George Henry Ellis

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George Henry Ellis (Born October 26, 1875 –[1] July 3, 1898(1898-07-03)) was a sailor in the United States Navy during the Spanish–American War.

Ellis was born in Peoria, Illinois. At an early age he accompanied his mother when she moved to New York City, and later to Brooklyn, New York.[2] He enlisted in the Navy February 26, 1892 at age 16 as apprentice, third class. He married Sadie M. Simonson.[2] He was honorably discharged October 25, 1896, with a rank of apprentice, first class. He reenlisted May 3, 1897 as seaman, and rose to the rank of chief yeoman on February 1, 1898.

Battle of Santiago[edit]

Chief Yeoman Ellis was killed 3 July 1898 while serving on the USS Brooklyn during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba.[3] During the battle, he was reporting ranges of enemy vessels which he read from the stadimeter, a rangefinding device, while observing from an exposed position, while the Brooklyn was under fire from as many as four Spanish ships. Yeoman Ellis was considered an expert with the stadimeter.[4] While the Brooklyn was pursuing fleeing Spanish armored cruisers Vizcaya and Cristóbal Colón, Ellis took a position about three feet in front of the forward turret.[4] He was "singing out" the ranges to a messenger, who passed them to the guncrews inside the turrets.[5] He was decapitated when a large shell fired from a Spanish ship struck him in the face.[2][6] His brain and blood were thrown over a number of people.[4] When an ensign and the ship's doctor started to pick up Ellis's body to throw it over the side, as was a common practice in naval battles, they were stopped by Commodore Schley, who said "No! Do not throw that body overboard! One who has fought so gallantly deserves the honor of a Christian burial."[7]

Ellis was buried with military honors in Guantanamo, Cuba at Camp McCalla, and later re-buried at Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York, on November 28, 1898. The funeral at Washington Avenue Baptist Church in Brooklyn had a capacity crowd of 2,000 mourners, with thousands more turned away.[2] Soon after the battle, the officers and men of the Brooklyn took up a collection to benefit Ellis's widow, some contributing over a month's pay, to reach a total of over $1,000.[8] Additional donations raised the total to$2,000 by September 1898. Besides his 25-year-old widow, Ellis was survived by a seven-month-old infant.[9]


George Ellis was a prominent character in a fictionalized account of the battle published in 1899, "Fighting in Cuban waters, or under Schley on the Brooklyn," by Edward Stratemeyer.[10]

In 1908, the death of Ellis and the destruction of his stadimeter were cited in an article in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings as to the impracticality of using observers aloft or in an exposed position on deck to determine range to targets during an actual battle, as opposed to gunnery practice. The proposed improvement was to install a range-finder in an armored installation on each gun turret.[11]

USS Ellis (DD-154) was named after him. It was launched November 30, 1918.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] United States Navy Department, "Ships' data, U.S. Naval Vessels." Retrieved August 2, 2011
  2. ^ a b c d [2] McSherry, Patrick "Chief Yeoman George Ellis," The Spanish American War Centennial Website. Retrieved August 2, 2011
  3. ^ [3] "Monument in honor of George Henry Ellis." United States Congressional serial set, 56th Congress, 1st Session, report no. 893. Senate. April 5, 1900. To accompany Senate Bill 331, authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to erect a statue in honor of Ellis. "His record for qualifications and conduct during his entire service in the Navy is of a very high order, and indicates that he was a seaman of whom the United States Navy has every reason to be proud." Retrieved August 2, 2011
  4. ^ a b c [4] Parker, James Rear-Admirals Schley, Sampson and Cervera: A Review of the Naval Campaigns of 1898, in Pursuit and Destruction of the Spanish Fleet Commanded by Rear-Admiral Pascual Cervera Page 192. Retrieved August 2, 2011
  5. ^ [5] "Record of proceedings of a court of inquiry in the case of Rear Admiral Winfield S. Schley, U.S. Navy, convened at the Navy-Yard, Washington, D.C., September 12, 1901, Volume 1. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1902. Pages 1138–1139. Testimony of Lt. J.P.J. Ryan, U.S. Navy. Retrieved August 2, 2011
  6. ^ a b [6] Sponsors of the United States Navy, "Ships of the United States Navy and their Sponsors, Volume 1" Page 66. Retrieved August 2, 2011
  7. ^ [7] Schley, Winfield Scott "Forty-five years under the flag,"D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1904. Retrieved August 2, 2011
  8. ^ [8]"On the fleet off Santiago," The New York Times, July 18, 1898. Retrieved August 2, 2011
  9. ^ [9] Life, Volume 32, no. 830, November 3, 1898, page 357, Prudential Insurance Company advertisement. Retrieved August 2, 2011
  10. ^ [10] Stratemeyer, Edward and Shute, A.B. ""Fighting in Cuban waters, or under Schley on the Brooklyn," Lee and Shepard Publishers, Boston 1899
  11. ^ [11] Fiske, Captain Bradley A, U.S.N, "Courage and prudence," Naval Institute Proceedings, Volume 34, Part 1, 1908. United States Naval Institute, Annapolis Maryland. Pages 300–303. Retrieved August 2, 2011
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.