Author Thomas Lowry alters an original Lincoln document

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prroh

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When I first saw the headline I was expecting him to have altered something more important than a Presidential pardon. I don't get it.
He was saying this may have been the last time Lincoln signed his name and that it was to grant mercy to boot.
 
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ole

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I don't believe a word of it. The alteration was crude and blatantly obvious. Who is pulling who's leg here?
 

K Hale

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I don't believe a word of it. The alteration was crude and blatantly obvious. Who is pulling who's leg here?
You think Lowry has been framed?
 
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Jon G.

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I guess I'm a cynic. If somebody suddenly came up with a document out of the archives that bore Lincoln's signature and such a date as that one, I'd be all over it looking for fakery. And this one might as well have been written in red ink.
You sure got that right Rob!

Surely lots of folks looked at it out of curiosity after his book. How was it not questioned,and questioned and questioned?
 

Jon G.

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When I first saw the headline I was expecting him to have altered something more important than a Presidential pardon. I don't get it.
He gained monetarily from a book, Don't Shoot That Boy plus a much enhanced reputation because he was the first to "discover" it and recognize it as the last official act Lincoln did.

I assume that to be the legal importance which I think is important.

To lots of folks, just the alteration in of itself may not be a biggy. To most with an interest in History, it's darned important and something most would have thought to be protected to the point something like that just couldn't happen.
 

Glorybound

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This article is part of the Disunion series. I'm posting it here too because it's relevant to the thread:

January 26, 2011, 3:23 pm
A Blot on Lincoln Historians

By HAROLD HOLZER
Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.



disunion_holzer_date2-blog427.jpg



Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army) National Archives -This letter, signed by Abraham Lincoln, pardoned Private Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army.

These facts remain true: on April 14, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln sent a routine, one-sentence, handwritten order to Joseph Holt, the judge advocate general, pardoning a California soldier, Private Patrick Murphy, who had been sentenced to be shot for desertion. “This man is pardoned, and hereby ordered to be discharged from the service,” the president wrote.

The original manuscript was never a secret, nor, until recently, a particularly well-known document. It has long resided at the National Archives in Washington, and it appeared in print more than half a century ago as part of the eight-volume “Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln” (Volume 7, Page 298, to be exact). It is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pardons Lincoln issued during the Civil War to commute the death sentences of accused deserters, sleeping sentries and other offenders.

Yet for the last decade, the Murphy order has been just about the most famous Lincoln pardon of all, because its apparent date, April 14, 1865, made it one of the last things Lincoln wrote before his assassination at Ford’s Theater. Its significance was pointed out in 1998 by Thomas Lowry, a Virginia psychiatrist, who was immediately lauded as a leading Lincoln scholar. But in the last two days the document has become even more famous — as an egregious fake, or more accurately, an authentic document allegedly “doctored” to make it seem more than it really was.

Yesterday, the National Archives announced that Dr. Lowry had admitted that he had used ink to change the date “1864” to the more dramatic “1865.” Dr. Lowry, it seems, simply wanted the publicity for “unearthing” a relic testifying to Lincoln’s compassion and reverence for life even hours before his own death.

disunion_holzer_date-blog427.jpg

Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army) National Archives - A detailed view of the altered date.

To complicate matters further, Dr. Lowry later insisted a reporter from this paper that his confession had been coerced by burly security officers, and that he had admitted deception only to end their relentless hours of questioning. Nonetheless, the National Archives has banned Dr. Lowry from its premises for life, effectively ending an acclaimed research career. Those who have known this gifted scholar for years — myself included — are left scratching their heads, searching their souls, and burning up e-mail threads wondering how he could have gone so wildly astray.

But why is anyone shocked? The entire historical profession should be ashamed for heralding Dr. Lowry without doing a moment’s worth of due diligence. Indeed, the episode speaks to Americans’ insatiable yearning to have their myth-nourished clichés about Lincoln confirmed afresh, and repeatedly — and that goes for historians as well as the general public.

No Lincoln book is complete without reference to his inclination to clemency, often, it is alleged, against the will of military commanders and courts struggling to maintain order and discipline in a huge army of volunteers and conscripts. Stubbornly tender, Lincoln supposedly took every opportunity to commute capital sentences, arguing that his “boys” were better off spared than executed, and might well learn a lesson from their close brush with a firing squad.

