From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Cheever '55

Date of birth: ~1832

Date of death: July 13, 1857

Age: 25


William died of yellow fever on July 13, 1857 at Rio de Janeiro aboard St. Lawrence.

His middle name was Harrison, and he was born in Maine but appointed to the Naval Academy from Minnesota.

Other Information

From researcher Kathy Franz:

The newspaper account [Bangor Daily Whig and Courier] in Bangor, Maine, said he was born in Oldtown, Maine, about 1832, and he also lived in Boston and Wrentham, Massachusetts. At his funeral, the Brazil Squadron's Commodore French Forrest gave the resolutions. In part, it said "he was an intelligent, gallant, faithful and efficient officer, one of the brightest ornaments of the navy, whose career of honor and usefulness is brought to an early close … His generous, frank and noble hearted disposition strongly attached us to him and won for him our affections and esteem.”

In 1856, William wrote two letters to the Navy from St. Anthony Falls, Minnesota. One was dated July 3; the other September 1 accepting orders to the St. Lawrence. Living at St. Anthony Falls then were Rebecca (nee Gerould) Cheever, age 68, her son Henry Laurens Cheever, age 38, a farmer born in Wrentham, Massachusetts, his wife Helen and their four children. Rebecca’s son George died January 3, 1856, in St. Anthony’s. His wife was Ann, and he had four children, the last being born May 26, 1856. Rebecca’s husband John died in 1853, she in 1880, and they are both buried in the Gerould Cemetery, Wrentham.


From the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Midshipman, 19 October, 1849. Passed Midshipman, 12 June, 1855. Master, 16 September, 1855. Lieutenant, 11 May, 1856. Died 13 July, 1857.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

January 1850

Midshipman, Naval School

January 1851

Midshipman, Steam Frigate Susquehanna

January 1852

Midshipman, Steam Frigate Susquehanna

January 1853

Midshipman, Sloop Jamestown

January 1854

Midshipman, Frigate Constitution

Others at this command:

January 1855

Midshipman, Steam Frigate Susquehanna

January 1856

Master, Frigate Congress

Others at this command:

January 1857

Master, Frigate St. Lawrence


A special thank you to Kathy Franz, a historian who located William's cause of death.

Class of 1855

William is one of 7 members of the Class of 1855 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.