Thursday, June 13, 2013

Benjamin Franklin Tracy and Alaska

My recent posting on the Confederate cruiser Shenandoah was actually written in anticipation of an Alaskan cruise. Last week, I traveled aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam for a seven-day cruise; ports of call were Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria (British Columbia). This was my first time to go on a cruise as well as my first visit to Alaska. It was a grand week with one of the highlights being a cruise along Tracy Arm
Fjord. The accompanying photographs are typical views along Tracy Arm showing its towering mountains, numerous waterfalls, and floating chunks of blue glacier ice. The ship cruised along Tracy Arm until we got a good view of the Sawyer glaciers at the end of it—spectacular! At times, our location guide provided commentary about the sights along Tracy Arm, and I was surprised to hear that Tracy Arm was named for a Civil War officer. Of course, I had to investigate.

Tracy Arm was named for Benjamin Franklin Tracy, a New Yorker and a friend of William H. Seward’s. As far as I know Tracy never visited Alaska, but apparently his close connection to Seward was enough for someone to name Tracy Arm Fjord in his honor. Tracy commanded the 109th New York Infantry for part of the war and then became commander of the Elmira prisoner of war camp. He earned the Medal of Honor in 1895 for heroic actions at the battle of the Wilderness. His life was dedicated to public service, but he was best known for his tenure as Secretary of the Navy and his efforts to create a modern navy. The New York State UnifiedCourt System website has an excellent fuller biography of Tracy that details many of his contributions. 

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