Converse, George Albert
Age: 17, credited to Norwich, VT
Service: MIDS, USN, 11/61 [College: NU 63, USNA 65]
See Legend for expansion of abbreviationsVITALS
Birth: 05/13/1844, Norwich, VT
Burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Tom Ledoux
Findagrave Memorial #: 17790247
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, widow Laura S., 4/13/1909
College?: NU 63, USNA 65
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)
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Arlington National Cemetery, VA
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George Albert Converse was born in Norwich, Vt., May 13, 1844, the son of Shubael and Luvia (Morrill) Converse. His mother was the sister of Congressman Justin Morrill. He was educated in the Norwich Public schools from 1852 to 1858, Norwich University from 1858 to 1861, and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1865, at the head of his class.
As an Acting Midshipman, he was first assigned to active duty on the steam sloop Canandaigua, in the European Squadron. On December 1, 1866, he was promoted to Ensign, and in 1868 he was made Executive officer of Frolic.
He was subsequently appointed Master on March 12, 1868, then Lieutenant on March 26, 1869. From 1869 to 1871 Converse was attached to the Torpedo Service, afterwards serving on Colorado, Lackawanna, and Hartford, Asiatic Station. From 1874 to 1877, he was on detached duty in the torpedo service.
Converse was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in July 1878, and served as Executive officer of sloop-of-war Marion, European Station. He was on sick leave from 1879 to 1881.
He served on the Lancaster, on the European Station, from 1883 to 1885, and was an instructor at the Torpedo Station from 1885 to 1889.
In March 1889, Converse was promoted to Commander, and ordered to command Enterprise from 1890 and 1891.
He served in the Bureau of Ordnance from 1891 to 1892, was in charge of the Torpedo Station from 1893 to 1897. In 1897, he was ordered to command the Montgomery, North Atlantic Squadron.
The battleship Maine arrived in Havana on January 15, 1898. On February 15, she was torn apart by a tremendous explosion that killed 260 of her crew of 350. Montgomery arrived on March 9, and moored among the Spanish ships, near the remains of the Maine. Converse was described by a correspondent of the New York World as "an officer of skill and long service," who would be "depended upon to conduct himself with the intelligent tact so necessary under the present circumstances." Converse was a witness at the Court of Inquiry into the loss of the ship. Upon the ship's departure on March 18, Converse was criticized for dipping his colors to the Spanish ships as Montgomery put to sea.
Converse took Montgomery to Key West to join Admiral William T. Sampson's squadron. The squadron sailed to Puerto Rico in an abortive attempt to intercept the Spanish fleet, bombarded the city and returned to Key West on May 18 by way of Havana, where Montgomery took two prizes, Lorenzo and Frasquito.
On June 3, Lieutenant Richmond Hobson led a party that sank the aging coal-carrier Merrimac in the narrow inlet to Santiago harbor. Converse had suggested the idea to Admiral Sampson, but Hobson received all the credit in the press. The following quote contained in the Converse genealogy, although not attributed, shows some member of the family's ire regarding the subject:
My patience is well nigh exhausted by the persistence with which ignorant people are attributing to Mr. Hobson the conception of the Merrimac affair. The idea never entered Hobson's head until it was put there by Admiral Sampson, to whom it was suggested by Commander George A. Converse, of the cruiser Montgomery, who was the real originator of the scheme. (Town Topics)
Converse returned to Washington, to the Bureau of Navigation, after being promoted to Captain on March 3, 1899, and served there from 1899 to 1901. In 1903 he commanded the battleship Illinois, North Atlantic Squadron.
On October 21, 1903, Converse was promoted to Rear Admiral, detached Illinois, and ordered to Washington as Chief of the Bureaus of Equipment, Ordnance and Navigation, in turn.
Rear Admiral Converse married, in December 1871, Laura Shelby Blood, of New York. He died March 29, 1909, at Washington, DC, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (Section East, Site 937).
Rear Admiral Converse was considered one of the ablest officers in the Navy and was well known as an expert on ordnance, especially torpedoes. He was one of the first officers involved in the introduction of electricity aboard men-of-war and pioneered in experimentation with and introduction of smokeless powder in the Navy.
Sources: Peck, 691; Callahan; Benedict, 2:798; Cogar 2:53-54; Converse, 451; Crockett, 194; DANFS; Goddard, 199; Kent, 1915, 82; Knox, 320, 342-347; Andreu, 22, 160, 169, 172, 186, 190, 194; Morris, 336-346; Nationwide Gravesite Locator; Note: Rear Admiral Converse's papers, 1861-1897, are at the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, Papers 1895-1908, Naval History Foundation, Library of Congress. WPA, 176; Note: George A. was a distant cousin of Engineer Blinn Converse (q.v.).