Wednesday, April 23, 2014 · 3:31 p.m.

Civil War's bloodiest battle, sinking of Titanic connected

Survivor of Titanic's maiden voyage provides link between historic events

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Civil War re-enactors at the Chickamauga Battlefield. (Photo: Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau)

The son of Civil War Brig. Gen. Archibald Gracie III, who fought in the Battle of Chickamauga, was a passenger onboard the RMS Titanic 100 years ago and was one of the tragedy's few survivors.

Col. Archibald Gracie IV was only 5 years old in 1864 when his father was killed while observing Union Army movements at the siege of Petersburg, Va., in December of that year, according to a website devoted to Titanic survivors and their stories and personal histories.

After the publication of his book "The Truth About Chickamauga" in 1912, Gracie, an independently wealthy man, took to the seas for a break.

"Although the two historical events are separated by almost 49 years, the Battle of Chickamauga was discussed aboard Titanic's maiden voyage," park officials said.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is presenting a special program on April 14 to discuss and learn more about this connection between the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and the sinking of the Titanic.

Gracie is said to have taken seven years to research his book and visited the military park in the early 1890s to discuss the events around his father's involvement in the fighting on Snodgrass Hill.

"He had a number of concerns and questions about the battle and didn't agree with the park commission here at the time. They were Civil War veterans themselves, but he challenged their interpretation of the events," park ranger Lee White said. 

According to White, Gracie's viewpoint was not necessarily accurate, and that will be discussed in the program next weekend. A second volume to accompany the first book was planned, but Gracie died before he was able to begin writing.

While on the Titanic, Gracie loaned his new book to a fellow passenger, Isador Strauss, a Civil War veteran, and the two spent time together as Gracie listened to Strauss' many war stories.

On the evening Strauss returned Gracie's book to him, Gracie said he was awakened at 11:45 p.m. by a jolt.  The website gives Gracie's account of his experiences throughout the night, including efforts to save other passengers and himself.

"...  There arose to the sky the most horrible sounds ever heard by mortal man except those of us who survived this terrible tragedy. The agonizing cries of death from over a thousand throats, the wails and groans of the suffering ... none of us will ever forget to our dying day," Gracie is quoted as saying.

Gracie was the third survivor of the Titanic to die. He was born in Mobile, Ala.

The one-hour program begins at the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitors Center parking lot at 2 p.m. A car caravan will proceed to Snodgrass Hill inside the battlefield for a talk by park ranger Anton Heinlein. A temporary exhibit will also be on view, which includes an autographed copy of "The Truth About Chickamauga."

Updated @ 8:58 a.m. on 04/05/12 for clarity.

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