04 June 2014

Archibald Butt

Archibald Butt was a journalist and soldier turned Presidential Aide. He served under Teddy Roosevelt and then Howard Taft. The stress of the looming primary fight between Roosevelt and Taft caused him to vacation in Europe. He had time to consider the situation and his loyalties to both men.

On 17 April 1912 after arriving back in New York on the Titanic, Archibald quickly got pulled into Republican politics with the upcoming convention. On 18 June 1912 he attempted to mediate between the two men in an attempt to keep things from getting out of hand. Butt's apparent pro-Taft leanings infuriated Roosevelt and he had his delegates abstain in voting. TR was determined to be president, and if the Taft machine would not give him a fair shake he was determined to start a new party to get what he felt was rightfully his.

In August the Bull Moose Party had its own convention and Roosevelt was in the race. Three months later he came in second place to Woodrow Wilson, Taft a distant third. Archibald blamed himself for the disaster as he would later describe in his 1915 book The Election of 1912. He had plenty of extra time to write after Wilson was sworn into office on 3 March 1913, Butt was no longer a Presidential aide.

In 1916 He became one of the aides to Republican Presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes. He made sure that Hughes kept appointments with officials in California. Butt was determined to make sure that Wilson lost, since he felt that the man should never have won in 1912. In November 1916 Hughes won a tight race 267 electoral votes to Wilson's 264.

With the revelation of the Zimmerman Telegraph and the renewal of unrestricted submarine warfare President Hughes went to congress for a declaration of war against the German Empire. Shortly afterwards Archibald Butt re-entered military service and was promoted to colonel. He was placed in charge of overseeing and coordinating the transportation networks in the United States to the amount Congress would allow under the emergency powers that were being drafted.

It was a tremendous, unprecedented task. Archibald performed better than could be expected. He contacted John Thayer, a man he met while on the Titanic in 1912. Thayer was a vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and their close working relationship during the war helped move supplies from across the Great Lakes region to the Atlantic docks.

Despite the massive work required working for the Quartermaster General, Butt still found time to be socially active. He even helped establish an American branch of The Blue Cross organization from the UK. He was concerned with the fate of the multitude of animals being sent to Europe even before America's entry into the war. He had little to do with the organization after it was established, his other wartime duties taking so much time.

With the end of the fighting the long process of the peace talks... or rather meeting to determine what terms would be forced on the Central Powers, Archibald continued his duties supplying the American forces in Europe. In 1920 he contracted the influenza and died several weeks later.

I decided to explore what might happen in my Titanic survives timeline with the survival of one of the people who had died. Of course it is impossible to predict what would have actually happened, and by focusing on just one who would have died I'm ignoring the other 1,516. That is a lot of little butterflies, most of which would likely not have much of an immediate impact on the timeline.... but long term....

Maybe, if this post is popular enough, I'll return and pick some other former Titanic victims and make guesses about how their survival would have affected this timeline.

1) Wikipedia entry for Archibald Butt
2) Image source - United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division
3) Some background on The Blue Cross, aka Our Dumb Friends League. Many animals played important roles duirng the First World War
4) I had Archie responsible for helping to establish an American branch of the Blue Cross since he had written some treatises on the care of animals in the tropics and even disobeyed orders to save the lives of some mules! He was also socially active and was one of the founding members of the Military order of the Carabao. Just seemed like a nice addition to his alternate self.

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