George Barnett--born on 9 December 1859 at Lancaster, Wis.--entered the Naval Academy in June 1877 and graduated in 1881. Following two years of sea service as a naval cadet, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps on 1 July 1883. After duty at various marine barracks on the east coast, as well as three years in Alaskan waters on board Pinta, he advanced to first lieutenant in September 1890 while serving in the steam sloop-of-war Iroquois.
Lt. Barnett then served at the Marine Barracks at the Washington Navy Yard until June 1896 when he went on board the receiving ship Vermont in New York City. He reported to San Francisco in December 1897 for sea duty and then transferred to the protected cruiser New Orleans the following April, just in time for service in the Spanish-American War. Barnett's ship joined the Flying Squadron off Santiago de Cuba on 30 May, bombarded the harbor batteries on 6 and 16 June, and captured the French blockade runner Olinde Rodrigues on 17 July. Promoted to captain on 11 August 1898, he transferred to the protected cruiser Chicago in November of that year, serving in that ship during cruises to the Caribbean, the south Atlantic, and European waters.
Capt. Barnett came ashore for duty at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., in May 1901. Promoted to major shortly thereafter, Barnett next took command of a battalion that embarked in the auxiliary cruiser Panther in September 1902. The warship sailed to the Caribbean that month, where Barnett's battalion landed to guard the railway transit of the Isthmus of Panama. In January 1903, he took command of another battalion guarding naval facilities in the Manila Bay area of the Philippines. While there, Barnett also served in several ships of the Asiatic Fleet. Returning to Washington in April 1905, Maj. Barnett advanced to lieutenant colonel and served as the commanding officer of the Washington Navy Yard Marine Barracks for the next year.
When civil war threatened in Cuba in mid-1906, Barnett took command of an expeditionary battalion, later growing to a regiment, in September. Transported to Havana on board the cruiser Minneapolis, Barnett's force soon moved to Cienfuegos, where it deployed to occupy the towns of western and central Cuba. A large Army force relieved the marines in November, and Barnett returned to Washington in November 1906.
After commanding the Marine Barracks for a year, Lt. Col. Barnett took over the 100-man Marine Corps detachment at the American Legation in Peking, China, arriving there in early 1908. He returned to the United States during the summer of 1910 and assumed command of the Philadelphia Marine Barracks, in which billet he received his promotion to colonel on 11 October.
Over the next three years, Col. Barnett made repeated deployments to Cuba, in command of the 1st Marines, in order to quell serious domestic disturbances on the island. The most serious of these expeditions took place in 1912, when Barnett took the 1st Marines to Guantanamo Bay on 28 May. Most of the marines returned to the United States by early August.
Appointed to a four-year detail as Major General Commandant of the Marine Corps on 21 February 1914, Barnett led the Corps during a time of unprecedented activity and expansion. He worked hard to draw the Marine Corps into closer and more cordial relations with the Navy, directed several important expeditions to countries in the Caribbean, and administered the Marine Corps through its great expansion during World War I.
In April 1914, when American forces landed at Veracruz, Mexico, Barnett sent a reinforced brigade of marines to that city. He also stationed an expeditionary force off the west coast of Mexico later that year. When civil wars broke out in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1915, Barnett placed a full brigade of marines in each of these countries to maintain order and keep the peace. Barnett also guided the Marine Corps as it expanded to 3,000 officers and 75,500 enlisted men during World War I--building training centers in Virginia and South Carolina, sending reinforcements to regular marine stations, and dispatching two Marine brigades to France.
Made brigadier general on 29 August 1916, Barnett not only shepherded the Marine Corps through its wartime activities, but also through the difficult period of demobilization and reorganization at the close of the war in late 1918. For his outstanding service, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the Secretary of the Navy. Relieved as Commandant of the Marine Corps on 1 July 1920, he was given the rank of major general on 5 March 1921.
Major General Barnett served the remaining years of active service as Commanding General of the Department of the Pacific. He retired on 9 December 1923 and died on 27 April 1930. Major General Barnett was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first Barnett (SP-1149) retained part of her civilian name, while the second Barnett (AP-11) was named for Major General George Barnett.
(Tug: t. 194; l. 126'; b. 21'7"; dr. 9'3" (mean); s. 12 k.; cpl. 19; a. 2 3-pdrs., 1 mg.)
The Barnett--a steel hulled, single screw tug built in 1911 by John H. Dialogue of Camden, N.J.--was acquired by the Navy for use as a “section minesweeper” from the Steel Towage and Wrecking Co., of Galveston, Tex., who delivered her on 19 December 1917. Two days later, the tug--designated SP 1149--was commissioned for duty in the 8th Naval District. For the duration of hostilities, Barnett (the Navy seems to have dropped the definite article) operated out of New Orleans, sweeping the passes leading from the Gulf of Mexico to the main channel of the Mississippi River and carrying out district tug and tow services. On 17 July 1920, she was classified a harbor tug and designated YT 29.
On 29 December 1921, she was assigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she performed general duty for the next 14 years. Decommissioned on 3 July 1936, Barnett was towed to the Norfolk Navy Yard by Allegheny (AT 191) arriving there on 11 July. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 19 May 1936. She was sold to the Lee Transit Co., of New York, on 24 September 1936, and was delivered to that firm on 3 October 1936.
Robert J. Cressman
7 March 2006