Encyclopedia Titanica

President and Friends Of Major Butt Fear He Went Down With Ship

Washington Times

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"The White Stare [sic] Line Company his searched its list of survivors for the name of Major Archibald Butt. We regret to say that his name does not appear up to the present time among those known to be saved.”

The above message, in effect, was received at the White House at noon today.

It practically robbed the President and his official family of the last hope that Mr. Taft's military aide had escaped in the paralyzing marine disaster which had sent the great Titanic to the bottotm [sic] of the sea.

The President was in continual touch with the White Star offices during the morning. He had sent a personal message to the head of the steamship company in New York asking that he be informed, as soon as possible, if anything was heard of Major Butt.

White House Besieged

From time to time the executive office was visited by prominent military officials and statesmen anxious to know if any word had been received.

Hundreds of messages of inquiry were received in the meanwhile from friends and relatives of the Washingtonians who were passengers on the doomed White Star liner.

To all of these inquiries President Taft's secretaries replied that they knew nothing more definite than that which appeared in the press dispatches. To those who asked about Major Butt they replied that nothing had been heard o fhim [sic] but that they still hoped to hear of his safety.

But when at noon the telegraph key ticked out its fateful message that Major Butt's name did not appear in any list all hope was abandoned.

"Poor Butt," was the universal comment. And perhaps the greatest compliment those who had known the military aid were able to bestow found expression in the inevitable afterthought:

“I'll bet he died like a man."

During the afternoon a message was received at White House that neither the Virginian nor the Parisian of the Allan line, which had rushed to the rescue along with the Carpathia, had any survivors on board.

Last Chance Removed

This seemed to remove the last chance that Major Butts [sic] had been picked up. Later in the day hope was revived by the suggestion that perhaps some other vessel which has not yet been heard of had saved the popular military aid, but this was plainly a last, desperate thought to avoid an inevitable admission.

It is regarded as a curious play of fate that Major Butts [sic] would have returned safely on some other steamer, but for the fact that he delayed his home-coming to bring certain confidential communications from the Pope to President Taft.

Major Blanton Winship, who shares his bachelor quarters with Maj. Archibald Butt, said today that he had heard nothing bearing directly on the fate of his friend.

“The only thing I have heard is that neither the Parisian nor the Virginian picked up any survivors. I am still hopeful that Major Butt was saved. But I must say that it looks very bad.

“There is no question, I understand, but what Millet was saved. I presume he may have been put in charge of one of the boats in which women and children were crowded. He had had experience in that kind of work and may have been specially picked out to take charge o fa [sic] boat.

"I imagine no personal messages are being transmitted now and for that reason I would probably not hear from Major Butt even if he is safely on board one of the vessels."

Cabinet Does Nothing

Today is Cabinet meeting at the White House, but little business was done. The news of the disaster swallowed up all such temporarily minor considerations as politics and official business.

Secretary of the Agriculture Wilson expressed the suggestion that the terrible catastrophe might have been avoided if the steamship had not taken the Northern passage across the ocean. This passage is shorter than the one generally used by steamships voyaging from the United States to the other side, but at this time of the year it is more dangerous because of ice bergs.

"It is a terrible thing," said the secretary. “No words can properly express it. It is horrible."

Secretary of War Stimson, Secretary of the Navy Meyer, Secretary of the Treasury MacVeagh, and all the members of the Cabinet expressed the deepest sorrow and regret over the terrible sea tragedy.

Brigadier General Edwards came to the White House not only to inquire as to Major Butt, but he was also interested in the fate of Clarence Moore. General Edwards had received a pleading message from Mrs. Moore to find out whatever he could, and he was greatly depressed when he found he could carry no message of encouragement back from th [sic] White House. No news was received that Mr. Moore was among those saved, and he, too, is believed to be lost.

General Wood Astonished

Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, chief of staff, expressed astonishment over the fact that only about 800 persons had been saved.

“These vessels are most rigidly inspected," he said. "They are required by law to carry a sufficient number of lifeboats to save all passengers. As I understand it the Titanic was equipped to carry about 3,000 passengers. It would seem that the vessel must have had enough lifeboats to save all of them. It seems strange that such a small number was saved.”

The White House was especially interested in the news that Frank Millet, the artist, had been saved for the reason that he and Major Butt occupied the same stateroom when they sailed for Europe, and it is believed they also had the same room on the ill-fated return voyage.

The belief at the White House is that Millet was saved because he is a comparatively old man, and was given next preference to the women and children.

Butt, however, his White House friends say, is the sort of man who would refuse to take advantage of any chance to escape as long as places in the lifeboats were needed for older men or women or children.

The military aide gained great popularity during his service with the President, and the expressions of sorrow over his fate were interspersed with praise for his high qualities and fine manhood.

The President has ordered his secretaries to transmit every message about Major Butt to his home at Augusta, Ga., where he has a brother and other relatives.


Mark Baber, USA


Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) President and Friends Of Major Butt Fear He Went Down With Ship (Washington Times, Tuesday 16th April 1912, ref: #4000, published 20 October 2004, generated 16th October 2021 09:42:29 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/president-friends-major-butt-fear-went-down-ship.html