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Henry Minett

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Henry Minett

Henry Minett
Midshipman Minett in 1877
Born (1857-05-07)May 7, 1857
Louisville, Kentucky
Died December 20, 1952(1952-12-20) (aged 95)
Asheville, North Carolina
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1876–1906
Rank Captain
Commands held USS Viking
Battles/wars Battle of Midway
Henry Minett (May 7, 1857 – December 20, 1952) was a career officer of the United States Navy who served during the Spanish-American War. Prior to retirement in 1905, he achieved the rank of captain. He is best remembered as one of the first acting-Governor of American Samoa. Minett Islet in Alaska is named for him.

Early career

Henry Minett was born in Louisville, Kentucky and entered the United States Naval Academy shortly after his 16th birthday, on June 8, 1872. He graduated as a midshipman four years later, on June 20, 1876. In his early naval career, he was assigned first to the USS Swatara, sailing as part of the North Atlantic Squadron. After being promoted to ensign, he was reassigned to the USS Jamestown from 1879 to 1881.[1] The Jamestown served as the guard ship for the port of Sitka, Alaska. Although he was only an ensign, a small islet in Sitka harbor, Minett Islet, was named for him.[2] On his return from Alaska, Minett was assigned to the training ship USS New Hampshire in 1882. In the next several years, Minett also served on board the USS Hartford and the USS Lackawanna, before being assigned to the research-oriented Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island and sailed with the USS Marblehead for several years around Europe before returning to the United States in 1897. He served on board the USS Wabash, a receiving ship in Boston Harbor until 1898.[1]

Midshipman - June 20, 1877
1877–1878 USS Swatara
Ensign - November 1, 1879
1879–1871 USS Jamestown
1882 USS New Hampshire
1882–1883 USS Hartford
1883–1884 USS Lackawanna
1885–1886 Naval Torpedo Station
Lieutenant, JG - May 23, 1886
1886–1887 USS Minnesota
1888 USS Pensacola[3]
1888–1891 USS Omaha
1891 USS Vermont
Lieutenant - December 11, 1891
1894–1897 USS Marblehead
1897–1898 USS Wabash
1898 USS Viking
1898 League Island Naval Yard
1898 USS Yorktown[4]
1899–1900 USS Adams[5]
Lt. Commander - September 25, 1899
1901–1902 USS Concord[6]
1902–1903 USS Wheeling
1903–1905 USS Wabash[7]
1905 Naval War College
Commander - June 28, 1905
Captain - July 6, 1905
1906–1908? Norfolk Naval Yard
On May 23, 1886, Minett was promoted to Lieutenant, junior grade. Shortly after, he was transferred to the receiving ship USS Minnesota where he served until 1888. After that, he was briefly assigned to the USS Pensacola before a longer stint on board the USS Omaha, sailing to Japan.[1][8] While in Japan, the Omaha assisted in putting out a large fire at Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama. On his return to the United States, Minett served on board the USS Vermont in New York Harbor. He was promoted to lieutenant on December 11, 1891 and sailed with the USS Marblehead for several years around Europe before returning to the United States in 1897. He served on board the USS Wabash, a receiving ship in Boston Harbor until 1898.[1]

Spanish–American War to the Thousand Days War

Shortly after the start of the Spanish–American war, Minett was given command of the newly commissioned USS Viking.[9] The Viking began her life as a private yacht, but was armed and pressed into service for the war. In his first months in command, Minett and the Viking patrolled the waters near Sandy Hook, New Jersey to prevent Spanish attacks on New York.[10] On July 12, 1898, Minett and the Viking were transferred to Cuba to assist in the naval blockade. Minett's duties in Cuba included transporting passengers, orders, and supplies between the blockading ships. On August 16, 1898, four days after the conclusion of hostilities, Minett was ordered to take the Viking to Norfolk, Virginia where she was decommissioned.[11] Minett saw no combat during the war.

Following the war, Minett was reassigned first to the Yorktown, then to the Adams where he was promoted to lieutenant-commander, and subsequently made the executive officer of the Concorde. On board the Concord, Minett was given a test of his command abilities. While sailing en route to a settlement at Unalaska, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands, Minett's commanding officer became seriously ill. Minett assumed command of the vessel and sailed her against orders to Seattle, Washington to get his commander treatment. Minett's arrival in Seattle on July 17, 1901 was reported in newspapers across the country and the Navy Department immediately launched an investigation into the violation of orders. After only five days, Minett's command judgement was upheld and he was cleared of charges.[12]

Near the end of Colombia's Thousand Days War, in November 1901, the Concorde and the Iowa were sent south to protect American interests. Colombian liberals had seized the town of Colón, Panama and the Panama Railroad and appeared ready to take Panama City. The Concorde arrived on November 23 and Lieutenant-Commander Minett was placed in command of a battalion of 412 men from the two ships. To reclaim the railroad, Minett launched trains under guard from Panama City, each sporting two American flags. If the Colombian liberals fired on the trains, the Navy would consider this serious enough provocation to reply in force. In this way, the railroad was restored with no major conflicts. During the Concorde's time in Panama, the train was also used to bring wounded Colombian soldiers back to Panama City where they could be treated by Navy doctors. Colón was surrendered to the US Navy on November 30 and the Navy pulled out its ships shortly after.

American Samoa

On January 16, 1903, Minett was acting-Governor when the formal reply to the deed of secession arrived from President Theodore Roosevelt. A full military ceremony was held where Minett presented each of the tribal chiefs who had signed the deed with an engraved silver watch and chain. Minett also presented a letter from the president acknowledging his acceptance of the territory. Using Navy officers as a color guard, Minett also formally presented the gift of an American flag to the members of the Fita Fita Guard, the local militia created by Governor Tilley three years earlier.[13]

While Minett was acting as governor, the territory was visited by German Samoa Governor Wilhelm Heinrich Solf, perhaps the first such visit from a governor's eastern counterpart. In this meeting, the two governors discussed maintaining friendly relations, but also restricting travel between the two territories. Some natives had been ignoring the partition and going on extended "visiting parties" between the zones. Both governors agreed to attempt to curb this practice.[14]

Minett's time as governor was also marked by the improving of roads in the territory and by hunger problems.


After retirement, Minett remained at Norfolk Naval Yard on the court-martial board of inquiry. By 1908, he was president of that board.[15]

In 1880, an islet was named in his honor: Minett Islet. Minett was serving at Sitka Sound aboard the USS Jamestown when the islet was named.


Military offices
Preceded by
Uriel Sebree
Naval Governor of American Samoa

December 16, 1902 - May 5, 1903
Succeeded by
Edmund Beardsley Underwood
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