the ship had already received no inconsiderable damage, her officers remonstrated. But Dewey, who, in addition to dash and bravery, had now acquired marked tactical ability, was quick to see the advantage to be gained by the move. 'We shall be safer in there,' he said quietly, 'and the work can be taken in fifteen minutes.' It was. The New York Times, commenting upon this part of the action, spoke of it as 'the most beautiful duel of the war.' When Admiral Porter came to congratulate Commodore Thatcher the latter said generously : " 'You must thank Lieutenant Dewey, sir. It was his move.' " Nevertheless Thatcher was promoted to be a rear-admiral and tried to take Dewey with him as his fleet captain when he went to supersede Farragut at Mobile Bay. This was not permitted, but Dewey was promoted to be a lieutenant-commander.[6]

Post-war life[]

"After the close of the civil war Lieutenant-Commander Dewey remained in active service, and was sent to the European station as executive officer of the Kearsarge — the famous old ship that had sunk the privateer Alabama. After a year of this, he was assigned to duty in the navy yard at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and there met the woman who became his wife." [6] His wife was Susan "Susie" Boardman Goodwin (c. 1841 - 1872). They were married on 24 October 1867. They would have a single son, George Goodwin Dewey (December 23, 1872 - February 10, 1963). Susie died on December 28, 1872, five days after giving birth.[3][7][8] Susan was a daughter of Ichabod Goodwin, Governor of New Hampshire and his wife Sarah Parker Rice.[9]


"The story of the courtship was told by his sister, Mrs. Mary Greeley, now dwelling in Montpelier, to the representative of The New Voice, of New York, as follows: " 'Let me show you a sweet picture — one that very few people ever see,' she said softly, as she drew from its hiding-place a small photograph. It was a copy of another picture, and a bit dim, but it revealed a madonna face of peculiar loveliness. 'That,' she said, her eyes swimming with tears — 'that is Susie, George's wife. There are some things that are sacred, you know. That is one of them." "I had not the heart, " says the writer, "to press her with questions about the matter. I knew the story of the picture already. The family seldom mention it outside the home circle. Thirty-two years ago, Lieutenant Dewey was stationed at Portsmouth, and there met Susie Goodwin, daughter of New Hampshire's 'war governor,' a Democrat who fitted out troops for the war at his own expense. Lieutenant Dewey and Commander Rhind, of the Narragansett, for a time alternated in their calls at the Goodwin home; but the commander sailed away, leaving the coast clear for the young lieutenant. The wedding took place in the old mansion on October 24, 1867." [6]

"Shortly afterward, George was ordered away for a two-years' cruise in European waters, leaving his young bride at Portsmouth, but carrying in his bosom her favorite picture. At Rome, a celebrated Italian artist made from it, for him, two miniatures on ivory. One of these was afterward lost at sea. Later events made the other too precious to carry on any voyage. It is among the Goodwin family treasures at the Portsmouth home. Dewey came back from his European cruise a commander, and was stationed at Newport in command of the Narragansett. There his bride joined him, and less than three more years of wedded life ended the union. In 1872 a child was born— George Goodwin they called him— but within a week the young mother's spirit flew upward. This son and this picture remain to remind Admiral Dewey of his life's sweet dream that ended in such a cloud— his first and only love." [6]

Peacetime assignments[]

"Our hero's next tour of duty was in 1867 and 1868 as executive officer of the Colorado — the same fine old vessel in which he had won his honors at Fort Fisher, and now the flagship of the European Squadron. Of this cruise many anecdotes have been recalled by shipmates. One tells how, in a gale in the Bay of Biscay, the Colorado got into a very dangerous situation on a lee shore, and Dewey sprang into the rigging and went out upon the yards, partly to lend the help of his arms, but mainly to encourage the men to put forth their utmost efforts in handling the sails so as to carry the good ship to safety. The admiral in command of the ship and squadron was that hearty old sea-dog Goldsborough, and one of Dewey's companions was John Crittenden Watson — the same man, who, as rear-admiral, relieved Admiral Dewey of his duties at Manila, when he wished to return to the United States in the summer of 1899."[6]

"Some tranquil years followed the end of Dewey's cruise in the Colorado. For two years, from 1868 to 1870, he was an instructor at the Naval Academy, where he became one of the most popular, although among the strictest of the preceptors. His cheery quarters on the Sautee are well remembered. The next year he did special surveying work in the steamer Narragansett, and in 1872 was given command of that vessel, and spent nearly four years in her, engaged in the service of the Pacific Coast Survey." [6]

Lighthouse Board[]

