Encyclopedia Titanica


Washington Times

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Stories of His Suicide Differ, One Woman Asserting He Shot Himself, and Another Describing His Drowning
Unable to bear the terrible strain of the disaster that overtook his mighty ship, Capt. E. J. Smith killed himself and gave to the seas a life spent in mastering her cunning and thwarting her designs.

Survivors' stories of the tragic end of the commander are rife, but differ strangely. Miss Gretchen Longley, a member of a prominent New York family, who was rescued, says that she knows Captain Smith sent a bullet into his brain. On the other hand, Mrs. Washington Dodge, whose story is one of the vivid tales recited of the catastrophe, says that Captain Smith jumped to his death from a life raft.

Mrs. Dodge claims that Captain Smith, in the terrible hour that followed the crash, was pushed from his ship to a raft. She also asserts that, once on the life raft the commander never faltered in his determination, and leaped to his death in the swirling waters.

Miss Longley's story relates that Captain Smith was alone in his library when his trained mind told him that hope was gone, and supplanted only by death and despair.

Two Try To Die By Their 0wn Hands

“Captain Smith made two attempts to kill himself,” said she, “and at last he succeeded. He was in his library when the officers saw him with a revolver in his hand. They rushed their superior officer and tore the gun from him. The captain struggled with them desperately, broke away, and rushed to the bridge, where he killed himself, placing the revolver to his mouth and firing.”

Another story of the death of Captain Smith was told by Mrs. Washington Dodge, of San Francisco.

“I had my son with me," she said, "but my husband did not get on the boat, and I was sure he was lost. I was frantic with grief

“When the first explosion came I knew the Titanic was doomed, and I prayed earnestly to God to save my husband.

“After the explosion I could see something of the panic on the Titanic. A few knelt and prayed, but the majority surged around the decks, a maddened mob. You see, they had opened the steerage gate and all were together.

“Then I saw a man who I am sure was Captain Smith. He was being pushed onto a life raft. He flung his arms about and struggled like a mad man. It was easy to see he did not want to go. But the men who pushed him (probably the remaining ship's officers) insisted and at length they got him onto the raft. He looked wildly about for a moment, waving his arms in despair and supplication. Then he leaped off the raft into the ice-caked sea which closed over his head forever.”

“A woman in my boat moaned and fainted when she saw the captain take his life and I felt sick at heart for I thought of my absent husband. The men and women in my boat ceased their lamentations and listened quietly as the sweet, soothing strains of ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee' floated over the water. Oh, what a balm that was to our agonized hearts. We could not but believe in the all-controlling power of the Heavenly Father when we saw that ship sinking with these musicians standing nobly at their posts trying to bring comfort to the last moments of those fated to go.

“When that ship went down I asked God to help me for my son's sake to be brave. I thought my husband had gone down, too. Those dreary, fearful hours in the open boat I cannot speak of without trembling. My boy complained continually of the cold, and I tried to warm his litle [sic] chilled hands and feet the best I could. When we were taken aboard the Carpathia I felt like death and if it had not been for my son I would have gladly died. I had been ten hours on the Carpathia when I met my husband face to face. His face was lined with deep sorrow. I started at him and he stared at me as if he could not believe his eyes. He staggered toward me and looked into my eyes. He patted my hair and kept saying my name over and over again. Then we both fell sobbing into each others arms. Then a look of terrible grief overspread his face as he said: ‘Where is the boy? My God, where is the boy?' When I told him that little Washington was safe and sound, his joy knew no bounds.

“God has been kind to my family and I am a happy woman today.”


Mark Baber, USA

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  1. Erin bailey (2014) said:

    i started crying when i read about it

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) CAPT. SMITH ENDED LIFE WHEN TITANIC BEGAN TO FOUNDER (Washington Times, Friday 19th April 1912, ref: #4070, published 29 October 2004, generated 17th October 2021 04:12:17 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/capt-smith-ended-life-when-titanic-began-founder.html