Stephen Bleecker Luce
|Born||March 25, 1827|
Albany, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 28, 1917 (aged 90)|
Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.
|Place of burial|
St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, U.S.
|Service/||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1841–1889|
|Commands held||USS Nantucket|
Training Squadron Newport
North Atlantic Squadron
Naval War College
American Civil War
Born in Albany, New York to Dr. Vinal Luce and Charlotte Bleecker, Stephen B. Luce was one of the Navy's outstanding officers in many fields, including strategy, seamanship, education, and professional development. He is best known for being the founder of the Naval War College. In 1854 Luce married Elizabeth Henley, who was a grand niece of Martha Washington, wife of President George Washington. Their children included daughter Caroline (1857-1933), who became the wife of Montgomery M. Macomb, a Brigadier General in the United States Army.
Luce entered the Navy, at the age of 14, on October 19, 1841 as a midshipman. He was instructed at the Naval School in Philadelphia until the newly instituted United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland was opened in 1845. He graduated from the Academy in 1848 and was warranted as a passed midshipman to date from August 10, 1847. He was promoted to lieutenant on September 15, 1855.
Luce served with the Atlantic coast blockaders during the American Civil War, and commanded the monitor Nantucket at the siege of Charleston, South Carolina. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1862. He was assigned to the US Naval Academy in Newport, RI from January 1862 to October 1863. In 1862, while serving as head of the Department of Seamanship at the U.S. Naval Academy, he prepared one of the first seamanship textbooks used by the Academy. During the war he also commanded the USS Sonoma, USS Canadaigua and USS Pontiac.
He was promoted to commander in 1866.
After the Civil War, Luce organized the Navy's apprentice training program to prepare seamen and petty officers for fleet duty. He was promoted to captain in December 1872 and served at the Boston Navy Yard until 1875. He commanded the USS Hartford from November 1875 to August 1877. From August to December 1877 Captain Luce was inspector of training ships. From January 1878 to February 1881 he commanded the training ship USS Minnesota.
While in command of the Training Squadron, Luce developed and implemented the apprentice training program—the first formal program for training enlisted sailors for service in the Navy. Luce's plan was to have bright and healthy young men (in the age range of 14 to 17 years old) serve a three-year apprenticeship with the Training Squadron during which they received an academic education as well as hands on training to learn various seamanship skills.
The "boys", as the apprentices were officially referred to, were typically enlisted by their parents until they would reach the age of 21 whereupon they could decide if they wished to extend their service in the Navy. Previously, the Navy had taken recruits with no prior experience and all training of enlisted sailors was "on the job". The problem with this approach was that many recruits lacked the discipline and skills necessary to be useful to the Navy. Luce's vision from the apprentice program was to develop sailors who were fully trained and accustomed to navy life prior to joining the fleet. The program ended when the United States entered the First World War in 1917 as the Navy needed to train sailors rapidly for service during the war.
From July to September 1884 Luce commanded the North Atlantic Squadron with the USS Tennessee as his flagship.
Based on Luce's urgings and exhaustive reports, the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, was established 6 October 1884 with Luce as its first president. In 1885 he was promoted to rear admiral, and in 1886 he was succeeded as president by Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose writings had greatly influenced the Navy's decision to establish the War College.
Luce was also instrumental in starting the U.S. Naval Institute and its publication, Proceedings. He served as the Institute's president from 1887 to 1898.
From June 1886 to February 1889 Luce commanded the North Atlantic Squadron with the USS Richmond as his flagship. This was his last assignment at sea before retiring, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 62, on 25 March 1889.
Despite being retired, Luce continued his interest in the improving the efficiency of the Navy. He returned to the War College in 1901 and served for nearly a decade as a faculty member. He finally retired in November 1910 at the age of 83.
Luce belonged to several military societies. In 1894 Luce joined the Aztec Club of 1847, a military society of officers who had served during the Mexican War, and served as its president from 1910 to 1911.
He joined the Military Order of Foreign Wars (MOFW) and became the founding commander of the Rhode Island Commandery of the MOFW in 1900. He was also a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (insignia number 13,113) and the Naval Order of the United States.
Luce was an active member of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He was a vestryman of All Saints Memorial Chapel in Newport, Rhode Island and was also a parishioner of St. John's Episcopal Church in Newport where he served as a vestryman and as a warden.
Death and burial
In 1863 David Van Nostrand published Stephen Luce's textbook Seamanship (available through Google Books). The work was intended for use at the United States Naval Academy. A later edition appeared in 1905.
Luce also edited The Patriotic and Naval Songster (1883).
Dates of rank
Reference – U.S. Navy Register, 1899. p. 70.
- Midshipman – 19 October 1841
- Passed Midshipman – 10 August 1847 [a]
- Lieutenant – 16 September 1855 [b]
- Lieutenant Commander – 16 July 1862
- Commander – 25 July 1866
- Captain – 28 December 1872
- Commodore – 25 November 1881
- Rear Admiral – 5 October 1885
- Retired list – 25 March 1889
- Retired on active duty – 13 February 1901
- Final retirement – November 1910
Three ships have been named USS Luce in his honor.
The auditorium at the erstwhile Naval Training Center, constructed in 1941 in San Diego, California, was named Luce Auditorium. The library at the State University of New York Maritime College is the Stephen B. Luce Library.
There is a memorial window at St. John's Episcopal Church in Newport in Luce's honor.
There is a plaque in honor of Admiral Luce at the corner of Kay Street and Rhode Island Avenue in Newport.
George H. Cooper
| Commander-in-Chief, North Atlantic Squadron
26 June 1884 – 20 September 1884
James E. Jouett
| President of the Naval War College
Alfred Thayer Mahan
James E. Jouett
| Commander-in-Chief, North Atlantic Squadron
18 June 1886 – 28 January 1889
- Some sources state 10 August 1848.
- Some sources state 15 September 1855.
- White, James Terry (1967). The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. 20. New York: J. T. White. p. 212.
- "Luce". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- New York Times. August 25, 1901.
- "USS Luce (DL-7/DLG-7/DDG-38)". navsource.org. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- Stephen Bleecker Luce at Find a Grave
- Note – Much of the above information can be found in Luce's obituary in The New York Times on July 29, 1917. Another excellent source is Dictionary of Admirals of the U.S. Navy. Vol. 1, 1862-1900. pp. 100–101.
- New International Encyclopedia
- "Luce Auditorium/Future Civic Arts & Culture Center". sandiego.gov. Archived from the original on 6 November 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- "Stephen B. Luce Library". sunymaritime.edu. Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- John A. S. Grenville and George Berkeley Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy: Studies in Foreign Policy, 1873–1917 (1966) pp 1–38, on "The Admiral and politics: Stephan B. Luce and the foundation of the modern American Navy".
- Media related to Stephen Luce at Wikimedia Commons