From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

George Ryan '61

Date of birth: May 8, 1842

Date of death: November 24, 1877

Age: 35

Naval Academy Register

George Parker Ryan was admitted to the Naval Academy from Massachusetts on September 30, 1857 at age 15 years 4 months.

Naval Academy Photo Album


George was lost on November 24, 1877 when USS Huron (1875) went aground and then wrecked in heavy weather off Nags Head, North Carolina. Ninety-seven other officers and men were also lost. He was the commanding officer.


From Together We Served:

George P. Ryan, born in Massachusetts, May 8th, 1842. Appointed from Massachusetts, September 30th 1857; Naval Academy 1857-1860; He was graduated with honor in 1860. In 1861 he was attached to the brig Bainbridge as Midshipman, and from 1862 to 1865 was on special duty on the steam-sloop Sacramento; commissioned as Lieutenant, July 16th, 1862; steamer Lenapee, Atlantic Squadron, 1865-1866; commissioned as Lieutenant-Commander, July 25th, 1866; Naval Academy, 1867-1869; frigate Sabine, special service. Commander Ryan, USS Huron lost at sea November 24th, 1877.

From Army & Navy Journal on December 1, 1877:

Commander Ryan was an Irish-American, born in Boston May 8, 1842. He was a son of Mr. James W. Ryan, and brother of Mr. John W. Ryan, editor of the Boston Courier, and of William Ryan, Esq. Some ten years ago, Commander Ryan married a daughter of John Galvin, Esq., the City Forester of Boston, and he leaves a family of four children, the eldest but eight years old. Captain Ralph Chandler, U.S.N., in a letter to the Boston "Pilot," says of him: H ewas born in Boston, received an appointment as midshipman, through the influence of Hon. Anson Burlingame, in 1857, and soon took a prominent position in the advanced class at the Naval Academy. He was only a few months past the age of sixteen when he entered, but with ability beyond his years, and honest study, he graduated in three years, only one removed from the head of his class. In his academic course, he paid particular attention to practical and theoretical astronomy, and, on graduating, was assigned to duty as a navigating officer of the United States brig Bainbridge, an advancement seldom accorded to midshipmen even in time of war. He gained the full confidence of his commanding officer, and was promoted to a Lieutenant in 1862, and ordered to the steam corvette Sacramento. In 1865 he reported for duty as executive officer of the Sacramento, double-ender, then in the Cape Fear River, and was promoted to a Lieutenant-Commander in 1866, and assigned duty at the Naval Academy, as assistant professor of astronomy, and remained on that duty until 1859, when he was ordered to the frigate Sabine, as navigator and instructor to the graduating class of 1859. On the return of the Sabine, Ryan was ordered back to the Naval Academy in his old position of assistant in astronomy, and remained there until the work commenced of organizing the parties for the observation of the transit of Venus. His reputation as a mathematician and astronomer soon attracted the attention of the Navy Department, and Ryan was selected to take charge of one of the most important stations for the observation of the transit, that at the Desolation or Kerguelen Islands. He took passage in the Swatara for the field of labor in 1874. The thoroughness of the work of his party, and the accuracy and completeness of his observation of the transit will remain an indestructible monument to his ability, long after generations have passed away. He was promoted to a commander in October, 1874, and last fall ordered to the command of the Huron, an iron vessel of one thousand tons, displacement measurement. (He took command at Boston Sept. 4, 1876. —Ed. Journal.) His was a rare character—a noble disposition, and developed new traits of manliness and honesty of purpose with increased length of association. To strangers he was simply an intelligent, modest man. To those who knew him well he was true nobility, unmarred by one ungentle act or thought. A loving husband and affectionate father has disappeared from the family circle, and left a desolate hearthstone. The country and the Navy have lost one who bade fair to rise by honest merit to the topmost round, and his brother officers mourn for the bright light that has gone out with sincere and heartfelt grief.


From the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Acting Midshipman, 30 September, 1857. Midshipman, 1 June, 1861. Lieutenant, 16 July, 1862. Lieutenant Commander, 16 July, 1866. Commander, 3 October, 1874. Lost in the Huron, 24 November, 1877.

Related Articles

Sydney Simons '67, Lambert Palmer '68, James Wight '71, Walter French '71, Frederick Danner '74, and Edmund Loomis '75 were also lost when Huron was wrecked.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

September 1861

Midshipman, Steamer Bainbridge

January 1863

Lieutenant, Steam Sloop Sacramento

January 1864

Lieutenant, Steam Sloop Sacramento

Others at this command: ENS Philip Lowry '63.

July 1870

Lieutenant Commander, Sabine

Others at this command: MIDN Charles Brown '67.

January 1871

Lieutenant Commander, Naval Academy

Others at this command: Cadet MIDN James Wight '71 and Cadet MIDN Walter French '71.

January 1872

Lieutenant Commander, Naval Academy

Others at this command: MIDN 1/c Jesse Roper '72.

January 1873

Lieutenant Commander, Naval Academy

Others at this command: MIDN 1/c Charles Putnam '73.

January 1874

Lieutenant Commander, Naval Observatory

Others at this command: LT Lambert Palmer '68.

July 1877

Commander, commanding officer, Huron

Others at this command: LT Lambert Palmer '68, Master Walter French '71, and Cadet Engineer Edmund Loomis '75.

Class of 1861

George is one of 3 members of the Class of 1861 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.