During the Spanish-American War he served in Texas and participated in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. From 1901 to 1903 he served as aide to the Commander-in-Chief North Atlantic Fleet. He commanded Oklahoma (BB-37) during World War I.
From 1919 to 1927, he served as the United States’ High Commissioner in Turkey. Early during this tour in 1920, he helped found the American Hospital in Nişantaşı, İstanbul in 1920, as well as the annexed nursing school (today the Admiral Bristol Nursing School).
In 1927, he assumed command of the Asiatic Fleet.
From 1930 to 1932, Admiral Bristol served as chairman of the General Board.
He died on 13 May 1939.