Silas Bent III (1820-1887) was a naval officer in the U.S. Navy prior to the American Civil War. Silas Bent sailed both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and was recognized by the Navy for his contributions to oceanography which were published by the Navy. At the outset of the American Civil War, Silas Bent resigned his commission, as his sympathy was for the Southern cause.
Silas Bent III was born on 10 October 1820 in St. Louis, Missouri, a son of a judge of the Missouri Supreme Court, also called Silas, with deep family roots in Massachusetts Bay Colony. He married Ann Elizabeth Tyler of Louisville, Kentucky on 5 November 1857 and they had three children Mary Lawrence Bent, Lucy (Bent) McKinley, and Silas Bent IV, who was a journalist.
Bent was appointed midshipman at age 16 and served in the U.S. Navy for the next 25 years, during which he became well versed in the science of oceanography. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean five times, the Pacific Ocean twice, rounded Cape Horn four times and the Cape of Good Hope once.
He was serving in Preble in 1849 when that brig sailed into Nagasaki, Japan, to secure the release of 18 shipwrecked American sailors imprisoned by the Japanese. He was flag lieutenant in Mississippi, Commodore Matthew C. Perry's flagship during the expedition to Japan between 1852 and 1854.
He made hydrographic surveys of Japanese waters. The results of his survey were published by the government in 1857 in Sailing Directions and Nautical Remarks: by Officers of the Late U.S. Naval Expedition to Japan.
In 1860, Lt. Bent was detailed to the Hydrographic Division of the Coast Survey, but resigned from the Navy on 25 April 1861 at the outbreak of the American Civil War, apparently because of Southern sympathies.
He returned to St. Louis upon resigning from the Navy and took up the management of his wife's estate. Lt. Bent died on 26 August 1887 at Shelter Island, Long Island, New York, and was buried in Louisville, Kentucky.
The USNS Silas Bent (T-AGS-26), an oceanographic survey ship, was named in his honor in March 1964.