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Lieutenant Thomas Mason Brumby


By Patrick McSherry

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Click here to read Thomas Brumby's letter describing the Fall of Manila and his involvement.


Thomas Mason Brumby served as Admiral George Dewey's flag lieutenant aboard the USFS OLYMPIA. Brumby traveled with Dewey to the far east, and remained with him until the Admiral's triumphal return to the U.S. aboard OLYMPIA in 1899. Brumby had a major part in the negotiations concerning the surrendering of Manila to American forces.

The Biography:

Thomas Brumby was born in Marietta, Cobb County Georgia on November 20, 1855. Brumby's father, Arnolus Brumby, had served as Colonel of the 14th Georgia Infantry in the Civil War and as the head of the Georgia Military Institute. In 1873, Thomas Brumby transferred from the University of Georgia to the Naval Academy, graduating in 1877. He graduated fourteenth out of a class of forty-five.

At this time, graduating from the Naval Academy did not ensure a position in the navy. In actuality, Brumby had picked a bad time to pursue a career in the navy. The navy, a world-class force in the 1860's, had dwindled to virtual extinction in the 1870's. The ships were outdated, and three-quarters of the crews were made up of foreign, non-U.S. citizens.

A year after his graduation, Brumby found a position with the Navy. By the time he made Midshipman on June 18, 1879, the Navy was making rumblings of coming back to life. While Thomas Brumby was serving as Ensign, a position he reached on November 26, 1880, the U.S. Navy began building a steel navy, with the first, the USS ATLANTA, being laid down in 1883. By 1887 Brumby had made Lieutenant Junior Grade and full lieutenant by August 1892.

By 1889, Thomas Brumby found himself serving in Samoa, where a showdown was occurring between the U.S., Britain and Germany. As the clouds of war gathered and action seemed eminent, clouds of a different kind appeared. A terrible storm hit Samoa's Apia harbor. In the storm, of the three American, One British and three German warships present, only the British warship, powered by steam, managed to escape. The other ships were lost. Brumby managed to fight the waves after his ship went down, and land on the Samoan shore.

When Admiral Dewey began seeking aides to take with him to the far east as he went command the Asiatic Squadron, Thomas Brumby volunteered. He met Dewey's criteria and was chosen to go asDewey's Flag Lieutenant.. Soon, Brumby found himself aboard OLYMPIA. Within a few months, war had broken out between the U.S. and Spain and the OLYMPIA was on its way to confront the Spanish in the Philippines. The resulting Battle of Manila Bay was a resounding victory for the American forces. During the action, a signal halyard being used by Brumby was sliced by enemy fire as he held it in his hands. It was a close call for the flag lieutenant.

In spite of winning the naval Battle of Manila Bay, the U.S. did not control Manila. Manila finally fell by agreement after a show of force on August 13, 1898. At the surrender negotiations, Thomas Brumby served as Admiral Dewey's negotiator, and eventually raised the first American flag over Manila.

When the OLYMPIA and Admiral Dewey returned to the U.S., after a triumphal cruise home by way of the Suez Canal and Europe, Lieutenant Brumby was still with him. Brumby himself was considered a hero, and was honored by the governor of Georgia and the State of Georgia with a presentation sword.

After the celebrations, Brumby returned to Washington, where Admiral Dewey was settling in. Here, after surviving the rigors of the Philippines, Thomas Brumby contracted typhoid fever. Scarcely three months after his return to the U.S., Lt. Brumby passed away at Washington's Garfield Hopital. His body was originally interred at Atlanta in the Oakland Cemetery. Later, his body was moved to West View Cemetery where his grave is surmounted by an obelisk, purchased through public contributions.


Alden, John, The American Steel Navy (Annapolis: United States Navy Institute Press, 1972), p 313, 318.

Wight, Willard E., "The Fall of Manila, August 13, 1898", Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, Issue 690, August, 1960, p 88 - 89.

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