There is much debate over whether Captain Smith was guilty or not in the Titanic accident. When the Titanic sunk in 1912 Captain Smith ordered the Titanic to increase speed to make it to New York a day early than scheduled. He was going 26 at the time when the iceberg hit. He later went down with his ship as the Titanic was lost. Was Smith the cause of all 1,507 passengers who died that night. Did he really order the life boats lowered when not even half full?
That's a difficult question to answer. Partly yes, partly no.
Yes: He received at least 6 messages warning for icebergs in the area. Nevertheless, he ordered full speed.
No: The Titanic didn't have enough lifeboats. Even if there was time enough to evacuate all passengers and crew, the loss of life would have been enormous.
No: The Titanic had more lifeboats aboard then legally was required at the time.
You can't blame him for not having enough lifeboats. Supposing he would have objected or refused to sail, he would have been fired on the spot by his company. With good reason, as they complied with all legal regulations.
Ordering full speed is a different matter. That was his responsibility. But in his defense I think he was under a lot of pressure because the owner of the White Star line was on board. In those days it wasn't done to ignore "requests" from the owner. He would have to pay for ignoring them once the ship arrived in New York.
Don't say things are different now. If you piss off your CEO today you'll have to pay the price for it. That was then, that is now. Some things don't change that much...
Compare the Titanic with the Costa Concordia: both ships suffered fairly similar damage. Both got sliced over many more watertight compartments than the ship could handle.
Worse for the Costa Concordia, in my opinion. (That is without looking at the gross loss of life on the Titanic, just at the accident itself.) When the Titanic was build, watertight doors were a new concept. Safety at sea basically didn't exist. With the Costa we have a full century of experience. And still it happened, more or less the same.
It's easy to say 'he should have done that'. With 100% hindsight, he should have. But we are all humans. Most of us probably would have chosen for our job rather than for a possible (when he gave the command he didn't see that many icebergs) collision.
About lowering the lifeboats:
That's not really an issue. Some lifeboats couldn't be lowered, due to the angle of the ship. Others were lowered with not enough passengers to board. But none of them were ordered to be lowered immediately by the captain. At that time, panic started to kick in. The captain was on the bridge, different officers in charge of different lifeboat stations. Each handled as he saw fit. Some allowed 3rd class passengers to board 1st class lifeboats, others didn't. There was no life boat drill, nobody had practiced any evacuation exercises - this was something totally new. This is clearly something out of control of the captain.
I just finished a book about the Titanic. I'm far from an expert, but in my opinion, captain Smith did what he could given the circumstances. He didn't abandon the ship (Ismay did, and was heavily criticized for that), stayed on board and went down with it. Contrast this with captain Schettino, who was one of the first to jump into the lifeboats. Oopsie ... 'fell into a lifeboat' ;-)
With regard to cap. Schettino: yes, he claimed he fell into a lifeboat. True enough. But the court rejected that excuse. So did the coastguard who was present at the accident. Va a bordo, cazzo! became a popular meme. If he fell into a lifeboat, he could have climbed out of it, couldn't he? But he didn't.
Captain Smith remained in command of a hopeless situation, and tried to manage it as best as he could. Schettino immediately panicked, and made matters far worse.