#WarriorWednesday: Admiral of the Navy George Dewey

“You may fire when you are ready Gridley.” 

– U.S. Navy Commodore George Dewey, instructed the commanding officer of his flagship,USS Olympia, at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War, 1898

Today marks 116 years since Spain’s declaration of war against the United States. Congress in turn declared war on Spain two days later, but as the Navy had already blockaded Cuba, backdated the declaration to the 21st.

By the time war was declared on the 25th, the U.S. Navy had pretty much secured the western hemisphere, and prepared to confront the Spanish Navy in the Pacific. Just over 9,000 miles on the other side of the globe in Hong Kong, a man who had distinguished himself during the Civil War, was doing just that.

Commodore George Dewey

Commodore George Dewey

In fact, Commodore George Dewey had been prepping his fleet since February, so when war was declared, he made a beeline for the Spanish Navy at Manila Bay in the Philippines. Who was this man who would lead the U.S. Navy to its first major, strategic victories overseas? Known for his quick temper, Dewey had no problem making quick decisions. Nothing went unobserved from his wicker chair on the quarterdeck of his flagship, USS Olympia. From his “throne” many noted his legendary walrus mustache, the crisp white uniform standard for officers then, and his dog named “Bob.” He had no patience for lengthy meetings and even stormed out of one with Army Maj. Gen. Elwell Otis, who would become the 2nd Military Governor of the Philippines.


On May 1, 1898, he delivered to America the first Navy victory against a foreign enemy since the War of 1812 – the Battle of Manila in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. In recognition of his exemplary leadership, on March 2, 1899, Congress handed President McKinley the act that made Dewey the first and last Admiral of the Navy, a rank never before held by any officer. When Dewey died on Jan. 16, 1917, the Secretary of the Navy noted in General Order No. 258, “Vermont was his mother State and there was always in his character something of the granite of his native hills.”

The Making of An Officer
Dewey graduated in 1858 from the U.S. Naval Academy. Less than three years later he found himself at the center of the action in the Civil War while serving under Admiral Farragut during the Battle of New Orleans. On April 24, 1862, Dewey, executive lieutenant of the steam paddle ship USS Mississippi, skillfully navigated shallow waters to wage a successful attack against Confederate fortifications at New Orleans. Because Dewey had survived and battled sharpshooters, Farragut later asked him by name to command his personal dispatch gun boat, USS Agawam, which was frequently attacked by Confederate snipers.

Later, in 1864, Lt. Dewey was made executive officer of the wooden man-of-war USS Colorado stationed on the North Atlantic blockading squadron under Commodore Henry Knox Thatcher. Dewey again rose to the occasion during the Battles of Fort Fisher. Even The New York Times spoke admiringly of the Union victory as “the most beautiful duel of the war.” Commodore Thatcher wouldn’t take the credit and remarked to his superiors, “You must thank Lieutenant Dewey, sir. It was his move.”

An Act of Congress on 2 March 1899, created the rank of Admiral of the Navy. On 24 March 1903, Admiral George Dewey, who held the rank of Admiral since 8 March 1899, was commissioned Admiral of the Navy, with date of rank 2 March 1899, and became the only officer of the United States Navy who was ever so commissioned. This painting shows then-Commodore Dewey on board USS Olympia, in command of the great American victory at Manila Bay in 1898, during the Spanish-American War. NHHC image NH 84510-KN.

An Act of Congress on 2 March 1899, created the rank of Admiral of the Navy. On 24 March 1903, Admiral George Dewey, who held the rank of Admiral since 8 March 1899, was commissioned Admiral of the Navy, with date of rank 2 March 1899, and became the only officer of the United States Navy who was ever so commissioned.
This painting shows then-Commodore Dewey on board USS Olympia, in command of the great American victory at Manila Bay in 1898, during the Spanish-American War. NHHC image NH 84510-KN.

After the war, he returned to the Naval Academy as an instructor and was then later granted rest ashore status in Washington, D.C. He found the assignment listless and believed the environment in D.C. was “harmful to his health.” He could not resist the call of the sea.

Over the course of the next thirty years, he commanded USS Narragansett, USS Supply, USS Juniata, USS Dolphin, and USS Pensacola. He also served as a Lighthouse Inspector, a member of the Lighthouse Board, and Secretary of the Lighthouse Board. Additionally he served as the Chief of the Bureau of Equipment as President of the Board of Inspection and Survey. On Nov. 30, 1897, he was ordered to Asiatic Station and, proceeding by steamer, he assumed command on Jan. 3, 1898, his flag in the protected cruiser, USS Olympia, Captain Charles V. Gridley, commanding.


