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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
July 2009

Archibald Gracie

Archibald Gracie was born in Dumfries, Scotland, June 25, 1755. His father was a weaver. In 1776, he moved to Liverpool and worked for a shipping company. He saved his money and purchased an interest in a merchant ship. In 1784, he sailed for America with a cargo of goods and used the profits to invest in a mercantile company in New York City.

From Petersburg, Virginia, he became involved in the export of tobacco to Great Britain. Later, with his sons, he established the East India Merchants and became a ship owner. He established the first savings bank in America and was a business partner of Alexander Hamilton and a friend of John Hay. “Gracie was a fabulously rich Scottish immigrant who is given the largest measure of credit for developing New York as a great seaport.” (Duncan Bruce)

In 1784, on his first trip to America, he married Esther Rogers of Norwalk, Connecticut, the daughter of Samuel Rogers. When Esther died, he married Elizabeth Fitch and his two marriages produced ten children. As his wealth grew, Gracie became involved in banking and insurance. Some of those companies were: the Eagle Fire Insurance Company; New York Insurance Company; United States Bank and the Bank of America.

Gracie was the 18th president of the St. Andrews Society of New York, serving from 1818-1823.

In 1798, he purchased a large tract of land along the East River which basically became his summer home and the home soon became a setting for the social scene in New York City. As a result of the War of 1812, Gracie sold the estate to pay off his debts. In 1891, the property was purchased by New York City.

In February 1776, a 9-gun battery and fort were constructed for the defense of Manhattan Island on Horn’s Hook. The British destroyed the fort and Gracie leveled what was left when his mansion was erected. Horn’s Hook is no longer shown on the map.

I was unable to follow all of his ten children, but his daughter Eliza married Charles King, the president of Columbia University. Sarah, married a congressman James Gore King. His grandson, Archibald Gracie III, became a general in the Confederate Army and was killed at the Siege of Petersburg. His great-grandson, Archibald Gracie IV, survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and his great-great grandson was a hero of WW II.

Archibald Gracie died April 11, 1829 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery, The Bronx, New York.

Gracie Mansion

Archibald Gracie built his mansion on a bend in the East River, some five miles north of the City. As previously mentioned, Gracie was forced to sell his mansion and Joseph Foulke became the next owner and he later sold to Noah Wheaton. Later, the City of New York appropriated the estate for failure to pay property taxes and eleven acres of land were then incorporated into the Carl Schurz Park. For many years, the house was used as a concession stand and rest rooms for the park. The house was later restored and became the first home for the museum of the City. In 1942, the mansion was designated as the official residence of the mayor and Fiorello H. LaGuardia was the first occupant.

The first recorded owner of the estate was a Dutch farmer who purchased 106 acres from the Dutch West India Company. He called his farm “Horn’s Hook” after his birthplace in Holland. Gracie’s Mansion was accessible only by water, but it became the center of a colony of similar homes. Guests at the country home included: Alexander Hamilton; James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Governor DeWitt Clinton; Josiah Quincy and Joseph Bonaparte.

In 1966, the house was enlarged with the addition of a new wing that included a grand ballroom and two smaller reception rooms. More restoration was made in 1981 and 1984. In 2002, the interior and exterior were again restored and it was designated as the “People’s House.” New York thus became the first city in the United States to have an official residence for their mayor.

Tours of the house are available year-round and as one who has taken the tour, I highly recommend it to anyone visiting New York.

More pictures and information can be found on the New York City government website.

Archibald Gracie III

He was born December 1, 1832 into a very wealthy family with interests in exporting cotton from Mobile, Alabama. As a young man he was sent to Germany and educated in Heidelberg. Then, after returning to America, he enrolled at West Point, graduating in 1854. His class at West Point included six future confederate generals including Curtis Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. George Washington Custis Lee was the eldest son of Robert E. Lee. Jeb Stuart is in the Scottish American Hall of Fame. After serving two years in the army he resigned to go into business with his father in Mobile.

He married a southern lady in 1856, by the name of Josephine Mayo of Richmond, Virginia. Interestingly, She was a niece of General Winfield Scott who was the Commander of the Army when Lincoln became president. In Mobile, he became involved in the Washington Light Infantry where he served as a captain. When the Civil War began, he entered Confederate service by enlisting in the 3rd Alabama Infantry. Archibald and his men took the Mount Vernon arsenal and after being promoted to major in the 11th Alabama, he recruited the 43rd Alabama in the spring of 1862 and was elected its colonel.

