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U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps

Vermont's Future Admirals in the Civil War

When asked, most Vermonters might be able to identify two admirals from the 19th Century, George Dewey and Charles Clark, both famous for their contributions to the Spanish-American War. But they were not the first to attain that exalted rank, by a long shot. Vermont's first two admirals, Theodore Greene and George Emmons, were promoted to admiral more than 25 years before Dewey, as they finished their careers in the decade after the Civil War.

In fact, 14 Vermonters credited with Civil War service became admirals, with careers stretching from 1826 when Theodore Greene started his career as a Midshipman, until 1917, when Admiral of the Navy George Dewey died while still on active duty.

For the first 90 years of our nation, the government and even the general public eschewed the rank of admiral, believing it "too reminiscent of aristocratic titles to be used by a young nation imbued with republican virtues."

Traditionally, any officer who commanded a ship was called "captain," regardless of his real rank. An officer who commanded a squadron or fleet was given the honorific commodore or flag-officer. It wasn't until 1857 that the rank of flag-officer was formally adopted, but it was abolished in 1862 in favor of commodore.

In July 1862, the rank of rear admiral was approved, in 1864, vice admiral, and in 1866, admiral. David Farragut was the first to be appointed to each of these ranks.

Among the Vermonters to achieve this rank, several did so while still on active duty, but many were promoted to the rank upon or after retirement in recognition of their service in the Civil War. The highest rank held by 13 of the 14 was Rear Admiral. George Dewey was awarded the unique rank of Admiral of the Navy, as a result of his destruction of the Spanish Fleet in Manila Bay, at the start of the Spanish-American War.

The biographies that follow treat heavily on the Civil War contributions of each individual, and should not be considered as complete in any fashion.