Commander William Lewis Herndon was one of the United States Navy’s outstanding explorers and seamen. In 1851 he led a United States expedition to the Valley of the Amazon, and prepared a report published in 1854 and distributed widely as Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon. He was noted especially for ensuring the rescue of 152 women and children when commanding the commercial mail steamer Central America in September 1857. During a three-day hurricane off the coast of North Carolina, the ship lost power. Herndon arranged for getting some women and children safely off the ship to another vessel. With no way to save the ship, Herndon chose to stay with more than 400 passengers and crew who drowned as the ship sank off Cape Hatteras on September 12. It was the largest loss of life in a commercial ship disaster in United States history. Two years later his daughter Ellen Lewis Herndon married Chester A. Arthur, the future U.S. president.
About William Lewis Herndon
American naval officer who led the expedition to the Amazon.
He served in the Depot of Charts and Instruments at the U.S. Naval Observatory.
His quick thinking saved the women and children of a ship under his command after they were caught in a hurricane.
His brother-in-law and cousin, Matthew Fontaine Maury, was a noted American scientist and abolitionist.
He was the father-in-law of President Chester A. Arthur.
Information related to William Lewis Herndon
- Explorers of Amazonia
- Captains who went down with the ship
- American explorers
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