In 1800, Spence was warranted a midshipman and ordered to duty in the brig Siren, which sailed for the Mediterranean in 1803 in Commodore Edward Preble’s squadron. The following year, Midshipman Spence participated in attacks on Tripoli and, on 7 August 1804, was serving in prize gunboat No. 9 under Lt. James R. Caldwell when hot shot from an enemy battery penetrated its magazine and blew it up (see box).
Commissioned lieutenant in 1807, Spence served under Commodore John Rodgers during the War of 1812 and was promoted master-commandant in 1813. He superintended the building and equipping of the sloop-of-war Ontario at Baltimore and commanded the naval station there. In September 1814, Commodore Rodgers commendeded him for his promptness and ingenuity in laying obstructions to impede the British fleet as it approached Baltimore.
After promotion to post-captain the following year, he continued in command of US Naval forces at Baltimore until 1 July 1819, and commanded them again from May 1820 to May 1822. Later in 1822, Captain Spence took command of Cyane and was ordered to the West Indies on a mission to suppress piracy and defend American rights. He also patrolled off Africa against freebooters and slavers.
In 1826, Captain Spence was appointed to command the West India Fleet, but died near Baltimore on 2 September 1827. He was approximately 42.
Source: Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States, Volume 7, Naval Documents related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Volume 4, pp 351–353, and Naval History & Heritage Command, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.