Victory for the United States
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt had urged him to prepare for the possibility of war with Spain and telegraphed him on Feb. 25, 1898, just ten days after USS Maine mysteriously blew up in Cuba, to immediately prepare the Asiatic Station at Hong Kong. Less than a week after the declaration of war, on May 1, 1898, Dewey sunk or captured the entire Spanish Pacific fleet in a battle lasting just over six hours (including a three-hour lunch break). In that short amount of time, he also defeated the shore batteries. The Battle of Manila Bay was one of the Navy’s greatest success stories against an imperial European empire.

On May 10, 1898, Dewey was given a vote of thanks by the U.S. Congress and was commissioned Rear Adm. That promotion was an advancement of one grade for “highly distinguished conduct in conflict with the enemy as displayed by him in the destruction of the Spanish Fleet and batteries in the harbor of Manila, Philippine Islands, May 1, 1898.”

After defeating the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, Dewey met with the Army to work out the preliminaries for the occupation of the Philippines. Most of the meetings went well, except on one occasion, Dewey practically leapt to stand and bolted back to his barge, Cristina, to board USS Olympia. He found meetings detestable, and his frustration grew with the Army’s decisions on how to govern the Philippines. Dewey later let the Army know his personal opinion of its style of management, especially with the Army’s barges that policed the Passig River. In no subtle form or fashion, Dewey delivered tirades complaining to the Army on the condition of the barges being far from “ship shape and Bristol fashion,” and went as far as to issue a direct order to General Otis warning if any of them were seen outside of the river and in open water in Manila Bay, the Navy would sink them. The barges never appeared outside of the confines of the river.


On Jan. 17, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson delivering Dewey’s eulogy, offered an apt description of Adm. Dewey’s personality and legacy: “It is pleasant to recall what qualities gave him his well-deserved fame: His practical directness, his courage without self-consciousness, his efficient capacity in matters of administration, the readiness to fight without asking questions or hesitating about any detail. It was by such qualities that he continued and added luster to the best traditions of the Navy. He had the stuff in him which all true men admire and upon which all statesmen must depend in hours of peril. The people and the Government of the United States will always rejoice to perpetuate his name in all honor and affection.”

On the Web: 

George Dewey – Spanish American War

Biography – Admiral of the Navy George Dewey, USN

George Dewey – Library of Congress

Commodore George Dewey Was Born – America’s Library


St. George’s Day Quiz


6a00d83451bc4a69e20147e37f82a5970bWell, it’s the traditional St. Georges Day, so we should publish something for our English friends. I suppose I could write an article but a quiz would be more fun, and the Telegraph has a pretty good one for us, on England’s historic attractions. So take it and we’ll compare our scores.

Quiz: how well do you know England’s historic attractions? – Telegraph.

How’d you do? I managed 60% which is not optimal but then again, I’ve never managed to get to England either.

I had something else as well but my curating program is broke at the moment, so we’ll postpone it.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!

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An afternoon with Konrad

The Wine Wankers

wine wankers konrad wines brialliant new zealand wine from marlborough Conrad (the Wine Wanker) met Konrad (the wine producer and his wines from Marlborough NZ) a couple of months ago at the RegioNZ New Zealand wines event in Sydney (see Are The Wine Wankers now part of the “industry”… really? ). He was impressed enough with what he tasted that he organized a sample of their wines from the lovely people at Konrad wines  for a fully fledged Wine Wanker Tasting Experience, the WWTE (just made it up… that’s what we’ll call it). Of course his impression was not biased or anything… really.  😉

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Quote Week Returns: Life After Death?



We dedicate the festive Easter holiday week to inspirational quotes which mark cultural or historical landmarks from around the world.

As a spiritual introduction to Good Friday, the religious commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the Calvary, here is an excerpt from The Spirits’ Book (Le Livre des Esprits). A systematic investigation into all aspects of afterlife, French educator Allen Kardec’s book was part of the Spiritist Codification and one of five fundamental works on Spiritism, the journey of the soul after death. Published on the 18th of April 1857, it was basically a compilation of questions to which the answers were allegedly dictated by Spirits.

“152. What proof can we have of the individuality of the soul after death?

Is not this proof furnished by the communications which you obtain? If you were not blind, you would see; if you were not deal you would hear; for…

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Good Friday Reality Check

Bryan Patterson's Faithworks

Noon, Friday, April 7, About 30AD : The hardened Romans who lead the bloody and battered Jesus on His final walk through Gennath Gate towards Golgotha – the Place of the Skull – are mostly indifferent to His acute pain and impending execution.

On the 500-metre journey from Pontius Pilate’s Antonia Fortress, several Jewish women join the mob following the execution party.

They begin to weep and wail, but Jesus – speaking in the manner of the great prophets – warns of a world of the future; a time of great misery for those who reject his message of love.

The two thieves who are to die with Him are probably already naked and semi-conscious on their crosses when Jesus arrives. The centurions who accompanied the robbers are sitting on the ground, sharing out the possessions of the two men.

Others untie the ropes binding Jesus and strip Him of…

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