Admiral Dewey's Chapeau Bras

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources
Date Posted: 12/13/2010

Physical Description
Black felt, grosgrain ribbon, ostrich feathers, and gold cockade, which is a ribbon rose or knot.

Specific History
Admiral Dewey is often pictured wearing his chapeau bras.

General History
A chapeau bras is a type of hat made to be compressed and carried under the arm without injury. It translates literally as “hat arm.” Such hats were a popular style worn on dress occasions by gentlemen in the 18th century. Admiral (the Commodore) George Dewey was in command of the U.S. Navy’s Asiatic Squadron based in Hong Kong in 1898 when the United States declared war on Spain. Commanded to sail to Manila and capture or destroy the Spanish fleet based there, he engaged the fleet in Manila Bay early May 1 and completely destroyed it by noon, without a single loss of American life. The Battle of Manila Bay was one of two major American naval victories in the Spanish-American War. The complete and final victory ended any threat from the Spanish naval forces. All major Spanish ships were destroyed or captured, without any significant damage occurring to the American Forces. The battle is perhaps best known as the occasion when Dewey uttered one of the most famous statements in American naval history: “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” Captain Charles Gridley was commander of the USS Olympia.

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