Herndon Monument, Annapolis

Herndon Monument, Annapolis

Standing on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, the Herndon Monument, also known by its alternative long name of "Commander William L. Herndon, USN 1813-1857", is a 21-foot-tall (6.4 m) grey granite obelisk designed by an unknown sculptor. The obelisk was presented to the Academy by the class of 1860, and was erected in memory of Captain William Lewis Herndon who lost his life in a gallant effort to save his ship, SS Central America, home-bound with California gold seekers on board, during a cyclone off Hatteras, on September 12, 1857. Rather than save himself, the captain courageously went down along with the ship and the men left on board, while all the women and children, and many other passengers, were saved by a nearby vessel.

On the monument's base, facing the Naval Academy Chapel, is a plaque that reads: “Commander William Lewis Herndon, 1818-1857, Naval Officer - Explorer - Merchant Captain.” "Forgetful of self, in his death he added a new glory to the annals of the sea" – Maury. Maury is Matthew Fontaine Maury, Herndon's co-worker (from 1842 to 1846), brother-in-law, and cousin.

To the right on the obelisk from the plaque, in raised block letters, is the inscription "HERNDON". On the opposite side of the obelisk, also in raised letters, is "September 12, 1857".

The monument is also popular as the site of the famous "plebes-no-more" ceremony, where the plebes (first-year students at the academy) all work together to climb the greased monument and replace a plebe "dixie-cup hat" on top with a combination cover, thus marking the official end of the plebe year. It is a Naval Academy tradition that the midshipman who replaces the dixie cup hat will be given the Superintendent's combination cover. Legend has it that whoever manages that, will be the first of their class to make Flag Rank, although in reality, this has not yet occurred.

The academy began recording times in 1959. In 1972, a midshipman scaled the monument in 20 minutes, which is believed to be the fastest time since the greasing tradition started. In 2010, out of fears of the risk of injury, attempts were made to either discontinue the tradition completely or to stop slathering the monument with lard. Still, in 2011, the tradition was fully reinstated “as a useful event in reinforcing teamwork, organization and leadership."
Sight description based on wikipedia

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Herndon Monument on Map

Sight Name: Herndon Monument
Sight Location: Annapolis, USA (See walking tours in Annapolis)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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