I’m excited that so many are enjoying the characters in my novel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Want to know more about the REAL people on the Titanic? My friend Sharyn has been kind enough to write some profiles for us. They are amazing and interesting…enjoy!
One of the last survivors to abandon ship, Colonel Archibald Gracie went through just about as much as could be endured the night of the sinking. The trauma was so great, in fact, that he never fully recovered and died before the year ended.
Before his passing, though, Gracie dedicated his time to providing as factual an account* of Titanic’s one and only voyage as he could put together. His strict attention to detail led Walter Lord, author of the definitive Titanic account, A Night to Remember**, to describe Gracie as an “indefatigable detective” who was “invaluable for chasing down who went in what boat.”
But getting the details right was not what motivated Gracie to share his account. A military man whose father, a Confederate general, died during the Civil War, Gracie admired bravery . . . and he wanted to let the world know about the impressive actions of the passengers and crew during the sinking. “It is my duty,” he wrote, “to bear testimony to the heroism on the part of all concerned.”
Leap of Faith
Gracie escaped the sinking ship by jumping from the deck as Titanic began her final plunge. He faced the leap side-by-side with his good friend, Clinch Smith. But where Gracie’s jump led to his salvation, Smith was swept away, never to be seen again.
The Colonel’s heartbreak on remembering his loss can be felt: “I was thus parted forever from my friend, Clinch Smith, with whom I had agreed to remain to the last struggle. I felt almost a pang of responsibility for our separation; . . . He was the embodiment of coolness and courage during the whole period of the disaster.”
Swimming through the freezing water, Gracie made his way to a collapsible boat that had landed upside down in the ocean. He climbed aboard, then spent the rest of the long night trying to keep his balance along with the rest of the men perched on the lifeboat’s keel.
The First-class Perspective
Like many of his time, Archibald Gracie was a product of the strict class distinctions of the day. He makes a point of describing the brave, first-class gentlemen who put their wives and children on a lifeboat, then died in the sinking—men he usually mentions by name. On the other hand, Gracie often lists stowaways and those who jumped onto lifeboats as they were being lowered only by nationality, such as “1 Japanese,” “1 Armenian,” “1 Frenchman,” and “Four Chinamen or Filipinos” whom they found near daybreak, having “come up between the seats.”
Still, he seems to have felt great compassion for all who struggled to survive that night, regardless of class. Before he escaped from the sinking ship, Gracie encountered a “mass of humanity” that he concluded were steerage passengers making their way to the boat decks after being left to their own devices. By then most of the lifeboats were gone and their chance of survival was minimal. In response Gracie wrote, “Even among these people there was no hysterical cry, or evidence of panic, but oh, the agony of it!”
Certainly, Colonel Gracie’s account exposed some of the first-class sense of superiority of the time, though not intentionally. But he also fulfilled his purpose and did, indeed, bear testimony to many heroic acts that night.
* Gracie, Colonel Archibald. Titanic: A Survivor’s Story. 1913. Academy Chicago Publishers, 1998. 1-323.
** Lord, Walter. A Night to Remember. Bantam Books, 1955.
Amelia Gladstone’s hopes are tied up in the Titanic–hopes for a reunion with her sister and an introduction to an admirer. But when she offers a spare ticket to a down-and-out young man, her fate is about to change.
Quentin Walpole is stunned when a sweet lady secures his passage to America–and even more surprised to find his wealthy father and older brother on board the ship. Suddenly Amelia finds herself caught between the attentions of two men, but who should she entrust her heart to? As the fateful night arrives, will Amelia lose everything to the icy waters?
Catherine Campbell says
Living, as I do, just 50 miles from Belfast, I find it fascinating to see how much has been published during this, Titanic’s centenary year. A couple of months ago my husband and I spent the morning walking around the huge dry dock where Titanic was built. I was surprised at the emotions it stirred up. Now, N. Ireland is in the grip of Titanic fever, but we are delighted to see the enormous opportunities the anniversary has thrown up for the gospel. Praying your book will be a blessing as well as a good read.
Tricia Goyer says
Catherine, I’ve been overwhelmed with emotion many times as I’ve been reading about and writing about the Titanic. I’m thankful that people are interested and learning about history. That’s so amazing you go to go to the dry dock!
Hi Sharyn and Tricia – Gracie’s book is certainly epic reading! I also like how he told the stories of each of the lifeboats, showing that once they split up they were each their own little community.
A useful note for your readers is that since Gracie’s work is now in the public domain, you can buy it from many more publishers. I’m recreating all of the “instant books” published in the year after the sinking of the Titanic, and Gracie is so good that was one of the first that I published for Kindle and Nook – for just 99c :-). Three down and four to go!