Update (Yes, Another One …) on Thomas Lowry vs. the NARA

Over at TOCWOC, Brett Schulte has posted on information relayed to him by Dr. Thomas Lowry regarding the Lincoln Pardon Controversy (for those of you who want to track the pogress of the controversy, you can do so through clicking “Lincoln Pardon Controversy” in “Categories”).  Lowry’s provided the texts of two emails sent him on September 14, 2010 by Mitchell Yockelson of the NARA.

It’s interesting to compare this information with the claim Lowry posted last month on his single-post blog, in which he said:

Sometime in 2010 the Archives staff noticed the overwrite. They claim that they tried to reach me and that I was “evasive.” That is simply a falsehood, a fabrication. We have been at the same address for thirteen years, with the same phone number and same e-mail address for those same thirteen years. We rarely travel. We have voice mail. Neither of us would forget a query from the National Archives. The first we knew of this “discovery” was the unannounced knock on our front door.

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The Lincoln Pardon Fiasco: Lowry and the NARA

Here we are, over a month since the National Archives issued a press release that Dr. Thomas P. Lowry confessed to tampering with a Lincoln  document to make it appear that the president signed the document on April 14, 1865 … followed a day later by Lowry’s recanting the confession.  While others have weighed in on this issue in various ways, I prefer to focus on the behavior of the two principal actors, neither of whom seems willing to take the actions that would bring us closer to a resolution of the controversy and an understanding of what really happened.

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Dr. Thomas P. Lowry Responds

It’s been exactly a month since the National Archives announced that Thomas P. Lowry had confessed to altering the date on a Lincoln document so as to make it appear that the president signed the document on April 14, 1865, hours before John Wilkes Booth shot him at Ford’s Theater.  You’ll remember that Lowry recanted his confession.  The story would have gone away had it not been for a certain historian’s commentary on the piece in the New York Times.  There were people who were astonished by the report of Lowry’s behavior, and there were some people who stood up for him.

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Recapping a Controversy

At the beginning of this week, I had laid out plans for a few simple posts on matters related to the Civil War.  Little did I know what I would encounter moments after I turned on my iPad Monday morning.  As I’ve said elsewhere, This Was the Week That Was.  And it’s only Thursday.

We are left with a few questions.  We’ve had a confession and a recantation which contained allegations.  That seems unresolved.  We’ve had a press release breaking a story that simply led to more questions.  Those questions have not been answered.  We’ve had a lot of discussion about accountability and speculation about who knew what when or who should have known what when.  Finally, when all of this was about to recede, we had a discussion over who should be ashamed, prolonging all of this another day.

Maybe by tomorrow the discussion will recede, at least until several unanswered questions are answered.  We’ll see.  I believe that all that could be said has been said absent new information.  But I could be wrong.

I’ve created a new category for the posts addressing these matters.  It took me some time to come up with a phrase that would not in itself add to the controversy.  I’ve chosen “Lincoln Pardon Controversy” as the best way to do that for now.  We’ll see.

Thanks for reading and contributing.

Harold Holzer’s Excellent Diversion

In the scandal that keeps on giving, I now present for your inspection Harold Holzer’s recent entry commenting on the charges against Dr. Thomas P. Lowry on the New York Times Civil War blog, Disunion.

Holzer offers two arguments.  First, historians should be “ashamed” of themselves in this affair.  Not Lincoln scholars, not academics, not Civil War historians, but “the entire historical profession.”  Second, the impact of Dr. Lowry’s reported deception in doctoring a date on a Lincoln endorsement was to contribute to a myth of a kinder, gentler Lincoln, instead of the determined Commander-in-Chief he was in real life … a man who supported many measures to make warfare more violent and more lethal.

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Asking Questions of the National Archives

Yesterday in Bull Runnings Harry Smeltzer shared some of his thoughts about the evolution of the Lowry affair and its implications.  Reminding readers that he had once been a corporate internal auditor, he added that he conceived of his job as “one who wants to find out how an act can in the first place be committed and in the second go undetected” (I’m sure there’s a word or two missing here that Harry would put in upon revision, but I’m quoting, and I understand his message).  He then described how he had contacted various friends who were (or had been) associated with the National Archives (NARA) in one way or another over the years.  How did someone sneak a pen into the Archives?  Was it because the Lowrys had gained people’s trust, and so they were not subjected to the same level of scrutiny as would someone just coming in the Archives for the first time?  And why did the Archives announce the “find” in 1998 with a press release, and then highlight the document in years to come, only now to ask questions about it?

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A Little Research Exercise

For those of you who have been following the story of Thomas P. Lowry, the National Archives, and accusations of tampering with documents, I have a little exercise for you.  For the pardon of Patrick Murphy of the Second California Infantry was not the only pardon Lowry reported that Abraham Lincoln made on April 14, 1865.  That same day, according to Lowry, Lincoln pardoned Bradford Hambrick of Alabama.

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