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Benjamin Tracy
BFTracy.jpg
32nd United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
March 6, 1889 – March 4, 1893
President Benjamin Harrison
Preceded by William Whitney
Succeeded by Hilary A. Herbert
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York
In office
1866–1877
President Andrew Johnson
Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by Benjamin D. Silliman
Succeeded by Asa W. Tenney
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the Tioga County district
In office
January 1, 1862 – December 31, 1862
Preceded by Cero Barber
Succeeded by Nathaniel Davis
Personal details
Born
Benjamin Franklin Tracy

(1830-04-26)April 26, 1830
Apalachin, New York, U.S.
Died August 6, 1915(1915-08-06) (aged 85)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Signature
Military service
Allegiance  United States
 • Union
Branch/service  United States Army
 • Union Army
Years of service 1862–1865
Rank Union Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brigadier General
Commands 109th New York Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars American Civil War
 • Battle of the Wilderness
Awards Medal of Honor
BFTracy2
Benjamin F. Tracy in his office (c. 1890)
Benjamin F. Tracy's body carried from Trinity Church
Benjamin F. Tracy's body carried from Trinity Church

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.

Biography

He was born in the hamlet of Apalachin located in the Town of Owego, New York on April 26, 1830.

Tracy was a lawyer active in Republican Party politics during the 1850s. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Tioga Co.) in 1862.

He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and commanded the 109th New York Infantry Regiment. At the Battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864, he was able to rally his men and hold the Union line. For his actions he subsequently was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads: Tracy "seized the colors and led the regiment when other regiments had retired and then reformed his line and held it." Later that year, he became commandant of the Elmira prisoner of war camp, before being appointed Colonel of the 127th Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops, on August 23, 1864. Tracy was discharged from the volunteer service on June 13, 1865. On January 18, 1867, President Andrew Johnson nominated Tracy for appointment to the brevet grade of brigadier general of volunteers, to rank from March 13, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on February 21, 1867.

He resumed the practice of law after the war, and became active in New York state politics. He was United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York from 1866 to 1877. 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 Chief 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 Judge.

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, 1660–1783—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 Naval Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1891 (also known as the Battleship Act of 1890), a measure which authorized the construction of three battleships. The first three were later named USS Indiana (BB-1), USS Massachusetts (BB-2), and USS Oregon (BB-3). The battleship USS Iowa (BB-4) was authorized two years later.

Tracy's wife and child died in a fire at their residence in Washington, DC in 1890.

In the 1896 presidential election, Tracy was a presidential elector for William McKinley and Garret Hobart.

After leaving the Navy Department, Tracy again took up his legal practice. In 1896 he defended New York City Police commissioner Andrew Parker from accusations of negligence and incompetence by fellow commissioner Theodore Roosevelt in a performance that significantly embarrassed Roosevelt. He also helped end the Venezuela Crisis of 1895 by assisting Venezuela in negotiating a settlement to their boundary dispute with Great Britain.

Tracy was the Republican candidate to be the first Mayor of Greater New York City when the five boroughs consolidated in 1898. He came in third behind Democrat Robert A. Van Wyck and Seth Low of the Citizens' Union, winning 101,863 of the 523,560 votes cast in the election of 1897. Tracy was the president of the New York State Agricultural Society in 1897 and 1898, during which time he invited Van Wyck to attend the society's annual fair.

On April 3, 1900, seven men from the International Banking and Trust Company were elected as directors of the North American Trust Company. They included president Oakleigh Thorne of the International, as well as Tracy.

Family and death

Tracy died at his farm in Tioga County, New York on August 6, 1915 at 3:30 am at the home of his daughter.

Namesake

USS Tracy (DD-214) was named for him, as was the town of Tracyton, Washington.

Tracy Arm is a fjord in the U.S. state of Alaska that bears his name.

The Tracy Glacier, having its terminus near the head of the Inglefield Fjord in NW Greenland, was named after him by Robert Peary.

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