Archibald Gracie was promoted to brigadier general at the age of 29 and fought in the East Tennessee and the Kentucky campaigns. At Chickamauga, his brigade suffered seven hundred casualties in just two hours. Later at Bean’s Station he was severely wounded. After, recovering from his wounds, he served under General Beauregard in Virginia beginning in May 1864. At Richmond his horse was shot from under him but with little physical harm to himself. From then until his death, his brigade served in the trenches of Petersburg. On his 32nd birthday, his second child, a girl, was born. He was granted a leave to return home beginning December 3, 1864.

On December 2, 1864, one day before beginning his leave, while observing the enemy through a telescope, General Gracie was instantly killed by an exploding shell. The general is buried in the family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery.

“The cordial relations which existed between father and son until General Gracie’s death furnish one of the striking examples of the divided allegiance which rent families of the period.” (Generals in Gray)

His Confederate officer’s sword recently sold at an auction for more than $10,000. One of the Gracie descendants writes a blog called “Walking the Berkshires” available on the Internet.

Archibald Gracie IV

This Archibald Gracie was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1859. His father, was the General Gracie who died at Petersburg in 1864, so he actually never knew his father. In spite of that, the Colonel spent seven years of his life writing a book, “The Truth About Chickamauga,” one of the great battles of the Civil War. It is available on eBay. (On one of our history tours to Rosehill Cemetery, we saw a large boulder from the battlefield of Chickamauga.)

The Colonel was a graduate of St. Paul’s Academy in Concord, New Hampshire and of West Point Military Academy. After graduation, Gracie became attached to the Seventh Regiment, United State Army. Although he came from a wealthy background, he was independently wealthy himself and was very active in the real estate business and was also an amateur military historian.

After writing his book about the battle of Chickamauga in 1912, Gracie took a trip to Europe. Left at home were his wife and daughter. One daughter died as a child and one was killed in an elevator accident in Paris. The surviving daughter, Edith Temple Gracie Adams, died childless in 1918 about a year after her marriage. She apparently was a victim of the flu epidemic and died while her husband served in France. Mrs. Gracie, first name unknown, died in Washington, D.C. on December 12, 1937. Her obituary states that she died in a convalescent home and was the daughter of Otto Schack, a former minister from Denmark to the United States.

Returning home from his extended tour of Europe, Gracie took passage on the Titanic. He traveled first class and boarded the ship at Southampton. His saga during the sinking of the Titanic is recorded in his book published after his death called “The Truth About the Titanic.” The book is for sale on eBay. He also testified before Congress and you can read that testimony on the Internet. Gracie never recovered from the trauma and physical damage sustained during the sinking. He became the third survivor to die, December 4, 1912, and is buried in the Gracie plot, lot 971-974, section 23 & 24, Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx, New York City.

Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., USN

For those of us who served in World War II, the name of Admiral Halsey is very familiar. Not flawless in all of his naval decisions, he was a powerful inspiration and a great warrior. He had several mottoes, including some that may not be appropriate in the 21st century, his final one being “Hit hard, hit fast, hit often.” His original quotation is in the 1970 film, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” It has been deleted in the screenings now seen on cable.

Halsey was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey of October 30, 1882, the son of Captain William F. Halsey, Sr., USN. He first decided to study medicine but later enrolled at the Naval Academy where he graduated with honors in 1904. His early years were spent in battleships and torpedo boats. He commanded the first flotilla of torpedo boats in 1912. During World War I, he took command of the USS Shaw and earned the Navy Cross, which then was not a medal for life and death and it is today.

By 1941, he was Vice Admiral Halsey and his flagship was the USS Enterprise, which was at sea during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By 1942 Halsey was in command at a critical stage of the Guadalcanal campaign. After Guadalcanal, he spent the rest of the year battling through the Solomon Islands to Bougainville.

The battles are too numerous to mention, but obviously, Admiral Halsey played an important role in WW II. The Japanese formal surrender was on the deck of his flagship, USS Missouri, on September 2, 1945. The Missouri received 11 battle stars in WW II, Korea and the Persian Gulf. She is now a museum ship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Admiral Halsey retired from active duty in March, 1947 and died August 20, 1959. He was interred with great ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Frances Grandy Halsey died in 1968 and is buried beside her husband.

Fleet Admiral William Frederick “Bull” Halsey, Jr. was the great-great-grandson of Archibald Gracie from Dumfries, Scotland.

More information about Admiral Halsey can be found here.

Pictured first:  William F. Halsey, Jr.
Pictured second: USS Enterprise


Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
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North Riverside, IL 60546