What we’ve tended to ignore in this miasma, and what Dr. Lowry’s deception has helped us overlook, is a harder and less popular truth about Commander in Chief Lincoln: that he was overall a rather brutal warrior, ready to deploy the most advanced and lethal weaponry to win the war. He proudly backed General Ulysses S. Grant against critics who said he took too many casualties in his relentless attacks on Confederate forces. And he was prepared to see Atlanta and Richmond sacked and burned if it would restore the Union more quickly.

Under Lincoln, Union troops developed and exploded huge mines, perfected rifled artillery that boasted long range and deadly aim, deployed monstrous ironclad warships and even dabbled in the use of niter — a sort of primitive napalm — to clean out rebel positions.
None of this seemed to tug at Lincoln’s conscience the way Private Murphy allegedly did. But in reality, as he put it once, “those who make a causeless war should be compelled to pay the cost of it.” A war to suppress an enormous rebellion, he insisted coldly, could not be waged with mere “elder squirts, charged with rose water.”

No one, not even Dr. Lowry, has ever attempted to quantify Lincoln’s full record as a pardoner, or to weigh it alongside his willingness to employ devastating weaponry. Nor has anyone compared Lincoln’s batting average in clemency cases to that of, say, wartime presidents like James K. Polk, Woodrow Wilson or Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Now, unfortunately, the record will be further clouded by the aroma of fraud, complacency and disgrace: the sad truth that someone tampered with an unremarkable pardon to make it burnish a legend; that no one noticed the out-of-synch “5” that now seems so obviously a discordant blob on the original; that none of us bothered to check the Lincoln archive to cross-reference a long-known document; and that no one has taken a closer look at Abraham Lincoln’s overall attitude toward clemency in war.

Shame on whoever tried to make of the Murphy order more than it is. And shame on all of us in the Lincoln studies profession for accepting it without question.


Harold Holzer is the chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and the author, co-author or editor of 36 books on Lincoln and the Civil War era, including The New York Times Complete Civil War, co-edited with Craig L. Symonds.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/a-blot-on-lincoln-historians/
 
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Craig L Barry

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People are strange, they have different motivations for research, "writing" and publishing.
I can tell you first hand, it is not that financially lucrative on an hourly basis. We are not
talking New York Times Bestsellers list here. So there is clearly some other motive here.

One is almost tempted to believe it was sloppy scholarship because this factoid is so easily
cross checked except nobody else had any reason to alter the document in question? I don't
buy the retracted confession because he was intimidated by the burly security guards. Take
the 5th and retain representation if you fear for your physical safety, but don't lie. Clearly one
story or the other is a lie now, so you know first and foremost you are dealing with a liar.

I wouldn't try to increase the scope of the transgression beyond what it was. His disgrace does
not extend to the rest of the historical research profession. However, there are a few more
revisionist historians out there breaking a light sweat at the thought of somebody taking the time
to check out their footnotes. Writers who start with a certain perspective first and then research material
that confirms their conclusions also distort the truth, and are just as bad in my view...just harder to
catch.
 

captainrlm

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Anybody who follows blogs needs to read the articles on this at CrossRoads (Brooks Simpson), Bull Runnings (Harry Smeltzer) and Civil War Memory (Kevin Levine). I'm sure there are more out there, but I found some good points and discussions on these three, with Brooks & Harry having some nice back-and-forth in the comments sections.

I'll add links when I get home.
 

Nathanb1

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People are strange, they have different motivations for research, "writing" and publishing.
I can tell you first hand, it is not that financially lucrative on an hourly basis. We are not
talking New York Times Bestsellers list here. So there is clearly some other motive here.

One is almost tempted to believe it was sloppy scholarship because this factoid is so easily
cross checked except nobody else had any reason to alter the document in question? I don't
buy the retracted confession because he was intimidated by the burly security guards. Take
the 5th and retain representation if you fear for your physical safety, but don't lie. Clearly one
story or the other is a lie now, so you know first and foremost you are dealing with a liar.

I wouldn't try to increase the scope of the transgression beyond what it was. His disgrace does
not extend to the rest of the historical research profession. However, there are a few more
revisionist historians out there breaking a light sweat at the thought of somebody taking the time
to check out their footnotes. Writers who start with a certain perspective first and then research material
that confirms their conclusions also distort the truth, and are just as bad in my view...just harder to
catch.[/
QUOTE]

Craig is my hero :smile:
 
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Ellsworth avenger

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:mad:Alter an original document. I own and cherish ,and when in the presence of others ,I am allways aware,afraid,of doing anything that would alter the condition ,let alone the text. People that know me best, know i grow silent when this angry. When this settles into scorn,i'll throw his books into an area of books known as the s__t pile.
 

