Stance joined the Army in October 1866, and was promoted to Sergeant just a few months later. At the time of his actions, Stance was serving in Company F of the 9th Cavalry Regiment at Fort McKavett. On May 20, 1870, he was sent with a patrol to find the Apaches who had kidnapped Herman Lehmann and his younger brother, Willie, four days earlier. Stance and his men located the raiding party near Kickapoo Springs, about fourteen miles north of Fort McKavett, and opened fire. The Apaches abandoned their stolen horses and fled, enabling Willie Lehmann to escape during the chaos. For his bravery on this mission, Stance was cited for "[g]allantry on scout after Indians" and became the first African-American regular to receive the Medal of Honor a month later, on June 28, 1870.
Stance reached the rank of First Sergeant before being murdered on Christmas Eve, 1887. His body was found on the road to Crawford, Nebraska with several bullet wounds; the probable victim of his own men. He was buried at Fort McPherson National Cemetery, Maxwell, Nebraska.