George Dewey

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George Dewey
December 26, 1837 - January 16, 1917
Place of birth Montpelier, Vermont
Place of death Washington, D.C.
Allegiance USN
Years of service 1858-1917
Rank Admiral of the Navy
Battles/wars American Civil War
Spanish-American War
* Battle of Manila Bay

George Dewey (December 26, 1837January 16, 1917) was an admiral of the United States Navy, best known for his victory (without the loss of a single life of his own forces due to combat; one man died of heat exhaustion) 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, attended Norwich University for two years (1852-1854), and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1858. He served as a lieutenant under Admiral David Farragut in the American Civil War, seeing action in Louisiana and along the Mississippi River. He attained the rank of lieutenant commander in 1865.

Dewey remained in the Navy after the war and in 1896 was made a Commodore. He was appointed to the command of the United States Asiatic Squadron a few weeks before the start of the war with Spain.

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.

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

Dewey aided General Wesley Merritt in taking formal possession of Manila on August 18, 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 Dewey Medal, was also named in his honor.

After Dewey’s return from the Spanish-American War, many suggested he run for President of the United States on the Democratic ticket. However, newspapers started attacking him as naïve after he was quoted saying the job of President would be easy since the chief executive was merely following orders in executing the laws enacted by Congress. He further angered Protestants by marrying in November 1899 the Catholic Mildred McLean Hazen, widow of General William Babcock Hazen and daughter of Washington McLean, the former owner of The Washington Post, and giving her the house that the nation had given him following the war. [1]

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

Dewey officially remained an active officer of the Navy until his death, as a special honor after he passed retirement age. 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.

Dates of Rank

Ensign Lieutenant Junior Grade Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander Commander Captain
O-1 O-2 O-3 O-4 O-5 O-6
Ensign insignia.gif Lieutenant Junior Grade insignia.gif Lieutenant insignia.gif Lieutenant Commander insignia.gif Commander insignia.gif Captain insignia.gif
Never Held Never Held 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
Real Admiral insignia lh.gif Real Admiral insignia uh.gif Vice Admiral insignia.gif Admiral insignia.gif 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
Dewey in special full dress uniform as Admiral of the Navy.


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.

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

San Francisco's Union Square contains a monument to Dewey's victory at Manila Bay.


  • Dates of promotion from The Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, Sixth Edition, 1889, by Lewis Randolph Hamersly. [2]

External links

Preceded by
Newly created
Member of the Schurman Commission
March 4, 1899March 16, 1900
Succeeded by
Luke Edward Wright
(Taft Commission)
de:George Dewey

es:George Dewey ja:ジョージ・デューイ pl:George Dewey

Original Source

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