Glorybound

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January 28, 2011

Kindnesses Are Revealed From Day Lincoln Died

By SAM ROBERTS

An amateur historian accused of forging the date on Abraham Lincoln’s pardon of a Union Army deserter has been permanently barred from the National Archives. His scheduled award next month from the New York Civil War Round Table has been rescinded. And the disclosure of the forgery has touched off a kerfuffle among Lincoln aficionados over whether the president was pardon-happy or a ruthless wartime commander.

Now it turns out that the forgery, which made the document appear to have been signed on Lincoln’s last day of life, was superfluous. The president, it appears, showed compassion in other official business that day.

The saga begins in 1998 when Thomas P. Lowry, a Virginia psychiatrist who was researching Civil War documents, disclosed that he had found the pardon of a Pvt. Patrick Murphy of California signed by Lincoln on April 14, 1865 — the very day he was assassinated. Private Murphy’s death sentence was transmitted to Washington in 1863, but, Dr. Lowry explained, “the 3,000 miles separating the two coasts delayed administrative matters.”

In fact, Lincoln actually signed the pardon on April 14, 1864.

Mitchell Yockelson, an investigator for the National Archives, said Dr. Lowry “marked the document and changed the date for the simple reason of getting some notoriety.” (Dr. Lowry confessed to altering the date, but has since recanted.)

The announcement by the National Archives regarding the forgery prompted Dr. Edward Jay Pershey, vice president of Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, to offer up a document from its collection signed by Lincoln on April 14, 1865, approving a widow’s hardship request that her 17-year-old son be discharged from the Army. Moreover, the National Archives says its holdings include other pardons Lincoln signed that day, including one of a man who killed a neighbor.

“The truth is: Lincoln was a fair and just man, and a terrifying commander in chief, and why can’t we accept the fact that he was both?” said Harold Holzer, a Lincoln scholar. Referring to the discharge of the teenager, Thomas Geary, Mr. Holzer added:
“It’s not exactly a stay of execution, but it offers genuine evidence that Lincoln did, in fact, tend to the business of offering justice to ordinary Americans, even at the end of his life.”

Was the date added later? “Who can know for sure?” Mr. Holzer said. “But it certainly comes closer to passing the reality test than the Patrick Murphy pardon ever did.”



http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/29/us/29lincoln.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=us civil war&st=cse
 
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Bomac

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People are strange, they have different motivations for research, "writing" and publishing.
I can tell you first hand, it is not that financially lucrative on an hourly basis. We are not
talking New York Times Bestsellers list here. So there is clearly some other motive here.

One is almost tempted to believe it was sloppy scholarship because this factoid is so easily
cross checked except nobody else had any reason to alter the document in question? I don't
buy the retracted confession because he was intimidated by the burly security guards. Take
the 5th and retain representation if you fear for your physical safety, but don't lie. Clearly one
story or the other is a lie now, so you know first and foremost you are dealing with a liar.

I wouldn't try to increase the scope of the transgression beyond what it was. His disgrace does
not extend to the rest of the historical research profession. However, there are a few more
revisionist historians out there breaking a light sweat at the thought of somebody taking the time
to check out their footnotes. Writers who start with a certain perspective first and then research material
that confirms their conclusions also distort the truth, and are just as bad in my view...just harder to
catch.

Yessir.

Raise the eyebrow, check the footnotes, and start digging.
 

dvrmte

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What was the error?

I've turned into a big footnote-checker too, actually.
I haven't read the book, but Unionblue quoted from William C. Davis' book, "Look Away", about the 3rd Alabama Reserves "deserting to the enemy". Of course, I had to verify it. I found nothing but a high desertion rate among the boys and old men that made up the unit. Unionblue emailed Davis regarding this and the sources. Davis couldn't remember exactly but thought it came from one of two books. I looked in both of those and nothing was found to indicate they went over to the enemy. Not a big thing to me, but to an ancestor of the 3rd Alabama Reserves, it could mean much.
 

K Hale

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Ahh. Yeah, there's a couple of things I'd like to email Davis about too.
 
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