Major General Adolphus Washington Greely
Major General Adolphus Washington Greely (Non-Combat Gallantry 1901-1910)
Adolphus Washington Greely was born March 27, 1844 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. After twice being rejected for military service, Greely enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17 as a private in the 19th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He served throughout the Civil War, seeing action in several major battles. He sustained serious wounds on three occasions, and achieved the rank of Brevet Major of Volunteers by the end of the Civil War. In 1886 he joined the regular Army as a Second Lieutenant in the 36th Infantry. In March 1873, he was promoted to First Lieutenant in the Cavalry and served mainly in the West and in Washington, D. C.
Greely volunteered and was named head of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition in 1881. The purpose of the expedition was to establish one of a chain of meteorological-observation stations as part of the First International Polar Year. In crossing Ellesmere Island, two members of the expedition managed to get farther north than any previous attempts (83 degrees 24 minutes north latitude).
The expedition established itself for two years of weather observations, at the end of which it made its way on small boats through 200 miles of treacherous Arctic waters to its assigned rendezvous with a relief ship, the Proteus. Weeks and then months passed, with the party unaware that Proteus had been crushed by icebergs. By the time another relief expedition arrived to rescue them, only Greeley and six of the original team had survived -- nineteen men had perished from drowning, hypothermia, or starvation. At first Greely was criticized, but he was absolved after an investigation found that he had acted properly. The most definitive story of this remarkable journey can be found in Alden Todd’s book, Abandoned: The Story of the Greely Expedition 1881-1884. Adolphus Greely was promoted to Captain in 1886.
In March 1887, President Grover Cleveland appointed Captain Greely as Chief Signal Officer of the U.S. Army with the rank of Brigadier General. During his tenure, nearly 20,000 miles of telegraph lines consisting of land cables, submarine cables, and wireless telegraphy were constructed, operated and maintained by the Army in the U.S., Cuba, Puerto Rico, Alaska, the Philippines, and at other locations. General Greely was a delegate to the International Telegraph Conference in London and the International Wireless Telegraph Congress in Berlin in 1903. In 1906 he was promoted to the rank of Major General and oversaw the relief operation after the San Francisco earthquake and resultant fire. Two year