Hilary Abner Herbert

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Hilary Abner Herbert (12 March, 1834 – 6 March, 1919) served as the thirty-third Secretary of the Navy from 1893 through 1897.

Life & Career

Hilary Herbert was born in Laurens, South Carolina on March 12, 1834 and moved with his parents to Greenville, Alabama in 1846. He attended the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in 1853 and 1854, and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1855 and 1856. Having studied law, Herbert was admitted to the bar in 1857 and subsequently practiced in Greenville until the outbreak of the Civil War. He entered the Confederate service as a Captain of the Greenville Guards and was promoted to the rank of Colonel of the Eighth Regiment, Alabama Infantry. He was disabled at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. His future predecessor as Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin F. Tracy, was also present at the battle on the Union side.

With the destruction of the Confederacy, Herbert resumed the practice of law in Greenville, Alabama until 1872, when he moved to Montgomery. He was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-fifth Congress in 1876, and would remain a representative until 1893. Herbert was one of several Democrats in Congress who "supported naval expansion as a nonpartisan issue."[1] During the Forty-ninth, Fiftieth, and Fifty-second Congresses he served as Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, where he was "largely responsible for the increased appropriations which led to the revival of the American Navy."[2]

With this experience in mind Grover Cleveland appointed Herbert as Secretary of the Navy during his second term as President. As Secretary, Herbert "was able to muster support for an enlarged navy, despite the Depression of 1893".[3]

After the election of William McKinley in 1896, Herbert remained in Washington, D.C., where he practiced law until his death in Tampa, Florida on March 6, 1919. The Navy named the new Destroyer No. 160 in his honor.

See Also


  • Davis, Hugh C. (July 1967). "Hilary A. Herbert: Bourbon Apologist". Alabama Review 20: pp. 216-225.
  • Hagan, Kenneth J. (1992). This People's Navy: The Making of American Sea Power. Paperback ed. New York: The Free Press.
  • Hammett, Hugh B. (1976). Hilary Abner Herbert: A Southerner Returns to the Union. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (June 1893). "The Lesson of Naval Review". North American Review 156: pp. 641-647.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (November 1894). "The Fight Off the Yalu River". North American Review 159: pp. 513-528.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (June 1895). "Military Lessons of the Chino-Japanese War". North American Review 160: pp. 685-698.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (October 1896). "Why American Industry Languishes". North American Review 163: pp. 488-495.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (May 1897). "Our Navy and Our Naval Policy". Munsey's Magazine 17: pp. 182-186.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (September 1897). "A Plea For the Navy". Forum 24: 1-15.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (May 1898). "The Fifty Million Appropriation and its Lessons". Forum 25: pp. 267-275.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (1912). The Abolition Crusade and its Consequences: Four Periods of American History. New York: Scribner's Sons.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (March 1913). "Grover Cleveland and His Cabinet at Work." Century Magazine 85: 740-44.
  • Herbert, Hilary Abner (1916). "The Gravest Crisis in Human History." Manufacturers Record 69: pp. 43-44.


Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Benjamin F. Tracy
Secretary of the Navy
7 Mar, 1893 – 4 Mar, 1897
Succeeded by
John D. Long


  1. Hagan. This People's Navy. p. 196.
  2. DANFS - Herbert
  3. DANFS - Herbert