Andrew E. K. Benham : biography
Andrew Ellicot Kennedy Benham (April 10, 1832 – August 11, 1905) was an American admiral. He was born in Staten Island, New York.
Benham was the son of Timothy Green Benham (10 Aug 1792 – 17 Jun 1860) and Juliet Lockman. He married Emma Hester Seaman (1833-1924), the daughter of Henry John Seaman (1805-1861) and Katherine Sarah (née Seaman) Seaman (1813-1896). They had three children: a daughter who died in infancy c1866; Henry Kennedy Benham (1867-1904) who died of appendicitis; and Edith Wallace Benham (1874-1962) who was at one time, the Social Secretary for the White House – at 4’ll" and the "soul of tact" she served in total for 25 years – under Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.
On June 10, 1853, he was promoted to passed midshipman. From mid-1853 to early 1857, he served in the sloop of war St. Mary’s with the Pacific Squadron. On September 16, 1855, while still in St. Mary’s, Benham was commissioned a lieutenant. He next served a tour of duty with the U.S. Coast Survey late in 1857 and early in 1858. Later that year, he was transferred to the steamer Western Port (renamed Wyandotte) assigned to the expedition sent to Paraguay to extract an apology for shooting at the gunboat Water Witch. In 1860, he moved to the steamer Crusader in the Home Squadron.
Brazilian Naval Revolt
While there he became Rear Admiral Benham in February 1890 and continued at that post until June 1891. At the end of a year waiting for orders, he assumed command of the Brazil Squadron in June 1892. However, Rear Admiral Benham was soon transferred to command the North Atlantic Station, flying his flag in San Francisco (Cruiser No. 1).
When Admirals Custodio de Mello and Saldanha da Gama launched their naval revolt in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in late 1893, Rear Admiral Benham commanded the American naval units sent there to protect American citizens and interests. During the operation, USS Detroit skirmished with Brazilian ironclads in January 1894.
Retired from the Navy on April 10, 1894, Rear Admiral Benham died on August 11, 1905 at Lake Mahopac, New York.
Upon the return of peace, he served at the New York Navy Yard from 1866 to 1870, but for a stint of duty in Susquehanna in 1867. Following duty as a lighthouse inspector in 1870 and 1871, Benham commanded first Canonicus and then Saugus, both on the North Atlantic Station and returned to lighthouse inspecting in 1874. After commanding Richmond on the Asiatic Station between 1878 and 1881, he went to the Portsmouth Navy Yard. The years 1885 and 1886 brought him his third tour of duty as lighthouse inspector. Following a tour of duty at League Island, Pennsylvania, in 1888, he became commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard in 1889.
American Civil War
After the Civil War broke out, Lt. Benham served on board the steamer Bienville in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and, in her, took part in the capture of Port Royal, South Carolina, on November 7, 1861. On the date that rank was established, July 16, 1862, Benham was promoted to lieutenant commander. Following brief service in Sacramento, California, in 1863, he assumed command of the gunboat Penobscot and served in her through the end of the Civil War, patrolling the Texas coast as part of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.
Three U.S. Navy ships have subsequently been named in his honor:
- Benham (DD-49), an Aylwin-class destroyer.
- Benham (DD-397), the lead destroyer of the Benham-class, which sank in battle during 1942.
- Benham (DD-796), a Fletcher-class destroyer which operated during World War II.
- Benham Plateau on the Philippine Sea west of Luzon was named after him.
Early service with the United States Navy
Benham was appointed a midshipman on November 24, 1847 and served in the East Indies Squadron on board the sloop-of-war Plymouth in 1847 and 1848 and on board the brig Dolphin in 1849 and 1850. In the latter warship, he participated in the capture of a pirate Chinese junk near Macau, China. During this action, he received a pike wound in the thigh. After another tour of duty in Plymouth followed by one in the frigate Saranac, Benham attended the U.S. Naval Academy in 1852 and early 1853.