George Dewey was born in Montpelier, Vermont and graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis 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 rose to the rank of lieutenant commander in 1865.
Dewey remained in the United States Navy and in 1896 rose to the rank of Commodore. He was appointed to the command of the United States Asiatic Squadron a few weeks before the start of the Spanish-American War.
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 attacked at first light. 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 lead 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 "intellegent" and well "capable of self-government"; however the McKinley administration soon decided otherwise, and by the start of 1899 Dewey had to theaten to shell Aguinaldo's forces to allow American troops to land in Manila. (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 breifly 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.