December 12, 2006

Behind the Curtain: Charles Gridley

It seems like forever and a day since I have done one of these. But, over the weekend, I got thinking about famous American naval sayings. You know them: "Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!" or "I have barely begun to fight" or "You may fire when ready, Gridley". And I got to wondering, who the heck was Gridley?

Are you wondering? Probably not. But am I going to let that stop me? Heck, no.

On May 1, 1898, the United States Navy was engaged in combat operations in the Philippines. Specifically, we were fighting the Battle of Manila. a key naval battle during the Spanish-American War. There is an interesting website devoted to it. But, if you don't feel like clicking away, basically, the battle was a huge victory for the American fleet and established the US Navy as a major world force as the fleet, under the command of Commodore Dewey, the US fleet sailed in under the Spanish guns into Manila Bay and destroyed the vastly larger Spanish fleet with practically no loss of life for the Americans (although great loss of life for the Spanish).

Dewey was on the USS Olympia -- the third oldest surviving warship (after the Constellation and the Constitution). The Olympia, a National Historic Landmark (an odd thing to call something important that floats, don't you think?) is in Philadelphia at the Independence Seaport Museum:


It was on the Olympia that Commodore Dewey gave those famous instructions to Captain Gridley: "You may fire when ready, Gridley". He gave this command after enduring Spanish fire for about a half an hour, in order to position his fleet exactly where he wanted them to be able to best engage the Spanish fleet. Gridley was the Captain of the Olympia.


Gridley left his command shortly after the capture of Manila and died, as a result of illness, on May 25, 1898, on his way to Japan.

Gridley was a native of Indiana and a graduate of the US Naval Academy. He was involved in the Civil War, fighting for Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Gridley may have been forgotten by many, but not by the Navy, who has named an Arleigh Burke class destroyer for him, to be commissioned February 2007 in Florida. Here she is after her "float off":


-and the Christening-


-and her first sea trial-

Sea Trial3_jpg.jpg

The best on-line biography I've seen of Captain Gridley is here. He was buried in Erie, PA:

Gridley Grave_01_JPG.jpg

I hope you enjoyed this; I enjoyed researching and writing it.

Posted by Random Penseur at December 12, 2006 11:03 AM | TrackBack

I did enjoy reading it, something that I probably wouldn't have looked up myself (too busy) but very interesting once you stuck it under my nose. :)

I miss these pieces that you write from time to time.

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