Roosevelt Offers Sympathy to His Chief Military Aide, Who Would Later Perish on the Titanic
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Autograph Letter Signed as President, to Archie Butt. Washington, D.C., [c. October 1908]. 2 pp., 8½ x 13 in. On White House stationery.
In very deep sorrow there is no way in which any friend can give comfort; but we are so fond of you, and feel such deep sympathy for you, that I must send you just a line to tell you how we mourn with you. May comfort come to you.
always your friend
Roosevelt was writing to his chief military aide, Archibald “Archie” Butt, following the death of his mother, Pamela Robertson Boggs. Their relationship must have been especially close, because after his father’s death, fourteen-year-old Archie began working to support his family. Still, he was able to attend the University of the South, in Tennessee, with the financial help of his pastor. To help further her son’s education, his mother became the school’s librarian.
After an early career in political journalism, he served as the first secretary to General Matt Ransom in the American embassy in Mexico. Butt joined the military during the Spanish – American War and wascommissioned a captain, serving in the Philippines and Cuba between 1900 and 1908. In 1908, he became Roosevelt’s chief military aide, a position he also filled for Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft.
His almost-daily correspondence with a sister-in-law offered considerable details of the private lives of two American Presidents. When disagreements between Taft and Roosevelt led to Roosevelt’s Progressive Party run against Taft in 1912, Butt was caught in the middle, and loyalty to both men resulted in health problems. His close friend, artist Francis David Millet (the two resided together), requested that Taft furlough Butt to help him recover his health. Agreeing, Taft ordered Butt to go on vacation. After a six-week sojourn in Europe, Butt and Millet booked return passage on the RMS Titanic and were lost on April 15, 1912. His remains were never recovered, but a cenotaph in Arlington Cemetery and a fountain memorializing both Butt and Millet were erected in Washington. Taft delivered the eulogy at Butt’s memorial service.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), a fervent nationalist, environmentalist, and reformer, was the Republican leader of the New York Legislature in 1884 and president of the New York Police Board in 1895-1897, where he fought administrative corruption. Roosevelt organized and led a regiment, “Roosevelt’s Rough Riders,” in Cuba in the Spanish-American War. He used his newfound celebrity to win election as governor of New York (1898-1900) and then sought and earned nomination as Vice President under William McKinley. In 1901, he became President on the assassination of McKinley and was re-elected in 1904. He is also notable for the popularity and public nature of his family.
Archibald “Archie” Butt (1865 – 1912) was a military aide to Presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. Born in Georgia, he was the nephew of Confederate General William R. Boggs. He died when the Titanic went down.
Light ink, otherwise good condition.