September 5, 1832|
New York City
|Died||October 23, 1909
New York City
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1848–1894, 1898|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War
Erben was born in New York City. He entered the Navy as a midshipman on 17 June 1848, and was promoted to passed midshipman on 12 June 1855, to master on 16 September 1855, and to lieutenant on 27 December 1856.
At the outbreak of the Civil War he was serving aboard the store ship Supply, which arrived at Pensacola, Florida, on 10 January 1861, the day the state declared its secession from the Union, and as the Navy Yard there was captured by state forces. Union forces under Lieutenant Adam J. Slemmer still held Fort Pickens, and the next day Erben and men from Supply broke into Fort McRee, and destroyed some 20,000 pounds of gunpowder and spiked all of the guns. In April Erben reported aboard Powhatan, and was ordered to the Mississippi Flotilla on 5 September 1861. There he commanded the ironclad St. Louis from April to June 1862, and the Sumter from June to July 1862. He was promoted to lieutenant commander on 16 July 1862. He then served with the naval howitzer battery which served with the Army during the Antietam campaign in September 1862.
He commanded the ill-fated monitor Tunxis from her commissioning in July 1864 until September, then the gunboat Pinola in the 2nd Division of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron under Captain George F. Emmons in the Gulf of Mexico. On 2 February 1865 he detained the schooner Ben Willis, sailing under British colors, with a cargo of bales of cotton. Suspecting her to be a blockade runner, Erben sent her in to New Orleans. Soon after, on 18 February 1865, boats from Pinola entered Pass Cavallo, Texas, and cut out the 70-ton schooner Anna Dale, which was armed with a 12-pounder Dahlgren howitzer and plentiful small arms. Attempting to sail her out in the dark the schooner grounded, so the guns were removed, and the schooner burnt. Nine crewmen were taken prisoner, one being her commander Joseph F. Stevenson, who claimed to be a lieutenant of the Confederate Navy, but was suspected by Erben of being a privateer.
Erben was promoted to commander on 6 May 1868, and to captain on 1 November 1879. He served as the Superintendent of the New York Nautical School (now the State University of New York Maritime College) from 1879 to 1882.
Promoted to commodore on 3 April 1892, he served as the Commandant of the New York Navy Yard until May 1893, and was then appointed Commander-in-Chief of the European Station, serving from June 1893 until August 1894, and receiving promotion to rear admiral on 31 July 1894.
Rear Admiral Erben retired on 6 September 1894, but returned to active duty between April and July 1898 when he was placed in command of the Patrol Fleet, which guarded the coast of the United States from Galveston, Texas to Bar Harbor, Maine during the Spanish–American War. Erben was based at New York City, while his command consisted primarily of eight old iron monitors stationed at various ports.
His father, also named Henry Erben (born in New York City in 1801; died there in May 1883), was an organ builder, apprenticed in 1818 to Thomas Hall, an organ builder. His grandfather Peter Erben (born in Philadelphia in 1771; died in New York City in 1863) was an organist. After the death of his father, who was one of the early German settlers in Pennsylvania, Peter moved to New York City, where he became an organ builder, and was also organist in Trinity parish from 1807 until 1839.
- "USS Erben". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- "US Navy Officers: 1775-1900 (E)". Naval Historical Center. 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- "First Captured U.S. 33 Star Flag, Pensacola, Florida". Zaricor Flag collection. 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Downey, Brian (2013). "Lt.Cdr. Henry Erben". Antietam on the Web. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion: West Gulf Blockading Squadron (1865-1866). Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. 1908. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- "Saluting NY Reform School Ship as SUNY Maritime College Ancestor?". New York Correction History Society. 2009. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Svonavec, Stephen (2013). "Flag Assignments 1890-1900". fleetorganization.com. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Hayes, Mark L. (23 March 1998). "War Plans and Preparations and Their Impact on U.S. Naval Operations in the Spanish-American War". Early History Branch, Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Erben, Peter. Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 1900.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Erben, Peter". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.