Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Luce, Stephen B.

Luce, Stephen B.

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Rear Admiral, USN, (1827-1917)

Stephen Bleecker Luce was born on 25 March 1827 in Albany, New York. He entered the Navy in October 1841 as a Midshipman and, during the next seven years, served in the frigate Congress and ships of the line North Carolina and Columbus. Following graduation as a member of the U.S. Naval Academy's Class of 1847 and promotion to Passed Midshipman in 1848, he served at the Academy until mid-1849. Luce spent the first half of the 1850s serving in the sloop-of-war Vandalia in the Pacific, on astromomical duty in Washington, D.C., and as an officer of the steamer Vixen. Attaining the rank of Lieutenant in 1855, he was employed on coast survey work and served in the sloop-of-war Jamestown during the rest of the decade.


Lieutenant Luce began another Naval Academy tour in May 1860. A year later, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, he returned to sea as an officer of the steam frigate Wabash. He was back at the Naval Academy in 1862-1863, receiving promotion to Lieutenant Commander during this time. From mid-1863 to the end of the Civil War two years later, he commanded several warships, including the sailing corvette Macedonian, steam sloop Canandaigua, monitor Nantucket and "double-ender" gunboats Sonoma and Pontiac. Lieutenant Commander (Commander after mid-1866) Luce was the Naval Academy's Commandant of Midshipmen from October 1865 to June 1868. He then returned to sea as commanding officer of the gunboat Mohongo, in the Pacific, and steam sloop Juniata in the Mediterranean Sea.


Promoted to Captain in December 1872, Luce served at the Boston Navy Yard until the autumn of 1875, then commanded the steam sloop Hartford until August 1877. His later career was heavily involved with educational affairs, initially as Inspector of Training Ships, then in command of the training ship Minnesota and the Training Squadron. He strongly advocated higher education for the Navy's officers and, as a Commodore and Rear Admiral, was the first President of the newly-established Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island during 1884-1886. He also commanded the North Atlantic Squadron in 1884 and in 1886-1889. Though retired in March 1889, Rear Admiral Luce remained active in Naval affairs as President of the U.S. Naval Institute until 1898 and, during the first decade of the 1900s, as President of the Naval Academy's Board of Visitors and on special duty at the War College. Stephen B. Luce died at Newport, R.I., on 28 July 1917.


The Navy has named three ships in honor of Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce, including: USS Luce (Destroyer # 99, later DM 4), 1918-1936; USS Luce (DD 522), 1943-1945; and USS Luce (DLG-7, later DDG-38), 1961-1995.


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