Benjamin Franklin Tracy
(April 26, 1830 – August 6, 1915) was a United States political figure who
served as Secretary of the
Navy from 1889 through 1893, during the administration of
U.S. President Benjamin Harrison
of the Apalachin hamlet near Owego, New
York, Tracy was a lawyer active in Republican Party politics
during the 1850s.
During the Civil War
, he commanded the 109th New
York Infantry Regiment, and served as a Union brigadier general
. He was
awarded a Medal of Honor
actions during the Battle of
on May 6, 1864. According to the official
citation, Tracy "seized the colors and led the regiment when other
regiments had retired and then reformed his line and held it." He
resumed the practice of law after the war, and became active in New
York state politics, also serving as U.S. Attorney. In December
1881, he was appointed by Governor Alonzo B. Cornell
to the New York
Court of Appeals to fill the vacancy caused by the appointment of
Judge Charles Andrews as
Judge after the resignation of Charles J. Folger
. Tracy remained on the bench until
the end of 1882 when Andrews resumed his seat after being defeated
by William C. Ruger
in the election for Chief
Tracy was noted for his role in the creation of the "New Navy", a
major reform of the service
which had fallen into obsolescence after the Civil War
. Like President Harrison, he
supported a naval strategy focused more on offense, rather than on
coastal defense and commerce raiding. A major ally in this
effort was naval theorist Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, who had served as a
professor at the new Naval War College (founded 1884).
In 1890, Mahan published his
major work, The Influence of Sea Power upon History,
—a book that achieved an international readership.
Drawing on historical examples, Mahan supported the construction of
a "blue-water Navy" that could do battle on the high seas.
Tracy also supported the construction of modern warships. On June
30, 1890, Congress passed the Navy Bill
measure which authorized the construction of three battleships
. The first three were later named USS Indiana , Massachusetts , and Oregon .
was authorized two
After leaving the Navy Department, Tracy again took up his legal
practice. In 1896, he defended New York City Police Commissioner
Andrew Parker against Commission President Theodore Roosevelt's
accusations of negligence and incompetence, in a performance that
significantly embarrassed Roosevelt. (ref. Edmund Morris, The
Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, p. 555) He also helped negotiate a
settlement to the boundary dispute between Venezuela and Great
In 1897, Tracy was the regular Republican candidate to be the first
Mayor of Greater
New York City
when her five
consolidated in 1898. He came third behind Robert A. Van Wyck
(Democratic) and Seth Low
of the Citizens'
(but well ahead of Henry
's posthumous independent candidacy), winning 101,863 of
the 523,560 votes cast in the election of
at his farm in Tioga County, New York in 1915.
was named for
- Cooling, Benjamin F. Benjamin Franklin Tracy, Father of the
American Fighting Navy. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books,
- The Spanish-American War: Historical Overview and Select
Bibliography. Michael J. Crawford, Mark L. Hayes and Michael D.
Sessions. November 30, 1998. Naval Historical Center. September
- The Navy: The Oceanic Period, 1890-1945.
Michael A. Palmer. Naval Historical Center. September 22, 2004.
Copyright notice from Naval Historical Center website: "Used by
permission of Charles Scribner's Sons, an imprint of Simon &
Schuster Macmillan from Encyclopedia of the American Military, John
E. Jessup, Editor in Chief. Vol. I, pp. 365-380. Copyright c 1994,
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. [The
views expressed in this history are those of the author and do not
reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the
Navy or the U.S. government.]"
- Photograph of Tracy as Secretary of the Navy,
c. 1890 From the Library of Congress
- Secretary of the Navy: Benjamin F. Tracy (1889-1893) Brief biography from
- Project Gutenberg link to Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power
Upon History, 1660-1783
- The Political Graveyard
- Army citation