Thursday, April 14, 2011

Archibald Gracie, Isidor Straus and the American Civil War

This past April 12 marked the 150th Anniversary of the start of the terrible American Civil War. It was in 1861 when Fort Sumter was bombarded by Confederate forces in South Carolina, and President Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865: 146 years ago today. And if that were not enough, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg 99 years ago tonight.

Definitely a month of tragedy. But they are connected too in some small way. How?

Colonel Archibald Gracie survived the sinking of the Titanic and published an account of the disaster later on. He notes how he became quite close with Mr. Isidor Straus during the crossing. He "related much of special interest concerning incidents in his remarkable career, beginning with his early manhood in Georgia when, with the Confederate Government Commissioners, as an agent for purchase of supplies, he ran the blockade of Europe." Colonel Gracie - being an amateur historian - then mentions how he loaned his most recent book, called The Battle of Chickamauga, to Mr. Straus. He
was extremely interested with this work and told the colonel so quite excitedly, expressing "an intense interest" in it.

Gracie writes this under the section of his account that took place on the morning of April 14, 1912. By 2:20 on the cold morning of April 15, he would be clinging to life on the upturned Collapsible Lifeboat "B." Mr. and Mrs. Straus would go down together - refusing to be separated after 41 years of marriage.

References: Archibald Gracie, The Truth About the "Titanic," in The Story of the Titanic as Told By Its Survivors, ed. Jack Winocour (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1960), 121.

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