George Henry Ellis (Born October 26, 1875 – (1898-07-03)July 3, 1898) was a sailor in the United States Navy during the Spanish–American War. He was killed during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba.
Ellis was born in Peoria, Illinois. At an early age he accompanied his mother when she moved to New York City, and later to Brooklyn, New York. He enlisted in the Navy February 26, 1892 at age 16 as apprentice, third class. He married Sadie M. Simonson. He was honorably discharged October 25, 1896, with a rank of apprentice, first class. He reenlisted May 3, 1897 as seaman, and rose to the rank of chief yeoman on February 1, 1898.
Chief Yeoman Ellis was killed 3 July 1898 while serving on the USS Brooklyn during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. During the battle, he was reporting ranges of enemy vessels which he read from the stadimeter, a rangefinding device, while observing from an exposed position, while the Brooklyn was under fire from as many as four Spanish ships. Yeoman Ellis was considered an expert with the stadimeter. While the Brooklyn was pursuing fleeing Spanish armored cruisers Vizcaya and Cristóbal Colón, Ellis took a position about three feet in front of the forward turret. He was "singing out" the ranges to a messenger, who passed them to the guncrews inside the turrets. He was decapitated when a large shell fired from a Spanish ship struck him in the face. His brain and blood were thrown over a number of people. When an ensign and the ship's doctor started to pick up Ellis's body to throw it over the side, as was a common practice in naval battles, they were stopped by Commodore Schley, who said "No! Do not throw that body overboard! One who has fought so gallantly deserves the honor of a Christian burial."
Ellis was buried with military honors in Guantanamo, Cuba at Camp McCalla, and later re-buried at Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York, on November 28, 1898. The funeral at Washington Avenue Baptist Church in Brooklyn had a capacity crowd of 2,000 mourners, with thousands more turned away. Soon after the battle, the officers and men of the Brooklyn took up a collection to benefit Ellis's widow, some contributing over a month's pay, to reach a total of over $1,000. Additional donations raised the total to $2,000 by September 1898. Besides his 25-year-old widow, Ellis was survived by a seven-month-old infant.
George Ellis was a prominent character in a fictionalized account of the battle published in 1899, "Fighting in Cuban waters, or under Schley on the Brooklyn," by Edward Stratemeyer.
In 1908, the death of Ellis and the destruction of his stadimeter were cited in an article in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings as to the impracticality of using observers aloft or in an exposed position on deck to determine range to targets during an actual battle, as opposed to gunnery practice. The proposed improvement was to install a range-finder in an armored installation on each gun turret.
USS Ellis (DD-154) was named after him. It was launched November 30, 1918.