Henry Glass was born January 7, 1844 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
He graduated from the Navel Academy May 28, 1863.
Glass saw considerable action during the Civil War while attached to the Union steam sloop Canandaigua.
He also participated in the capture of Georgetown, South Carolina, in February 1865.
After the war, Glass served aboard many different ships before being given command of the State of California’s State Marine School ship, Jamestown in 1879.
The following year, Glass took command of the screw sloop Wachusett, of the Pacific Squadron, before he began a tour at the Mare Island Navy Yard in 1883. During his time there, he compiled Marine International Law, a collection drawn, as he freely acknowledged, “from the writings and opinions of certain acknowledged authorities on the subject” to provide a handy reference work for naval officers. This volume was published in 1885. After winding up his tour at Mare Island in 1886, Glass commanded the sidewheel gunboat Monocacy of the Asiatic Squadron into 1888.
Glass’ next duty was that of Commandant of Cadets at the Naval Academy, a post he held from 1889 to 1891, before serving on the Naval Examining Board from 1891 to 1893. Since the latter assignment was only intermittent, Glass served as equipment officer of the Mare Island Navy Yard in 1892 and later became captain of the yard the following year. On January 23, 1894, he was commissioned as captain.
He returned to sea in 1894 and commanded the cruiser Cincinnati from 1894 to 1896 before he took command of the battleship Texas. He then returned to Mare Island to the post of captain of the yard in 1897.
Upon the outbreak of war with Spain in 1898, the twin-screw protected cruiser Charleston was quickly readied for service, with Glass in command.
Commissioned on May 5, 1898, Charleston set out for the Hawaiian Islands 16 days later.
Escorting three transports — City of Peking, Australia, and City of Sydney — Glass sailed from Honolulu on June 4th, bound for Manila, Philippines.
When clear of land, Glass opened his confidential orders:
Washington, May 10, 1898.
Upon the receipt of this order, which is forwarded by the steamship City of Pekin to you at Honolulu, you will proceed, with the Charleston and the City of Pekin in company, to Manila, Philippine Islands. On your way, you are hereby directed to stop at the Spanish Island of Guam. You will use such force as may be necessary to capture the port of Guam, making prisoners of the governor and other officials and any armed force that may be there. You will also destroy any fortifications on said island and any Spanish naval vessels that may be there, or in the immediate vicinity. These operations at the Island of Guam should be very brief, and should not occupy more than one or two days. Should you find any coal at the Island of Guam, you will make such use of it as you consider desirable. It is left to your discretion whether or not you destroy it. From the Island of Guam, proceed to Manila and report to Rear-Admiral George Dewey, U.S.N., for duty in the squadron under his command.
JOHN D. LONG
Secretary Commanding Officer U.S.S. Charleston.
Guam had been under Spanish control since 1668. By the time of the war, however, Guam had been neglected and there were only light defenses. The last message the authorities on Guam had received from Spain was dated April 14, 1898, a month before war was declared.
The new order created intense excitement and enthusiasm among the seamen. Many of them immediately went to the ship’s library and eagerly scrutinized charts, geographies, histories, and encyclopedias for information. While the sailors were in the ship’s library learning this information about the island of Guam, Captain Glass altered the direction of the cruiser toward the new destination.
The soldiers and sailors on the transports were stirred when they noticed the change in direction, and rumors started instantly. Some thought the expedition was to hoist the American flag over the Caroline Islands and remain there until reinforcements arrived for a stronger descent upon Manila. Others guessed that Charleston was sailing to some mysterious island of Spain, complete with impregnable fortifications, a formidable force of Spanish soldiers, and vast quantities of coal.
The rumor mongering stopped the next day, when the correct news was wigwagged to the transports.
Along with the sealed orders were warnings of possible Spanish Men of War in San Luis d’Apra, the main port of Guam, and notification of it being protected by a heavy battery of guns. The existence of the heavy armament was verified by reputable travelers who had visited the island within the two or three years before 1898. Definite information of the size of the Spanish garrison was not given, and in the absence of direct knowledge, the captain of the cruiser had to assume that there might be more than a thousand fighting men on the island who were thoroughly familiar with the terrain. Glass held a conference on Australia, and invited General Anderson, Commander William C. Gibson, naval officer in charge of the transports, and the captains of the three troop carriers were invited to participate in the discussions. Also present at the meeting was T. A. Hallet, third officer of Australia and a former whaling captain, who had been to the Mariana Islands many times. Hallet told the group that on his last visit to Guam, San Luis d’Apra was strongly fortified. Fort Santa Cruz and the battery on Point Orote, he stated, were efficiently manned and equipped. After a complete appraisal of all the known and unknown factors in the impending battle, the officers completed the arrangements for the attack on Guam.
It was soon noticed by the troops that Charleston was expecting a fight, because the cruiser began shooting subcaliber ammunition at boxes tossed from City of Peking. This mild training continued until the afternoon of June 15, when the American cruiser started circling and firing service charges at pyramidal cloth targets set adrift from the cruiser herself.
The range was about 2 miles and the gun crews, which were composed largely of the green recruits under the command of Second Lieutenant John Twiggs Myers, were shooting accurately enough to cause Captain Glass to smile pleasantly.
By the time the convoy crossed the 180th meridian, the officers and men felt they were ready for the enemy.
Capture of Guam
At daybreak of June 20, 1898, Glass arrived off the shore of Guam.
Leaving the transports anchored outside, Charleston boldly entered the harbor and fired a 13 round challenge, only to receive no return fire of any kind.
As the cruiser proceeded on its way, a small group of curious inhabitants gathered on the shores of Piti, a landing place down the bay. These locals were aware of the presence of the American vessels, for they had been sighted early that morning.
Spanish emissaries soon called upon Glass and were astonished to learn that a state of war existed between their respective countries. As the island was virtually undefended — the forts were in ruins — the Spanish governor surrendered; and Glass took possession of Guam for the United States on the afternoon of June 21, 1898.
As Glass’s orders specified, Charleston proceeded on to Manila and participated in the operations that resulted in the surrender of that city in August 1898 and took part in the initial actions against Filipino “insurgents” who were resisting America’s assumption of control in the Philippine Islands.
Glass was relieved of command of Charleston on December12, 1898 by Capt. W. H. Whiting, Glass returned to the United States and soon assumed command of the naval training station at San Francisco, California, on January 23, 1899. Promoted to rear admiral in 1901, he broke his flag in the armored cruiser New York on February 4, 1903 as Commander in Chief, Pacific Squadron.
Later, with New York requiring extended repairs at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Glass and his staff proceeded to San Francisco, and he briefly wore his flag in the cruiser Boston from September 28 to 30th, 1903 before he transferred to the cruiser Marblehead on the 30th.
Then on November 3rd, a revolution broke out on the isthmus of Panama which soon won the independence of that strategic region from Colombia. Glass, in Marblehead, was dispatched to Panama’s Pacific coast and arrived there a week later. In addition to the Marblehead, his fleet consisted of the USS Wyoming, USS Concord and USS Nero. During the period of tension, Glass stationed one ship at Darien harbor to protect American lives and property and, with the permission of the Panamanian government, sent small observation parties from his ships offshore to explore the rivers, roads, and trails of the region, thereby gaining “much information … of a country of which very little was known.”
Placed on the retired list on January 7, 1906, Admiral Henry Glass served subsequently on active duty as Commandant, Pacific Naval District.
He died in Paso Robles, California, on September 1, 1908.
The Glass Breakwater of Guam’s deep-water port Apra Harbor is named in his honor.
Now WE know em