"This entitled him to a period of rest ashore; and he was ordered to Washington, and made lighthouse inspector in 1880, and subsequently secretary of the lighthouse board, a service in which he took great interest. Meanwhile he had been promoted to the grade of commander. This residence in Washington as a bureau officer of high rank gave him an extensive acquaintance, and he became one of the most popular men in the capital." [6]

"He lived principally at the Metropolitan Club, the leading social club of Washington; and the members say that whenever he was on their house committee the improvement in the kitchen and dining room was most pleasantly noticeable. It is certain that he has always been extremely popular, in Washington and elsewhere, as a clubman and a social guest, having the ability to amuse as well as to be gracefully serious in social company. He has always been noted, also, for nicety of dress, and for a certain elegance of deportment rather unexpected in a man known in the service to be so hard a worker and so reckless a fighter.[6]

Assignment to the USS Dolphin[]

"In 1882 this vacation time in Washington came to an end by his being sent to the Asiatic station in command of the Juniata, where he studied the situation with care and acquired information of immense importance ten years later." [6]

"The rank of captain was reached in 1884, and he was ordered home and given command of the Dolphin — one of the first four of the original white squadron, which formed the basis of the new and modern navy of the United States. The Dolphin was intended as a dispatch boat, and was often used as "the president's yacht;" and it is quite likely that Captain Dewey's well-known quality of "good fellow" caused this popular assignment to be given him, quite as much as it was due to his professional skill."[6]

"His sense of seamanship and discipline was not lost, however, either in the social glitter or the nautical novelty of his new command, if the following newspaper story may be credited : One day a sailor, who held a special position, some sort of a clerk or yeoman, refused to obey an order of the executive lieutenant on the Dolphin, pleading that it was outside of his line of duty. Finding remonstrance useless the officer reported this grave dereliction to the captain, who called the man before him. To have Dewey simply look hard at him, with those piercing black eyes, usually sufficed to bring a misbehaving Jacky to terms; but this man was unmoved. "What!" said the captain, "you still refuse to obey? Do you not know that that is mutiny? Your oath on your enlistment bounds you to obey your superior officers, regardless of what they required in the line of service. Think of it." The man was silent and unmovable. A moment later the captain ordered up a file of marines, stood the recalcitrant sailor on the far side of the deck, bade the marines load their guns, and took out his watch. "Now, my man," said he; "you have just five minutes in which to obey that order." He began to call off the minutes — one — two — three — four ... The yeoman turned and fled to the place where he had been ordered, and he has been earnest ever since in advising his fellows not to "monkey with the Old Man." "[6]

"His relations with his men have always been stern, yet kindly. They have everywhere admired and respected and trusted him, even although he did not elicit the affectionate regard some commanders are able to evoke. The loyalty and trust borne toward him by every man in the squadron was one of the elements that most strongly contributed to his success at Manila. The New York Sun contained, recently, a story told of his methods of discipline.[6]

"We hadn't been to sea with him long," said the narrator, referring to a European cruise, "before we got next to how he despised a liar. One of the petty officers went ashore at Gibraltar, got mixed up with the soldiers in the canteens on the hill, and came off to the ship paralyzed. He went before the captain at the mast the next morning. He gave Dewey the 'two-beers-and-sunstruck' yarn. " 'You're lying, my man,' said Dewey. 'You were very drunk. I myself heard you aft in my cabin. I will not have my men lie to me. I don't expect to find total abstinence in a man-o'-war crew. But I do expect them to tell me the truth, and I am going to have them tell me the truth. Had you told me candidly that you took a drop too much on your liberty, you'd have been forward by this time, for you, at least, returned to the ship. For lying you get ten days in irons. Let me have the truth hereafter. I am told you are a good seaman. A good seaman has no business lying. ' "After that there were few men aboard who didn't throw themselves on the mercy of the court when they waltzed up to the stick before Dewey, and none of us ever lost anything by it. He'd have to punish us in accordance with regulations, but he had a great way of ordering the release of men he had sentenced to the brig before their time was half-worked out." [6]

"In 1885, Captain Dewey undertook another tour of sea service, and for three years was in command of the Pensacola (familiar to him in the New Orleans fights), now flagship of the European squadron." [6]

Asiatic Squadron[]

"Returning to Washington in 1893 he resumed the life of a bureau officer, being attached to the lighthouse board, and remained there until 1896. when he was commissioned commodore, and transferred to the board of inspection and survey.[6]

