Lt. Edwin Jesse De Haven

Lt. Edwin Jesse De Haven.

Edwin Jesse De Haven was born at Philadelphia on 7 May 1816.

In 1829, he entered the Navy as a midshipman and served on the USS Natchez (sloop-of-war) in the West Indies. Upon transferring to the Brazil Squadron (1832–1835), De Haven served aboard the USS Lexington (sloop-of-war) and again aboard the Natchez, whereupon he achieved the rank of passed midshipman.

In 1839, De Haven received his first lessons in polar exploration after joining the sloop-of-war USS Vincennes, flagship of the United States Exploring Expedition under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. The U.S. Exploring Expedition explored Antarctica, as well as the islands of the Pacific and the west coast of North America. During this expedition, De Haven is reputed to have saved the lives of several crew members of the USS Peacock (sloop-of-war) when it was wrecked at the mouth of the Columbia River.

After being promoted to lieutenant in September 1841, De Haven served a succession of yearlong posts with the Home Squadron, including stations aboard the brigs Oregon (1842), Truxtun (1843), and Somers (1845), serving as recruiting officer aboard the latter. In 1848, he was assigned to the steamer USS Mississippi, seeing action in the Mexican War, including duties charting the Gulf of Mexico.

After a brief tour at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, De Haven was chosen to command the first Grinnell Expedition (1850–1851) in search of Sir John Franklin and his party, who had disappeared during an expedition in the Arctic in 1845. In May 1850, the American expedition, consisting of the brigs Advance and Rescue, sailed from New York. While finding only traces of the Franklin Expedition, De Haven and his crew did discover and name Grinnell Land, now part of Ellesmere Island, Canada. The expedition returned to New York in September 1851.

In 1852, De Haven sailed aboard the sloop-of-war USS Decatur in the North Atlantic, guarding American fishing interests. Shortly thereafter, in 1853, De Haven transferred to the Coast Survey, commanding a survey team consisting of the schooners Arago and Belle. After four years of service with the Coast Survey, which included, among other duties, conducting deep-sea soundings off the southern coast of the U.S., De Haven was detached from the Coast Survey on February 19, 1857 due to deteriorating eye sight, and was officially placed on the retired list in 1862 as lieutenant commander, the first US Navy officer promoted to that rank in retirement.

LCdr. De Haven died at Philadelphia on 1 May 1865 and was buried in Old Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia. His papers are held in the Special Collections & Archives Department in the Naval Academy’s Nimitz Library.

Sources: Nimitz Library, De Haven Sailors Association