Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Truth About...

One interesting footnote about the Battle of Chickamauga is the story of the Archibald Gracies, both father and son. General Gracie is an interesting story alone, New Yorker who sides with the Confederacy, in many ways the Anti-Thomas of the battle. Less known is his son, Archibald Gracie IV. Gracie IV was born in Mobile, Ala in 1858 and was only five when his father was killed outside of Richmond in 1864. He would then mirror his fathers life in many ways, attending West Point, being involved in the State militia, rising to the rank of Colonel in the famed 7th New York Militia, and being a sucessful business man.

In the 1890s Gracie would visit the Chickamauga battlefield and see the area of Snodgrass Hill where his father's brigade fought and leave with many questions, questions that he began to research and ultimately lead to him spending seven years writing a book that would be published as The Truth About Chickamauga, more of a study of Snodgrass Hill with some hefty errors in it. Gracie rightfully challenged the placement of certain monuments on Snodgrass Hill, he accomplished this by his own research and heavy correspondents with many of the Union commanders. Gracie intended for the Truth to be a two part study and was working on a Confederate companion when he decided he needed a break.

Seven years of work on Chickamauga had seen the publication of Truth in December of 1911, and Gracie deciding that he need a break before starting on Part II. This leads Gracie to travel to Europe alone, leaving New York in early 1912 aboard the famed liner, The Oceanic. Gracie then booked his return trip to be the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. Gracie, staying in First Class spent a great deal of his time with Isodor Strauss, the famed co-owner of Macy's Department Store. Strauss had been involved in Confederate blockade running during the war when he lived in Georgia. Gracie gave Strauss a copy of his book and the two discussed it. On April 14th Strauss finished the book. That night the Titanic would strike an ice berg and sink in the early AM hours of April 15th. Copies of the Truth About Chickamauga going down with the ship. Gracie would be one of the survivors of the sinking, his friend Isodor Strauss would not.

Upon returning to New York, Graice would forgoe working on his second part to Chickamauga, instead penning The Truth About the Titanic. Gracie would not live to see it published though, he would die from complications from diabeties in December of 1912. He would be laid to rest near his father in Brooklyn's Woodlawn Cemetery. Today it is interesting that his Truth About Chickamauga is considered to be one of the most flawed books on the battle, yet his Truth About the Titanic is considered to be one of the best primary accounts of the Tragedy.


Bob Pollock said...

Hi Lee,

Great post. Between a seasonal gig at Lincoln Home in 2006 and a STEP position at Wilson's Creek in 2007, I worked for a few months at the Titanic Museum in Branson. I often would talk about Gracie and his CW connection. Gracie was in the frigid water when the ship went down and he climbed onto an overturned lifeboat. Wet and cold, he clung to life until morning when one of the other lifeboats came back to rescue him. Though he did have diabetes, he never really recovered from the hypothermia and other injuries he sustained that night.

Scott said...

I never knew about the Titanic connection. Thanks for sharing the info on Gracie.