Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
He 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.
On April 27, 1898 he sailed out from China with orders to attack the Spanish at Manila Bay. He arrived 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 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, without the loss of a single 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 18. 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. Many suggested he run for President, which he briefly considered, then decided not to run in favor of the re-election of 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..
- Dewey biography on Spanish American War Centennial Website - includes links to some of Dewey's letters
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