Author talk:William Lewis Herndon

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Background information[edit]

Born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, October 25, 1813, son of Dabney Herndon, cashier of the Farmers' Bank, and Elizabeth Hull, his wife; after preparatory education, he entered the navy as midshipman in 1828, and was promoted passed midshipman in 1834 and lieutenant in 1841; served on various cruising stations and was actively employed during the Mexican war; after three years of duty at the naval observatory he was sent to the South Pacific station, where in 1851 he received orders detaching him from his ship, and directing him to explore the valley of the Amazon to ascertain its commercial resources and capabilities; he started from Lima, and crossed the Cordilleras in company with Lieut. Lardner Gibbon[wrote Vol.2], who separated from him to explore the Bolivian tributaries, while Lieut. Herndon followed the main trunk of the Amazon to its mouth, returning to the United States in 1852; the report of this expedition was published by the government in two volumes, of which Lieut. Herndon wrote Vol. I, "Explorations of the Valley of the River Amazon" (Washington, 1853); this work was extensively circulated, and is still cited in works on ethnology and natural history; he was made commander in 1855; he took service in the line of mail steamers plying between New York and the Isthmus of Panama; on September 8, 1857, he left Havana in command of the 'Central America', formerly the 'George Law', carrying a large number of passengers returning from California and gold amounting to $2,000,000; the ship encountered a cyclone in the edge of the Gulf Stream, which destroyed it, Commander Herndon and four hundred and twenty-six others losing their lives, September 12, 1857, Commander Herndon remaining on his ship to the last; his devotion to duty excited general admiration, and led his brother officers to erect a fine monument to his memory at the naval academy in Annapolis; a daughter of Commander Herndon [Ellen Herndon Arthur] became the wife of Chester A. Arthur, who was afterward President of the United States. [They had three children and living descendants today (2012)]

Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Volume II
VIII--Prominent Persons

Family of William Lewis Herndon[edit]