Person:William Herndon (8)

Commander William Lewis Herndon
b.25 OCT 1813 Fredericksburg, VA
d.12 SEP 1857 Lost at Sea
    m. 17 NOV 1806
    1. Dr. Brodie Strachan Herndon1810 - 1886
    2. Commander William Lewis Herndon1813 - 1857
    m. 09 NOV 1836
    1. Ellen Lewis Herndon1837 - 1880
    Facts and Events
    Name Commander William Lewis Herndon
    Gender Male
    Birth? 25 OCT 1813 Fredericksburg, VA
    Marriage 09 NOV 1836 Culpeper Co., VAto Frances Elizabeth Hansbrough
    Death? 12 SEP 1857 Lost at Sea
    Reference Number? Q8014559?

    . . . son of Dabney Herndon, a prominent banker of Fredericksburg, and Elizabeth Hull, of Northumberland, his wife. Her elder sister, Lucy Ellen, had six years before married Dr. Brodie S. Herndon, the elder brother of her husband." "At the age of 15, young Herndon was appointed an acting midshipman in the U. S. Navy, and was promoted from time to time until on September 14, 1855, he was commissioned a Commander. During the Seminole or Florida War, 1841-42, he served in Florida Waters, and from 1847-48 in the Mexican War, being at Vera Cruz in the early part of 1848." "In June 1850, he received orders to explore the Valley of the Amazon, on which he was engaged 327 days in 1851-52." "Leaving Lima, Peru, he ascended the Andes to an altitude of 16,699 feet, and then starting from one of its sources in Peru in an open boat, he floated down one stream after another until finally entering the mighty river, and from there to its mouth, a distance of 4,366 miles." "Some idea of the trials with which such an exploration entailed, and through which Herndon and his small party passed May be had from the fact, that they traveled on foot, on mule-back, by canoe and boat; that they endured all the hardships of a wild tropical jungle; climbing high and snow-topped dangerous mountains; fording swift streams, battling swirling currents; being exposed to the varying changes of climate, and rarified atmosphere of the mountain peaks; dangers from hostile natives and Indians, wild beasts, poisonous reptiles and insects, and the great condors for which the Andes are noted. Besides all these were dangers from turbulent waters and violent storms, and from mountain sickness, pestilence and tropical diseases." "From July 15, 1852, to March 21, 1854, he was stationed in Washington where he was engaged in writing the report of his explorations, which was published by Congress as Executive Document No. 36, of the 2nd Session of the 32nd Congress entitled ‘Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon,' published in Washington by Robert Armstrong, Public Printer, 1853." "From October 26, 1855, until September 12, 1857, he served as commander of the Steamship "GEORGE LAW," the name of which had been changed to the "CENTRAL AMERICA," when he went down with his ship when it foundered September 12, 1857, off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, during a violent hurricane." "It is impossible in a work of this character to tell the full story of scenes, dramatic in the extreme, of the bravery of the men, women and children on board in the face of grave danger and possible death of the thoughtfulness and consideration of others, of their courtesy the one to the other, and of the sacrifices of self that others might be saved. However, a vividpicture of this great shipwreck and the heroism of its commander and crew was told in the official account of the loss of that vessel prepared for the Secretary of the Navy by Lieutenant Matthew Fontain Maury, his cousin and brother-in-law, head of the U. S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D. C., shortly after its occurrence. The harrowing news of this terrible disaster was assuaged somewhat by the heroism of its commander and crew, and the thrilling tales related by survivors." "Since 1857, whenever a serious marine disaster has occurred, the story of Captain Herndon and his crew has been retold. In contrast to the brutality and cowardice of the officers and crew and the passengers and the other disgraceful scenes enacted in connection with the sinking of the White Star Liner ‘Titanic' off the coast of Newfoundland in April 1912, the newspapers published the account of the chivalry displayed by the captain and crew and passengers of the ‘Central America' in seeing that all women and children and the men with families were first orderly placed in the life boats, calling attention to the fact that all the officers and crew of the sinking vessel were lost save those necessary and assigned by Commander Herndon to man the life boats." "A monument was erected to Herndon's memory on the campus of the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, as an example for future officers of the Navy to emulate his example. This monument, which bears on its face simply the name ‘Herndon,' and on the reverse ‘September 12, 1857,' is one of the four objects of the old Academy which now remain." "In commemoration of the bravery and heroism of one of her sons, the Commonwealth of Virginia ordered to be struck a gold medal which was presented to Herndon's widow. This medal is now in the possession of her great-grandson, Chester Alan Arthur III." "It is related by one of the survivors that Captain Herndon remarked to one of his passengers: ‘I will never leave the ship.' He went down to his cabin, donned his full dress nivorm, took his position on the bridge, and as the vessel slowly sank, he was last seen to raise his hat as he entered the presence of his superior officer, The Lord God Almighty, at whose word even the turbulent and stormy waves became still, and Captain Herndon entered the 'haven where he would be.'"

    For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article William Lewis Herndon.