American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Adolphus Washington Greely, 1844-1935

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1936


General Greely, Arctic explorer, an Honorary Member of the American Alpine Club, was born in Newburyport, Mass., March 27th, 1844, and died in Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, on October 20th, 1935.

He enlisted as a private in the 19th Massachusetts volunteer infantry, serving in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, being wounded twice at Antietam and once at Fredericksburg. He entered the regular army as a second lieutenant in 1867, and was appointed to the signal corps. In accordance with recommendations of the International Geographical Congress of 1879, for the establishment of circumpolar stations, Greely was placed in charge of an Arctic expedition in 1881, making headquarters for two years at Discovery Harbor, Grinnell Land. From this base the farthest north attained up to that date, 83° 24' was attained. Returning, he reached Cape Sabine under great hazards, and during the winter 1883 lost, through cold and famine, all but seven of his twenty-five companions. Two rescue expeditions failed, but relief, led by Com. Winfield S. Schley, reached them in June, 1884.

The Founder’s Medal of the R. G. S., and the Roquette Medal of the Société de Géographie (Paris) were awarded to Greely, and he was promoted to the rank of captain. In 1887 he became chief signal officer, with the rank of brigadier-general. In the years that followed he aided the development of the insular and Alaskan territory of the United States, building many of the cable and telegraph lines. Less than a year before his death, the Congress of the United States voted him its Medal of Honor for his leadership in the expedition of 1881, one of the three awards of this decoration for non-combative service.

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