Biography of Abraham E. Culver
Oneida County, NY Biographies





The distinguished career of Captain Abraham Ellis Culver made Utica proud to number him among her native sons. His entire military record was the embodiment of all commendable, soldierly qualities and gentlemanly attributes. He was popular in military and diplomatic circles, commanding respect wherever he was known and the admiration and love of those who came within the closer circle of his friendship His birth occurred in Utica, March 26, 1856, his parents being Abraham Ellis and Emily (Van Embergh) Culver, of whom extended mention is made elsewhere in this volume together with the ancestral history of the family. During the period of his youth he attended the Utica Academy and afterward successfully passed the competitive examination in a class of eighteen and was admitted to the United States Naval Academy, winning first place among the contestants. He passed the entrance examination at Annapolis as cadet midshipman in 1872, being graduated on the 20th of June, 1876. From that time forward he remained an active member of the navy and was promoted to ensign, December 14, 1877, while on the 26th of December, 1884, he was made a lieutenant of the junior grade Six years later, on the 15th of October, 1890, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He served as lieutenant and executive officer of the United States Ship Mayflower during the Spanish-American war and his vessel was appointed in the first place to the rescue of Hobson. They were stationed in waiting for many hours before Hobson's entrance to the channel, but finding that the Mayflower drew too much water it was recalled and a vessel of lesser draught substituted. On the 4th of June, 1899, Lieutenant Culver was promoted to the rank of lieutenant major and became commander on the 12th of February, 1905. He was in command of the United States Ship Bancroft from October 6, 1902, until March 2, 1905, after which he served on the board of changes at the navy yard at New York until September 1, 1906. The following day he was given command of the United States Ship Des Moines and from November 17, 1907, until January 22, 1909, he was on duty as navy aid to the assistant secretary of the navy at the navy department, Washington, D. C.

About 1905 Captain Culver was sent on a delicate diplomatic commission to the West Indies where he acquitted himself with marked credit and ability, receiving therefor the commendation of the state department. While serving as lieutenant of the United States Ship Vandalia Captain Culver was a witness of the great Samoan cyclone and a participant of the events which there occurred, and received special commendation for his bravery, coolness and decision, being the means of saving many lives. His official account, written during that awful storm on slips of brown paper, the only available writing material at hand, is a model of brevity, correctness and modesty. While he was commanding the gunboat Bancroft he was sent to the Orinoco river to secure the release of three American steamboats which had been captured and held by the Venezuelan insurgents. The Bancroft arrived at Cuidad Bolivar. early in the morning of July 15, on the day set for the assault upon the city by the government troops, for at that time Venezuela was in the throes of a revolution. The Bancroft reached its destination in time to release the American ships before the battle and to protect American citizens and others, taking off the consular agents and other Americans and rescuing a number of women of French citizenship from the danger of bombardment. It also furnished a surgeon and hospital corps to care for the wounded of both armies. The Bancroft took station in a position where it could respond immediately to a call for assistance, a location where the bullets flew fast and thick, striking the boat's side and lodging in the decks. This position gave the officers and men a fine opportunity to see the most important and bloodiest battle of the rebellion. On arrival Captain Culver made immediate demand upon General Rolando, commander of the revolutionists, for the surrender of the American ships and his terms were such as to bring prompt compliance. He was in readiness for an attack but at the request of Captain Culver it was postponed for a day in order to give the Bancroft opportunity to take off American and British citizens. After the battle, when the dead and wounded were left uncared for upon the field, Captain Culver arranged that his surgeon and some of the sailors should go ashore and establish a hospital for the care of those whose lives might yet be saved. The work of Captain Culver and the other officers at that time received high commendation from the government. Throughout his entire record his work was ever most creditable to the country and his services were of marked value in maintaining American naval prestige.

Captain Culver, while a firm disciplinarian, was always a favorite with his men as well as with his superior officers and had the social qualities which rendered him popular in the different clubs to which he belonged. He held membership in the Metropolitan, Chevy Chase and Army and Navy Clubs of Washington, and was on the board of governors of the latter organization. He found special delight in making a collection of choice pieces of silverware and other articles of rare manufacture from the many countries he visited during his several cruises around the world. His collection of Japanese works of art was especially rich and interesting. He was on leave of absence when on the 23d of June, 1909, in the Capital city, he passed away. The interment took place on the 26th of June, in Arlington cemetery where rest so many of the distinguished dead of the nation. An account of the services as given by the Army and Navy Journal is as follows: "The body of Captain Culver was escorted from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Spalding, 1703 Rhode Island avenue, by two companies of marines and one company of blue jackets, headed by the United States Marine band. Captain Walter McLean commanded the escort. Lieutenant J. B. Gilmer was his aide. The honorary pallbearers were Captain Charles E. Vreeland, Captain H. T. Mayo, Captain Richard T. Mulligan. Commodore A. A. Winterhalter, Medical Director H. P. Norton, all of the Navy, and Samuel Maddox, of Washington. There were no funeral ceremonies at the house. The simple and beautiful services of a military interment in the open air at the grave were performed by the Rev. Clarke, of the Naval Academy, Annapolis, a naval chaplain and one who had known Captain Culver when he was a midshipman. No more beautiful spot in the world could be found in which to embed the mortal remains of a faithful servant of his country. The grave is situated on the highest point of land in the National Cemetery and overlooks the lovely valley of the Potomac and Washington. During its march through the cemetery the Marine band played Chopin's magnificent funeral march, with its solemn stately tread, and its exquisite strains expressive of consolation and final triumph. The last salute was fired, the last bugle sounded, and a dear comrade was at rest. Captain Culver left to mourn him his mother, Mrs. Emily Van E. Culver, of Utica, Mrs. Charles Alfred Spalding, of Washington; Miss Mary L. Culver, of Utica; and Edward Culver, off Dallas, Texas.

From:
History of Oneida County, New York
From 1700 to the present time
of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
By: Henry J. Cookinham
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1912


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