"Commodore Dewey felt, in 1897, that his health was suffering in the climate and inaction of Washington, and applied for sea duty. It was granted to him, and he was assigned to the command of the Asiatic station. It has been questioned whether this suited this officer, who was so fond of his work. He felt certain, as did so many others at Washington that year, that war with Spain was imminent; and it is said that he shared in the popular belief that it would be confined to West Indian waters, or at least to the North Atlantic. Hence he may have feared that duty to China was likely to keep him out of active participation in the conflict, for few had thought of the Philippines as a field of serious war." [6]

"On the other hand, an opposite view seems to be nearer the truth. This view is well stated by Mr. A. S. Stickney, who was closer to our hero in the Philippine campaign than any other writer. "It has been said," he writes, "that Commodore Dewey sought to obtain the command of the Asiatic station because he foresaw the opportunity that was to come to him. In one sense this is true. Dewey has always been a man of action, a natural fighter. That he went gladly to the East Indies command, when at least two other flag officers could have had it if they had wanted it, and that he preferred taking service afloat to any kind of comfortable duty on shore, is true; but it was the seaman's instinct that led him, rather than any prophetic power. There were several questions of grave importance likely to come before the country, and Commodore Dewey knew that the man in command at sea is the man who is in a position to make opportunities for himself; while the men who cling to easy billets ashore must — when war clouds threaten — stand around and wait for chances to come to them. It was no mere chance that put George Dewey in command in the East; it was the logical working out of the principles of a lifetime. The men who had always had sufficient influence to keep themselves in time of peace in easy places in New York and Washington, while others did the hard work of the service at sea, discovered that all their influence could not give them the places of danger and of honor in time of war. It was a good lesson for the navy, and it should be remembered by every young officer." [6]

"The Commodore hoisted his pennant at Hong Kong in December, 1897, and immediately began preparations for wartime service. As early as January 1898 the Navy Department began to send him prophetic instructions, as it was doing to other commanders under the foresighted and energetic administration of Secretary of Navy John D. Long and Assistant Secretary of Navy Theodore Roosevelt. Commodore Dewey was ordered in January to retain all enlisted men whose terms had expired ; and a month later was told to keep the Olympia, instead of sending her back to San Francisco. On the contrary, he was instructed to assemble all his squadron at Hong Kong, and to fill all the bunkers with the best coal which could be acquired. At the same time the cruiser Baltimore was dispatched to him from this country, via Hawaii; and at Honolulu was met by the steamer Mohican from San Francisco, which transferred to her a shipload of ammunition, prudently sent far in advance of its possible use.[6]

Dewey's ships were scattered up and down the Asiatic coast; but by the end of March the whole squadron, except the antiquated wooden Monocacy, had been gathered in the port of Hongkong, their coal and stores replenished to the fullest. Then came a period of waiting, very tedious, not only, but accompanied by constant strain, and fretted by little news and many false rumors. With much anxiety, and always on the alert all through the trying time of suspense, the commodore was constantly making ready. First he sent the fleet paymaster over to the consignees of the English steamship Nanshan, and bought her as she was, with 3,300 tons of good Cardiff coal on board. Then he bought the Zafiro, a steamship of the Manila-Hong Kong line, just as she was, with all her fuel and provisions, and on her was placed all the spare ammunition, so that she became the magazine of the fleet. [6]

"On April 18, the McCulloch came in and joined the squadron. She was a revenue cutter but she was as good as a gunboat, being built of steel, having 1,500 tons displacement, and carrying four 4-inch guns and a crew of one hundred and thirty men. On the 21st, when General Woodford was leaving Madrid, and Senor Polo was slipping out of Washington, the Baltimore appeared, a powerful addition to the fleet, and bringing also her load of ammunition, so that she was doubly welcome." [6]

"As the news now daily published in Hongkong made war seem certain, all the beautiful white vessels were repainted war-gray, and the last possible preparations made. All doubt was ended when the cable brought word of the declaration of war, to date from April 22d. and also of England's declaration of neutrality. Word was therefore sent to the American commander by the Governor of Hongkong that his vessels could no longer be harbored there. That was no hardship, for they were as completely outfitted as they cared to be, and only a few miles away were the Chinese waters of Mirs Bay, where nobody would or could interfere with their anchorage. Thither Dewey took his ships on April 25, leaving the McCulloch to bring last dispatches; and the next day she joined the fleet in a hurry, taking to the commander the following fateful message from the Government of the United States:[6]

'^ Dewey, Asiatic Squadron: " War has commenced between the United States and Spain. Proceed at once to Philippine Islands. Commence operations at once, particularly against the Spanish fleet. You must capture vessels or destroy. Use utmost endeavors. Long." [6]

