Saturday, September 29, 2012
Brig. Gen. Archibald Gracie III...may have saved Lee's life.
He was born in New York the son of a very wealthy family, he received a West Point nomination from a New Jersey congressman who happened to be his uncle. He graduated from West Point in 1854; yet, when the war began, he promptly enlisted with the 11th Alabama, Confederate States of America.
Gracie had been in the same West Point class as several Southern officers, including Custis Lee and J.E.B. Stuart, John Pegram, and Dorsey Pender. Thus the start of the war saw his decision to join the Confederate States Army and in June of 1861 was made a major in the 11th Alabama Regiment.
One of his early commands in March and April of 1862 included a small band of sharpshooters during the Battle of Yorktown. Later that year the 43rd Alabama joined with the 12th and 55th Georgia Infantry troops, artillery regiment, the 1st Georgia as well as a dismounted regiment, the 1st Florida. It was his 43rd Alabama Infantry which would be known as “Gracie’s Pride.”
A low point of his career had to be the Battle of Chickamauga, where the final death toll showed he had lost 700 men. It was after this that his troops joined with Gen. William Longstreet at the Battle of Bean’s Station, which was just outside Knoxville, Tennessee.
It was about this time that Gracie was shot in the arm and elbow, resulting in a temporary paralysis of two fingers of his hand. After his arm had healed, he was sent to Richmond where he joined Gen. Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard. His luck did not improve there as he had his horse shot out from beneath him, but did not receive any serious wounds.
One story that has endured following Gracie’s participation in the Battle of Petersburg, or “the Crater,” was that he was reported to have saved the life of General Robert E. Lee. It seems that as Lee was inspecting Gracie’s defense line, the general raised his head to look at the Union troops, extending his head beyond the safety of the salient wall.
When Gracie saw this, recognizing the potential danger to his leader, he instantly climbed up on the wall, standing in front of Lee. It is said that Lee then exclaimed, “Why, Gracie, you will certainly be killed,” to which Gracie replied, “It is better, General, that I be killed than you. When you get down, I will.”
His second child, a little girl, had been born on December 2, 1864. Gracie was fighting in the trenches of Petersburg two days later, and he was observing the Union troops through his telescope (or binoculars).
Suddenly an artillery shell exploded in front of him, breaking his neck—some sources say it decapitated him. Two other soldiers were also killed in the incident. He would never know that a day later, his beloved mother had died at her home and apparently she went to her grave unaware of her son’s death.
I believe Gracie's son was a Titanic survivor...