From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall
George Welsh '46

Date of birth: March 26, 1824

Date of death: April 26, 1860

Age: 36



This officer was born at York, March 26, 1824. He entered the navy, September 14, 1840, and was in much active service. After several cruises of the usual length of time, the Mexican war broke out in which he participated. He was present at the bombardment of Vera Cruz under Com. Conner, and in the expeditions against Tampico, Alvarado, and other river enterprises of the United States squadron during the war. He received his commission as lieutenant, April 18, 1855. He died on board the United States frigate “Sabine,” in the harbor of Aspinwall, April 26, 1860. Capt. A.H. Adams of the “Sabine” wrote: “The death of Lieut. Welsh has cast a gloom on shipboard, for his merits as an officer and a gentleman had endeared him to all on board. Faithfully, ably and bravely he met every duty, and all his associates bear testimony that in him were combined all the best and noblest characteristics of the true American sailor.” At the time of his death he was thirty-six years of age, and lieutenant, second in command, on the frigate “Sabine.” Of twenty years service, he had passed more than twelve at sea. As an officer he occupied the highest rank for professional ability. The remains of Lieut. Welsh were brought to York, and he was buried with military and Masonic honors, on Monday, June 18, 1860, in Prospect Hill Cemetery.

Taken from the book “History of York County, Illustrated 1886” by John Gibson, Historical Editor

The cause of his death was fever. (Information from a letter sent to the Department of the Navy by his commanding officer.)


From researcher Kathy Franz:

In 1851 on the Dolphin, George was doing lieutenant work but wasn't even approved as an acting master. In November, George wrote the Secretary of the Navy William A. Graham a letter signed also by classmates Colville Terrett, John Hanson, William Van Wyck, and others. The letter listed 48 men which needed to be placed as masters in line of promotion or passed midshipmen with rank and pay of Wardroom Officers. The letter was approved by Captain Stephen Cassin, six commanders, and many lieutenants, surgeons, pursers and professors.

Attached to this letter was their four-page petition to Congress stating the history of the problem and their recommendations. Early on 1819, if midshipmen passed a test, they were made a lieutenant. Now passed midshipman was its own rank in which one may stay 6-10 years before making lieutenant. As passed midshipmen, their duties could be those of a lieutenant or a midshipman depending on the captain. At times, 30-year-old passed midshipmen had to sleep in the same areas as 15-year-old midshipmen. The letters were not only written in beautiful handwriting, they were well thought-out and presented. Beginning in 1852, Congress did initiate a thorough examination of all officers with special attention to those unfit for service. By 1853 a bill before Congress presented the Navy’s changes.

In 1854 George was sick on the Water Witch at Asuncion, Paraguay. He was sent home, and Lieutenant Commander T. J. Page’s letter finished with “I wish you a pleasant passage, a speedy recovery, and a happy meeting with your friends.” In 1855 he was still suffering from rheumatism and now had a chronic infection of the liver. Once well, he was stationed at the Observatory and then on the Coast Survey doing work on La Plata.

George and his wife Ellen had a son William and a daughter. George’s father Henry was a bank president and served on the board of directors of the North Central Railway. His mother Margaret died in 1834. His brother William was an attorney, an assistant to the future President James Buchanan, and a member of the Pennsylvania Senate. George’s father remarried Catherine, and their children were John, James, Mary and Henrietta.

George was born in, and appointed to the Naval Academy from, Pennsylvania; he is also buried there.


From the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Midshipman, 4 September, 1840. Passed Midshipman, 11 July, 1846. Master, 12 August, 1854. Lieutenant, 18 April, 1855. Died 26 April, 1860.

He had worked with Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury during the First Grinnell Expedition of 1850-51, compiling the chart of the expedition and its discoveries.

His journals from various cruises in the 1840s and 1850s are in the collection of the Library of Congress.

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.

January 1841
Midshipman, Frigate Brandywine
September 1842
Midshipman, on leave

Others at this command:
January 1843
Midshipman, Ship Independence

Others at this command:
October 1843
Midshipman, Ship Independence
January 1844
Midshipman, Sloop Levant
January 1847
Passed Midshipman, Schooner Petrel
January 1848
Passed Midshipman, Sloop Plymouth

Others at this command:
January 1849
Passed Midshipman, Sloop Plymouth
January 1850
Passed Midshipman, Sloop Plymouth
January 1851
Passed Midshipman, leave of absence
January 1852
Passed Midshipman, Observatory, Washington

January 1853
Passed Midshipman, Steamer Water Witch
January 1854
Passed Midshipman, Steamer Water Witch
January 1855
Passed Midshipman, Observatory, Washington
January 1856
Lieutenant, Naval Observatory and Hydrographical Office, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command:
January 1857
Lieutenant, Coast Survey
January 1858
Lieutenant, Coast Survey
January 1860
Lieutenant, Frigate Sabine

Memorial Hall Error

Illness is not a criteria for inclusion in Memorial Hall.


A special thank you to Kathy Franz, a historian who located George's cause of death.

Class of 1846

George is one of 13 members of the Class of 1846 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

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