U.S. Navy Admiral Albert Gleaves was born in Nashville on January 1, 1858, the only son of Henry Albert and Eliza Tannehill Gleaves. Entering the Naval Academy in 1873, Gleaves graduated four years later, and for the first eight years of duty he served in the last of the navy's sailing ships. In 1897–twenty years into his career–he received his first command, the torpedo boat Cushing. During the Spanish-American War Gleaves remained in command of the Cushing but saw little action.
When Theodore Roosevelt was assistant secretary of the navy in the late 1890s, he became good friends with Gleaves. Once Roosevelt became president, Gleaves was placed in command of the Dolphin and the Mayflower between 1901-4. Roosevelt used both boats as presidential yachts. From 1904 to 1908 Gleaves distinguished himself as commander of the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island, where he began the navy's program of developing more accurate, effective torpedoes.
Gleaves was more than a naval careerist. An avid reader, author, and experienced hydrographer, he also made contributions to naval science and literature. In 1902 during a survey cruise of the Dolphin, he discovered the deepest recorded spot in the Atlantic Ocean, a location 27,984 feet in depth about ninety miles northwest of Puerto Rico. He wrote still useful biographies of James Lawrence (1904), William H. Emory (1923) and Stephen B. Luce (1925) as well as the standard naval history, A History of the Transport Service (1921).
The highpoints of Gleaves's career came in the 1910s. He commanded the cruiser St. Louis and the dreadnought North Dakota between 1908 and 1911. The next three years, 1912-14, he was commandant of the New York Naval Yard. With the beginning of World War I in 1914 and the gradual military buildup during the next three years, Gleaves was commissioned rear admiral in 1915 and given command of the Destroyer Force of the Atlantic Fleet. He devised a successful system for refueling ships at sea, and when the United States entered the war in 1917, Gleaves was given a chance to demonstrate his logistical talents as the officer responsible for organizing Atlantic convoys. He commanded the convoy that guarded the crossing of the American Expeditionary Force in June 1917. The creation of the Cruiser and Transport Force, and the fact that the navy lost nary a man at sea during the convoy operations, earned Gleaves the reputation of the one of the country's best naval leaders. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by both the army and the navy.
In 1919 Gleaves attained the rank of admiral and was placed in the Far East as the commander-in-chief, Asiatic Station. He retired in 1922 after forty-five years of service to his nation. Gleaves continued to advocate a strong, flexible navy, not only in public appearances and lectures but also in a series of publications in national magazines and journals. He died in 1937 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In his honor, the navy commissioned the destroyer USS Gleaves in 1940. His memoirs were published in 1985.