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George Dewey

Dewey, George (dōˈē, dyōˈ–) [key], 1837–1917, American admiral, hero of the battle of Manila, b. Montpelier, Vt., grad. Annapolis, 1858. He saw active duty in the Civil War and rose in the navy in service and rank, becoming chief of the Bureau of Equipment in 1889, president of the Board of Inspection and Survey in 1895, and commodore in 1896. He was unpopular with many high-ranking naval commanders, and it seems to have been through the influence of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt and the direct intervention of President McKinley that Dewey was appointed in 1897 to command the Asiatic squadron. When the Spanish-American War broke out, Dewey was ready. He sailed to Manila, entered the harbor after midnight on May 1, 1898, and engaged the Spanish fleet at dawn. By noon he had destroyed eight Spanish ships with only eight Americans wounded. Manila was at his mercy, but he waited for reinforcements; meanwhile he brought Emilio Aguinaldo, the Filipino rebel, back from exile to lead a revolution in the Philippines. In maintaining relations with neutral warships at Manila, Dewey had to exercise firmness with the officers of five German ships who would not accede to his blockade rules. When Gen. Wesley Merritt arrived with army forces, the commanders cooperated in capturing Manila. Promoted to admiral of the navy in 1899, he was feted on his return to the United States with almost hysterical enthusiasm and briefly received wide support as a potential presidential candidate.

See his autobiography (1913, repr. 1971); L. H. Healy and L. Kutner, The Admiral (1944); N. Sargent, Admiral Dewey and the Manila Campaign (1947); R. S. West, Admirals of American Empire (1948, repr. 1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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