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USNA Gifted Recovered Bell From Fabled “Ship of Gold”

  POSTED ON: Monday, May 23, 2022 1:54 PM by

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The ship’s bell from SS Central America, the legendary “Ship of Gold” that was led by Cmdr. William Lewis Herndon (1813-1857), was dedicated May 23 at the U.S. Naval Academy during a ceremony prior to the annual Herndon Climb, with descendants of Herndon in attendance. 

The 268-pound bronze bell, donated to the Naval Academy by Dwight Manley of Brea, California, was positioned next to the monument dedicated to Herndon by the Class of 1860 to honor his distinguished career, bravery, and sacrifice.

The ship encountered a three-day hurricane off the coast of North Carolina in September of 1857. After giving the order to abandon ship, he remained at the controls to facilitate passenger evacuation and was last seen at the wheelhouse bowing in prayer as the ship sank 150 miles off of the coast of North Carolina with approximately 15 tons of California Gold Rush gold. His efforts saved the lives of 152 people.  

“Commander Herndon’s story reminds us of our responsibility and obligation as naval officers to keep fighting for our ship and our shipmates all the way to the end,” said Vice Adm. Sean Buck, Superintendent of the Naval Academy. His classmates from the Class of 1983 will be donating a granite bell carrier at a later date.

Prior to his assignment as master of the United States Mail Steamship Central America in 1855, Herndon served with distinction during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 and led a successful South America expedition in 1851 that resulted in his acclaimed 1854 report, Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon.

The bell was discovered 34 years ago, 131 years after the ship sank. It is larger than most ship’s bells of the era, measuring nearly two feet tall and a little over two feet wide at its lower flange edge.


Category: General Interest