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#152 Son of a Sea Captain: George P. Colvocoresses

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Leaders & Legacy

George Partridge Colvocoresses

At the tender age of fourteen, George Partridge Colvocoresses served as a captain’s clerk aboard the USS Supply under his father, Capt. George Musalas Colvocoresses, NU 1831, who had named his son after the man who had adopted him as a young, Greek refugee. In late January 1862, father and son were onboard the vessel Supply when it captured the Confederate schooner Stephen Hart, which was transporting Rebel arms and ammunition south of Sarasota, Florida.

After witnessing scenes of war for more than a year, the younger Colvocoresses entered Norwich University as a member of the Class of 1866. At the end of his freshman year, however, he interrupted his studies to join his father once again as a captain’s clerk, this time aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga. He spent another year sailing up and down the East Coast before receiving an appointment as a midshipman to the U.S. Naval Academy from Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, NU 1826.

U.S.S. Supply

Upon graduating from Annapolis in 1869—and receiving his diploma from Gen. Ulysses S. Grant—Colvocoresses followed his father’s example by embarking on a long and distin­guished naval career. He spent 45 years in uniform, nearly half of it at sea, including deployments to Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific waters. As his career progressed, Colvocoresses advanced through the ranks to lieutenant commander, and in 1897 was appointed executive officer onboard the U.S.S. Concord.

George Dewey on the bridge of the U.S.S. Olympia

During the Spanish American War, Lt. Cmdr. Colvocoresses took an active role in all operations in the Philippines involving the U.S. squadron under Commodore George Dewey, NU 1855. While commanding the Concord, he participated in the Battle of Manila Bay, sinking the Spanish vessel Mindanao. A superior who noted his actions wrote, “I am particularly indebted to the executive officer, Lieut. Commander George P. Colvocoresses, for the cool, deliberate, and efficient manner with which he met each phase of the action, and for his hearty cooperation in my plans.”

For his “eminent and conspicuous conduct” at the Battle of Manila Bay, Colvocoresses was advanced five numbers in grade on the recommendation of Admiral Dewey and was awarded the Dewey Medal. In December 1898 he was transferred to Dewey’s flagship, the U.S.S. Olympia, as executive officer.

U.S.S. Olympia

Returning to his home of Litchfield, Conn. a year later, he was welcomed back with an elaborate reception, presenting him with a sword of honor and planting an oak tree named after him on the Litchfield Green.

In 1905, Colvocoresses was promoted to the rank of captain. Shortly thereafter he assumed duties as Commandant of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. He was very familiar with Annapolis, having been assigned to the Department of Drawing at the Academy on three previous occasions in his career, during which he designed a memorial to the crew of the ill-fated USS Jeannette.

In 1907 he was transferred to the retired list with the rank of rear admiral.

In retirement, Colvocoresses remained involved with Norwich, and was awarded two honorary degrees. In 1909 he delivered the annual Commencement address, and ten years later, during the University’s Centennial Celebration, he gave a talk on the life and work of Alden Partridge, whom he had known in childhood. Colvocoresses also wrote a detailed account of “The Battle of Manila Bay” for the History of Norwich University, Vol. I, (1911).

The Colvocoresses’ family’s deeply-rooted connection with Norwich contin­ues into the 21st century. At the 2004 com­mencement ceremony, Gretchen Herrboldt Hahn, a nursing major with an Army ROTC scholarship, received her diploma from the hands of her great-great uncle, Alden Par­tridge Colvocoresses, grandson of George Partridge Colvocoresses.

By Diana Weggler, based in part on an article written by Norwich historian Gary T. Lord and published in the Norwich Record in summer 2006, and an article in the Waterbury Republican published in honor of the Colvocoresses’ 50th wedding anniversary .