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Collection of Stephen B. Luce and Alfred T. Mahan letters

 Collection — Box: Temporary Box 1, Folder: 1
Identifier: MSC-379

Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised of 5 letters from Stephen B. Luce. These letters were written while Luce was a Lieutenant assigned as an instructor to the Naval Academy during the Civil War, then located in Newport. In the letters, Luce writes to then Captain A.A. Harwood addressing the training of Midshipmen, the need for training ships, as well as Civil War engagements.

The collection also includes a letter from Alfred T. Mahan, 1894, while he was located in Southampton, England aboard the USS Chicago, Mahan’s last sea-going command. In the letter, he sends his regrets that he is unable to attend the opening of a new post-graduate school of political science.


  • Creation: 1862-1863, 1894


Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to all researchers, unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in the public domain, unless otherwise noted.

Biographical Note

Stephen B. Luce

Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce (1827-1917) was the founder and first president of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI. Luce entered the Navy in 1841 as a midshipman and attended the U.S. Naval Academy when it first opened in 1845. After his graduation in 1849, Luce spent a decade on sea duty before returning to the Naval Academy in 1860 as an instructor in seamanship and gunnery. While in this position, he began advocating for postgraduate training for naval officers. This was accomplished with the establishment of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. in 1884. Luce was named its first president and remained in this post until his retirement from the Navy in 1889. Following his retirement, Luce continued as a faculty member at the NWC until 1910 and helped establish the US. Naval Institute and its publication, Proceedings. Luce died in 1917 and is buried in Portsmouth, RI.

Alfred T. Mahan

Alfred Thayer Mahan was born at West Point, New York, the son of Professor Denis Hart Mahan, who taught at the United States Military Academy. The atmosphere of his family home undoubtedly played a role in his future work, and helped to mold his later interests. Although his father hoped that Alfred would pursue a civilian career, the boy joined the Navy after only a year at Columbia University.

As a line officer in the U.S. Navy, Mahan had a rather uneventful career, but saw active service in the Civil War and went on to command three ships. In 1885, Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce selected him as an instructor in naval history and tactics at the Naval War College. Having served nearly 25 years in the Navy at this point, Mahan found a new direction and new purpose in his life at the age of 45. Building on the vision that Luce had laid out for him, Mahan went on to a remarkable career as a naval historian and propagandist, writing more than 20 books, 160 journal articles and 100 newspaper articles. His work was translated into a variety of languages, including Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish and Dutch. Throughout the world his work had immense influence in the development of navies and in laying the ground work for the development of naval theory and strategy. His works continue to be read and republished today. His first sea power book, The Influence of Sea Power on History, 1660-1783, has appeared in at least 50 editions and has been translated into 6 languages.


0.02 Linear Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection includes five letters from Stephen B. Luce, founder of the U.S. Naval War College, and one letter from Alfred T. Mahan, esteemed naval officer and historian.


This colleciton is arranged in chronological order.

Custodial History

These letters were held in a private collection belonging to Vice Admiral George W. Emery, USN (ret.) prior to being purchased by Dr. John B. Hattendorf in 2021. Dr. Hattendorf donated these letters to the Naval War College Foundation in September 2021.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Naval War College Foundation, 2022 Aug.

Related Materials

Please search the U.S. Naval War College Archives online catalog for additional collections and materials relating to Stephen B. Luce and Alfred T. Mahan.

Separated Materials

The following volume was separated from the collection to be included with the NWC Archives Rare Books:

Douglas, Howard. On Naval Warfare with Steam by Howard Douglas, John Murray, London, 1858.

This book is signed and dated by Admiral Luce and includes his pencil markings throughout.

Processing Information

This collection was processed according to current archival standards by Elizabeth Delmage in 2022.

Collection of Stephen B. Luce and Alfred T. Mahan letters, 1862-1863, 1894
Dacs Finding Aid
Elizabeth Delmage
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Naval War College Archives Repository

US Naval War College
686 Cushing Rd
Newport RI 02841 US