This flowery tribute captures the sense of romance with which turn-of-the-century Americans regarded the naval hero of the Spanish-American War, Commodore George Dewey. Dewey was born in Montpelier, Vermont, on December 26, 1837.
On a bright May morning two years ago there came from out the ocean mist an untried naval squadron, mirroring in the rippling waves the flag of the mistress of the Western world, the lustre of whose shining stars has never been dimmed by dishonor or defeat, seeking in Manila Bay the naval pride and power of Spain…from out the din and smoke of battle there arose a colossal figure, calm and majestic, cool and self-reliant…a naval hero, the splendor and brilliancy of whose achievement have written on the eternal tablet of fame…the immortal name of Admiral George Dewey…
“Address of Hon. Josiah T. Settle, Delivered at the Reception Given Admiral and Mrs. Dewey,” Memphis, Tennessee, May 7, 1900. African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907
An 1858 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Dewey served in the Union Navy during the Civil War. He fought in the battles of New Orleans, Port Hudson, and Donaldsville, Louisiana. Dewey rose steadily through the Navy’s leadership ranks. In 1897 Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, appointed Dewey commander of the Asiatic Squadron stationed in Hong Kong.
Dewey made careful preparations for a battle with the Spanish fleet in the Pacific, departing for the Philippines on April 25, 1898, the day that the U.S. declared war on Spain. Just before 6:00 a.m. on the morning of May 1, 1898, Commodore George Dewey commenced the Battle of Manila Bay, uttering the famous command, “You may fire when ready, Gridley.”
Within six hours, Dewey’s squadron of six ships, including the flagship USS Olympia, had sunk every ship in the Spanish fleet. There were few casualties and no loss of life on the American side. On August 13, 1898, U.S. troops occupied Manila, bringing the United States closer to an ultimate victory in the Spanish-American War.
Dewey’s decisive victory at Manila on May 1, 1898, is credited with U.S. recognition as a major naval power. The acquisition of the Philippines gave the United States a strong presence in the Pacific. Commodore Dewey became a national hero, and his triumphant homecoming in 1899 was celebrated with wild enthusiasm.
As the Honorable Josiah Settle described it:
…when, home at last, his gallant flagship lay anchored in the bay of the second city of the world, her teeming millions were mad with joy and impatience to do such honor to the hero of Manila as was never shown mortal man before; and it can be truly said that such unlimited display of loyal affection and costly magnificence as New York gave the home returning hero was greater than was ever shown before to any other man.
“Address of Hon. Josiah T. Settle, Delivered at the Reception Given Admiral and Mrs. Dewey at the Auditorium at Memphis, Tennessee,” Memphis, Tennessee, May 7, 1900. African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907
- Search the collection The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures on the keyword Dewey to view other films of the war. Don’t miss the Special Presentation, The Motion Picture Camera Goes to War: The Spanish-American War and the Philippine Revolution, regarding the first war documented in moving pictures.
- For an historical overview of the Spanish-American War, see The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War, a presentation from the Library of Congress Hispanic Division. This online presentation includes an event Chronology for the Philippine Islands and Guam in the Spanish-American War.
- Search the collection Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920 for photographs of all the ships of Admiral Dewey’s flotilla and their captains, for example, the USS Olympia, USS Raleigh, and USS Texas. Among the items to be found here is an image of the U.S.S. Raleigh, [and] the Gun that Fired the First Shot at Manila.
- Search the pictorial collections on George Dewey for images including photographs, a calendar, and posters of the naval hero as well as that of the Dewey Arch, a monument in his honor. Search also on Manila Bay for images of that battle and on Dewey celebration for images of the land and sea parades commemorating his victory
- View A Guide to the Spanish-American War for links to American Memory collections with material on the war, as well as to Capturing the Spanish-American War, a part of American Treasures at the Library of Congress, a selected bibliography, and external Web sites.
- See Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection from the Prints & Photographs Division for additional images of the war.
- Search Today in History on Spanish American War to find other important events of that war, including the sinking of the USS Maine, [dup], the landing at Guantánamo Bay, the storming of San Juan Hill, and the raising of the U.S. flag over Puerto Rico.
- Visit the educator’s resource guide to the Spanish American War in the collection connections part of the Teachers Page, an online resource designed to help teachers, students, and life-long learners use the American Memory collections.
- Search across all the collections on Spanish-American War to find a wealth of relevant photographs, maps, and documents.