Having defeated the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898 is George Dewey’s most famous achievement and the reason he has gone down in American history.
He was a famous United States Navy commander and the first and only to attain the rank of Admiral – to this day.
Read on to find out more interesting facts about George Dewey!
George Dewey Top Facts
1. He was awarded a medal named after himself
A very rare occurrence, George Dewey saw himself awarded a special decoration. The Dewey Medal was created in his honour, making him one of a handful of American figures who have had a medal awarded which bears their own image!
It’s worth pointing out that, out of modesty, Dewey wore the medal reversed. The same medal was awarded to each sailor, officer and Marine present at the Battle of Manila Bay.
2. He was friends with President Theodore Roosevelt
An interesting fact about George Dewey is that he and Theodore Roosevelt shared a passion for riding horses. As such, they would often go horseriding together, in Washington’s Rock Creek Park.
Roosevelt helped him get selected as Commander of the Asiatic Squadron in 1896, making it so he was picked over a more senior officer at the time.
3. The Battle of Manila Bay was over in 6 hours
When Dewey sailed from China with orders to attack the Spanish at Manila Bay, he promised to defeat them quickly and without many casualties. His famous words when attacking are quoted as “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”
The battle only lasted six hours and the Asiatic Squadron ended up either sinking or capturing the entire fleet on the Spanish side. And in all this success, only one American life was lost.
Theodore Roosevelt praised Dewey for his result which confirmed his insistence on getting him the position in Asia was well founded.
4. He was welcomed back to the US with a 2-day parade
After the Spanish-American war, George Dewey returned to the US as a hero and New York City put on a two-day parade in his honour. In Boston as well, he was greeted by 280 singers performing the anthem “See the Conquering Hero Comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus.
It was as part of this hero’s welcome that Dewey received the unique promotion to Admiral of the Navy, awarded to him in 1903 and made retroactive to 1899.
5. His popularity led to a surge in boys being named Dewey
George Dewey was immensely popular in the US. The public held him in such high regard that the name Dewey became the 19th most popular boys’ name in 1898 after the battle, up from 111th the year before, an interesting fact about George Dewey.
6. He was an advocate for Chinese immigrants
At the Battle of Manila Bay, 50 Chinese sailors had served with the Asiatic Squadron, at Dewey’s request. The Navy had actually not sanctioned this at the time.
Dewey wrote to the Secretary of the Navy asking that these men be allowed to enter the United States, against the existing “Chinese Exclusion Act” which was in force at the time. The Act had been established in 1882 and banned Chinese laborers coming to work and live in the US.
Even though Dewey pointed out that the Chinese sailors had been extremely useful in the battle and had shown “courage and energy in the face of an enemy,” Congress refused to take up their case and Dewey received no answer in the end.
7. His short-lived bid for the 1900 elections was a PR nightmare
Given Dewey’s great popularity, many suggested that he should run for President as part of the Democratic Party in 1900.
However, an interesting fact about George Dewey is that he made many PR mistakes which didn’t paint a good picture to the public. He was quoted saying that being President would be easy as the he’d merely be following laws enacted by Congress, even going so far as to say that he’d “execute the laws of Congress as faithfully as [he had] always executed the orders of [his] superiors.”
Moreover, he admitted he had never voted in an election. Also, he married a Catholic (which wasn’t seen favorably by some Protestants) and gave her a house which he had been gifted by the nation. All in all, his campaign appeared doomed and he withdrew from the race, endorsing William McKinley who was eventually elected President.
8. He predicted America’s next war
Interestingly, during his ill-fated campaign for President, Dewey told a report that the next war the US would be involved in would be with Germany.
9. Dewey was a bit of a ladies’ man
George Dewey married Susan Boardman Goodwin in 1867 and had one son with her. Unfortunately, she died five days after giving birth, which made Dewey a widower at 35. He enjoyed the company of women and was quite popular for a long time before he married again.
One anecdote describes Dewey escorting two women aboard a warship when he bumped into his son. He introduced him as his younger brother!
He eventually married Mildred McLean Hazen, a widow herself and a Catholic. Dewey wasn’t a Catholic so they couldn’t be married in church.
10. He was very stylish
In later life, after his return from war, Dewey was pictured as a very stylish man. He would wear fashionable outfits and sported a handlebar moustach, a fun fact about George Dewey. He lived a comfortable life due to his inheritance, having membership to exclusive clubs and high-profile friendships such as with Theodore Roosevelt.
George Dewey is famous for his overwhelming victory at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American war, which led to him being extremely popular and well-regarded by the American public as well as the Government. He left behind quite a legacy, with an impressive array of namesakes all over the US, from Dewey Point in the Yosemite National Park to Dewey Square in Boston, ships named after him, as well as many roads and so on. And here you have 10 interesting facts about George Dewey! If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!