My Georgia History

Major Archibald Butt

Archibald Butt was single, he was never married.  He lived in Augusta at the turn of the 20th century.  Archibald Butt is buried …, well I’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Our story starts back in 1908.  Landon Thomas, who was  manager of the J.  P.  King Mill, a nephew of Emily Tubman, invited the President-elect, William Howard Taft, to come and visit Augusta.   He came and with him his running mate, John Sherman.    They came after the election on November 19, 1908 and stayed at the Terrett Cottage, on Milledge Road.  Taft thoroughly enjoyed himself.  They stayed in Augusta the whole winter.  He returned to Washington in March of 1909 for the Inauguration.  Taft visited Augusta several times, staying in the Bon Air Hotel. By the way,  President Taft appointed the first Georgian to the Supreme Court, Joseph R. Lamar.  It was President Roosevelt who brought Archibald Butt to Washington as his Aid.  Archie, as he was called, did a good job.  When Taft became president, Archibald Butt stayed on his job as Aid   A close friendship developed between President Taft and Major Butt.  President Taft noticed that Major Archibald Butt was really doing a good job for him.  Why, the press said, he “was so close to the President, he was considered a younger brother.”   President Taft knew how hard he had been working.  One day President Taft came to Archie and said he thought Archie should have a vacation and enjoy himself.   So Archibald Butt decided to go over to Europe.  The trip over was very relaxing.  Archibald Butt had a wonderful time in Europe.  It just went by too quickly.  He was scheduled to leave from England, April 10, 1912, heading home.

In England, April 10, 1912, Archie Butt boarded a brand-new ship on its maiden voyage.  It was the largest ship in the world.  It was almost four city blocks long and was as tall as an eleven story building.  With modern technology the ship was built so it couldn’t sink.  Everyone was talking about it.  It was on its maiden voyage from England to America.  The name of the ship was the Titanic.  Four days later, on April 14, 1912, the Titanic was in the icy waters off the coast of Canada.  The lookout yelled , “iceberg ahead,” it was too late, the ship couldn’t swerve fast enough.  It hit the iceberg, not hard, but a glancing blow.  The Captain of the ship went below to inspect the damage.  He came up sometime later, and issued the order to abandon ship.  Passengers came on deck laughing.  We can’t be sinking, they said, we are on the Titanic.  But the awful truth started dawning on people.   Archibald Butt came on deck and learned the ship was sinking.  There were 2227 people on board ship and they only had enough lifeboats to save 1100 people.  Pandemonium swept the ship. Men were to let women and children get into the lifeboats first.  A frightened man jumped into a lifeboat.  Archie Butt reached in and pulled him out saying, “women will be attended to first, or I’ll break every bone in your body.”  Archie put Marie Young into a lifeboat. He said, “Will you kindly remember me to all the folks back home?”  Her lifeboat was lowered and they were set adrift.  Looking back, you could see Major Butt standing on the bridge, arm in arm with millionaire businessman, John Jacob Astor.  So, the answer to the question, where is Archie Butt buried? It’s in the Atlantic Ocean, with the ship the Titanic.

On April 15, 1914, President Taft came to Augusta.  He dedicated the bridge, on 15th Street, over the canal, to Major Butt, his friend.  The bridge has four lions on it representing the courage of Augustan, Major Archibald Butt.

Written by Mark Woodard

Research resources:

  • The Story of Augusta. Cashin, Edward J. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Company Publishing. (1996)
  • Augusta, A Pictorial History. Callahan, Helen. Richmond County Historical Society Publisher. (1980)
  • The Brightest Arm of the Savannah, The Augusta Canal. Cashin, Edward J. (2002)
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1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed reading your thumbnail discussion of Archie Butt, although your detail about him helping Marie Young into a lifeboat is mistaken. (Miss Young denied the truth of that newspaper story in a letter to President Taft.) Last year I privately published a three-volume, 2,400-page biography titled ” ‘Archie’: The Life of Major Archibald Butt from Georgia to the Titanic” that is available on at Lulu.com. Archie was quite a guy, and I enjoyed researching his life as well as his death on the Titanic.

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