In case any of you aren’t already aware, we’re coming up on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (April 15, 2012). I say “in case any of you aren’t already aware” because it feels like I’m seeing Titanic-related stories in the various media I consume on a nearly daily basis.
So I almost didn’t even read this Titanic-related story that was sent to me this morning. I’m glad I did, because it’s a beautifully tragic tale of forbidden love between an artist and a military man who went down with the ship that night. I’ve included an excerpt below — head over to The Daily to read the rest, courtesy of author Richard Davenport-Hines.
When the Titanic sank, Maj. Archibald Butt, a military adviser to President William Howard Taft and former aide-de-camp to his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, was among the heroes of the hour. Amid the disaster on the night of April 14-15, 1912, Butt fulfilled all the archetypes of manly courage, escorting women from their cabins to lifeboats, standing back to let them live and facing death with selflessness. One of the women he helped to save — he had known her when she gave music lessons to the Roosevelt children in the White House — later testified that after he helped her into the lifeboat, he tucked a blanket around her with careful nonchalance, as if she was going for a breezy ride in an open car.
Taft wept when it was confirmed that Butt was lost in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Much of Washington grieved. In the press rooms of the White House and the War, State and Navy buildings, as one reporter wrote at the time, “the name of Maj. Archie Butt, once synonymous of laughter and jest, now symbolic of heroism, was repeated while eyes blurred and voices became queerly strained.” Ever since 1912, writers have depicted Butt as an archetypal Southerner and military officer. They have not noticed, or have shrunk from mentioning, that his was also love story, a story involving another man, Frank Millet.