This was on the 26th. At two p. m. the next day, April 27, Dewey's squadron was leaving Mirs Bay for the Philippine Islands, in search of another squadron of warships as large and as new and as well-armed as itself, to seek the first naval encounter of modern ships and with modern ordnance." [6]

Spanish-American War[]

Battle of Manila Bay[]

File:USS Olympia with Dewey at Battle of Manila bay DSCN4191 at Vermont State.jpg

Detail of a painting in the Vermont State House depicting Dewey on the USS Olympia during the Battle of Manila Bay

On April 27, 1898, he sailed out from China with orders to attack the Spanish at Manila Bay. He stopped at the mouth of the bay late the night of April 30, and the following morning he gave the order to attack at first light, by saying the now famous words "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley." Within 6 hours, on May 1, he had sunk or captured the entire Spanish Pacific fleet under Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón and silenced the shore batteries at Manila, with the loss of only one life on the American side.

News of the victory in the Battle of Manila Bay made Dewey a great hero in the United States, and Dewey was promoted to Rear Admiral. Dewey's swift easy victory no doubt did much to encourage the William McKinley administration in its decision to place the Philippines under American control.

Dewey aided General Wesley Merritt in taking formal possession of Manila on August 13, 1898. In the early stages of the war the Americans were greatly aided by the Filipino nationalists led by Emilio Aguinaldo who had been attacking the Spanish by land as Dewey was attacking them by sea. Dewey and Aguinaldo at first enjoyed a cordial relationship, and Dewey wrote that the Filipinos were “intelligent” and well "capable of self-government"; however the McKinley administration soon decided otherwise, and by the start of 1899, Dewey had to threaten to shell Aguinaldo's forces to allow American troops to land in Manila (for details, see History of the Philippines).

Dewey returned to America to a hero's welcome, and by act of Congress was made Admiral of the Navy in 1899. A special military decoration, the Battle of Manila Bay Medal (commonly called the Dewey Medal), was struck in his honor of his achievement at Manila Bay and awarded to every officer, sailor and Marine present at the battle. The Dewey Medal gave Dewey the extraordinary distinction of being one of only four American military officers entitled to wear a medal with their own image on it - the others being Admiral William Sampson, General John Pershing and Admiral Richard Byrd. Out of modesty, Dewey always wore his medal reversed.

Although largely forgotten today, Dewey has the distinction of being the greatest living American military hero in the era between the Spanish-American War and his death just prior to the US becoming involved in the First World War (1898 - 1917). His fame and public adulation was comparable to that of Ulysses Grant, John Pershing and Dwight Eisenhower.

Dewey officially remained an active officer of the Navy until his death, as a special honor after he passed the retirement age of 62 in 1899.[10] He published his autobiography in 1913. Admiral George Dewey died in Washington, D.C., still on active duty, while serving as President of the Navy Board. He is interred in the Bethlehem Chapel, on the crypt level, at the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC.

Dewey as Presidential Candidate[]

After Dewey's return from the Spanish-American War, many suggested he run for President of the United States on the Democratic ticket in 1900. However, his candidacy was plagued by public relations missteps. Newspapers started attacking him as naïve after he was quoted as saying the job of president would be easy since the chief executive was merely following orders in executing the laws enacted by Congress and that he would "execute the laws of Congress as faithfully as I have always executed the orders of my superiors." Shortly thereafter he admitted to never having voted in a presidential election. He drew yet more criticism when he offhandedly told a newspaper reporter that "Our next war will be with Germany."[11]

Dewey also angered some Protestants by marrying Catholic Mildred McLean Hazen (the widow of General William Babcock Hazen and daughter of Washington McLean, the owner of The Washington Post) in November 1899 and giving her the house that the nation had given him following the war.[12]

Dewey withdrew from the race in mid-May 1900 and endorsed William McKinley.

Dates of Rank[]

  • Midshipman - June 11, 1854
  • Passed Midshipman — January 19, 1861

In the era of the Civil War, it was a common practice for officers to be granted shipboard commissions based on the need to fill certain jobs or billets. Dewey was therefore made a Lieutenant once he "signed on" with David Farragut. He never held the rank of Ensign and skipped the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade (which in the 1860s was known as "Master").

Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander Commander Captain
O-3 O-4 O-5 O-6
File:US Navy O3 insignia.svg File:US Navy O4 insignia.svg File:US Navy O5 insignia.svg File:US Navy O6 insignia.svg
April 19, 1861 March 3, 1865 April 13, 1872 September 27, 1884
Commodore Rear Admiral Vice Admiral Admiral Admiral of Navy
O-7 O-8 O-9 O-10 Special Rank
File:US Navy O7 insignia.svg File:US Navy O8 insignia.svg File:US Navy O9 insignia.svg File:US Navy O10 insignia.svg File:Admiral of navy insignia 1.png
February 28, 1896 May 10, 1898 Never Held March 2, 1899 March 24, 1903 Retroactive to March 2, 1899

Most of the earlier ranks displayed above used different insignia when worn by Dewey in the Civil War. The current U.S. Navy stripe system was not formalized until 1889.

File:Adm dewey 1913.png

Dewey in special full dress uniform as Admiral of the Navy.

Admiral Dewey's final rank was Admiral of the Navy which is considered a Six-Star Admiral. He was the only person ever to hold this rank. Admiral of the Navy is equal to General of the Armies, also considered to be a Six-Star Rank. General Pershing and General Washington held this rank, Washington long after his death.


Medals Awarded by the United States Government

(Dates indicate the year the medal was awarded.)

Civil War Campaign Medal (1908)

Battle of Manila Bay Medal (aka. "Dewey Medal") (1898)

Spanish Campaign Medal (1908)

Philippine Campaign Medal (1908)

Other Honors

In 1898, the Borough of Hellertown, Pennsylvania, formed its fire department naming it Dewey Fire Company No. 1 in honor of George Dewey.

Three ships of the United States Navy have borne the name USS Dewey, including an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Dewey (DDG-105) that began construction in 2005 and christened on 26, January 2008.

Thomasville, Georgia, contains the Dewey City "subdivision," an area settled in the late 1880s by former slaves.

The column in the center of San Francisco's Union Square is dedicated to Dewey's victory at Manila Bay.

Dewey Beach, Delaware, is named in honor of Admiral Dewey.

In 1899, Mills Novelty released a slot machine named The Dewey, in honor of Admiral Dewey.

The name of the main town of Culebra, Puerto Rico, was named in his honor, however it is known by many locals simply as Pueblo.

The Dewey School in the Castle Rock Business Corridor in Castle Rock, Colorado was named after Admiral Dewey. The Admiral wrote a warm letter of thanks to the school children that was framed and on the wall of the school for many years until the school closed.

Dewey Avenue in Wharton, New Jersey, is named in honor of Admiral Dewey.

Dewey Blvd, now known as Roxas Blvd, a major seaside thoroughfare in Manila, Philippines, was named after him; George Dewey High School at the former Subic Bay Naval Station in the Philippines was named after him.

A settlement in Newton County, Texas, was established as a sawmill site by the Sabine Tram Company in 1898. It was named Deweyville after George Dewey.

See also[]


  • 6 star rank


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Brian Miller, "The Life of Admiral George Dewey (1837-1917)
  2. 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., Philadelphia: J.H. Moore, p. 123, OCLC 6437000,,M1 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Upstate New York Genealogy And History:"Dewey, Josiah, Descendants[dead link]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Mike Lipsey, a genealogical entry for Julius Yemans Dewey and Mary Perrin
  5. Child, Hamilton; Adams, William (1889), Gazetteer of Washington County, Vt., 1783-1889, Syracuse, New York: Syracuse Journal Co., printers, p. 386, OCLC 7377141, 
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 6.22 6.23 6.24 6.25 6.26 6.27 6.28 6.29 6.30 6.31 6.32 6.33 6.34 6.35 6.36 6.37 6.38 6.39 6.40 6.41 6.42 6.43 6.44 6.45 6.46 6.47 6.48 6.49 6.50 6.51 6.52 William J. Lawrence, "A concise life of Admiral George Dewey" (1899)
  7. Gary Richardson,:"George Goodwin Dewey"
  8. NNDB Mapper:"George Dewey"
  9. Strawbery Banke:"The Goodwin Mansion "
  10. Dewey was one of three US naval officers so honored. The others were David Dixon Porter and David Farragut.
  11. Convention Diary: NRO Total Convention at
  12. HarpWeek | Elections | 1900 Medium Cartoons at
  • Dates of promotion from The Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, Sixth Edition, 1889, by Lewis Randolph Hamersly. [1]
  • The Dewey slot machine at [2]

External links[]

Template:Start box |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Newly created |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Member of the Schurman Commission
March 4, 1899–March 16, 1900 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Luke Edward Wright
(Taft Commission)
|- Template:S-hon |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Pierre Charles L'Enfant |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Persons who have lain in state or honor
in the United States Capitol rotunda

January 20, 1917 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Unknown Soldier
of World War I
|- |} Template:Philippine Revolution

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