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.

This one may be more interesting to prove, short of a trip to the National Archives … because Hambrick’s name, unlike Murphy’s, does not pop up in the Basler index (nor in the two volumes that followed the publication of the original series).  Yet Bradford Hambrick certainly existed, and in fact was somewhat notorious.  According to this source, he was born in 1814, and lived until 1891.  He was a rabid Confederate.  In 1863, he was captured by Union soldiers (E. M. McCook to William H. Sinclair, August 26, 1863, OR, Series I, volume 30, part 3, page 179).  He was tried by a Union military commission on charges related to his use of force and intimidation against loyal Alabama unionists, and according to Edward Steers, he was convicted, sentenced to a year in the penitentiary, and fined $1,000.  The Richmond Daily Dispatch mentioned his arrest in its March 21, 1864 edition; in his history of the war and Reconstruction in Alabama, Walter Fleming says (page 107) that he was tried in January 1864, sentenced to a year at hard labor, and that if he didn’t pay the fine on question (which Fleming puts at $2,000), he would serve 1000 more days in jail.  However, the orders documenting that result did not appear until October 4, 1864 (General Orders, No. 144, Department of the Cumberland).  Hambrick’s name pops up elsewhere, and the whole he seems to have been a nasty customer.

Lowry mentions the case on page 216 of his 1999 book, “Don’t Shoot That Boy!”: Abraham Lincoln and Military Justice — the book that includes the discredited claim about Patrick Murphy’s pardon as having been issued on April 14, 1865.  Using the search engines provided through Google and Amazon, I’m guessing that there is an illustration on page 217 that pertains to this case; the file, according to Lowry, is to be found at the National Archives in Record Group 153 (Records of the Judge Advocate General’s Office [Army]), entry 15, file LL 2953.

At this point I turn the exercise over to you, the readers of this blog.  What happened?  Fill out (and correct) the story.  And, of especial interest, did Lincoln pardon Hambrick on April 14, 1865?

Have fun … and keep us informed.

18 thoughts on “A Little Research Exercise

  1. Bob Huddleston January 26, 2011 / 10:12 am

    Page 217 does have an image — it appears to be from microfilm. At the top is inked the court martial index number LL 2953. The last digit in AL’s date is blurred, but is “April 14, 186x.” Further down the page is a pre-printed slip, a sort of post it note, “Respectfully referred to the Adjutant General, U.S. Army, for the execution of the orders of the President: [signed Jas A Hardie] Inspector General, U.S.A. War Department [date in ink: April 14, 1865] Below that, and below the tab, is written “see letter to C.O. Nashville, Tenn Apl 14, 1865” and then “Recd AGO Apr 17, 1865 Letter to Maj Gen Thomas April 27, 1865” . Why did the Lowry’s copy a microfilm image? Every court martial I have seen is in manuscript. As for Hambrick getting a pardon, again only a guess, but the war was ending and he had already served more than the required year in prison.
    The next page has an image of the “other” April 14 pardon for Murphy, with the “corrected” year. Underneath the AL signature, written across the CW transcript is “GO 169 AGO 1864.” The ORs do not carry all the AGO General Orders, including this one, since it probably only mentioned Murphy, but I did find GO 201, dated late in May. I am guessing that the publication of GO 169 is what led Basler to the Lincoln signature, but no one looking at Lowry’s image thought to check GO 169 and see what it said. Questions, questions!

    • Brooks D. Simpson January 26, 2011 / 12:59 pm

      Let me just put it this way: the plot thickens. I wish I could say more, but it would be premature.

      • Jane Singer January 27, 2011 / 4:03 pm

        Mr. Simpson:

        Does the original Hambrick pardon (date unclear) reside in the NARA, or does it exist there only on microfilm?

        Jane Singer

      • Brooks D. Simpson January 27, 2011 / 4:07 pm

        It should be in the National Archives, and a researcher ought to be able to consult it, although I believe they will be encouraged to look first at the microfilm. That will not be the case with the original Murphy endorsement, as this article makes clear. However, someone at the NARA should be able to give a definitive answer.

  2. John Stewart January 27, 2011 / 11:45 am

    Dear Brooks,

    The main question I have about Lowry is, why is he not crying “Hambrick”?

    If he had Hambrick, why did he need to fake Murphy? And he DID have Hambrick, it seems. If Hambrick is genuine, then that would have been all Lowry would have needed back in 1999. He would not have needed to fake Murphy. But, I guess, then, Hambrick is a fake too. But, if Hambrick’s a fake, then why is the Nat Arch not all over Hambrick, as they are over Murphy?

    BUT, if Hambrick is genuine, then Hambrick is Lowry’s main defense, surely

    If Hambrick was, indeed, pardoned, then a few questions crop up

    1. Why would Lincoln pardon a Confederate? Was this a standard practice?

    2. Why would Lincoln pardon a man who was close to finishing his sentence, relatively close to finishing it, anyway. And it was NOT a death sentence, just hard labor

    3. A quick look at the Nashville POW records shows

    Bradford Hambrick, citizen, Alabama, captured on Feb. 14, 1864, by orders of Maj. Gen. Logan. On Aug. 31, 1864, Hambrick was awaiting sentence by order of Gen. Grant. On Nov. 11, 1864, he was transferred to the state penitentiary for a year’s hard labor, plus a fine of $2000

    So, he couldn’t have been pardoned in 1864, as he was in custody. If Hambrick WAS pardoned, it had to be 1865. But, if so, was it by Lincoln, or Johnson? We need to see the original Hambrick pardon, if there was one, to see if the date has been tinkered with (the actual date, I mean, not the year)

    Ed Stiers is merely reporting the Lowrys in his Blood on the Moon, which I think was dated, what – 2005? I think Ed did this in good faith. I can’t see any reason why he would be involved with the Lowrys in a scam. I’m writing that, just to stress what is probably obvious

    Don’t Shoot that Boy! certainly includes both Hambrick and Murphy, and that was 1999. I don’t have the book, so I can’t read the actual text revolving around either Murphy or Hambrick, but, certainly Hambrick is in the book. Ed Stiers would have read the book, so, what Ed puts in Blood on the Moon has to be what Lowry wrote. Pity Ed didn’t verify for himself (one of the dangers of relying on secondary sources)

    I can’t find any press reporting of Lowry’s 1999 revelations, but I’m sure there must have been some. Right? I mean, someone must have seen such reporting, surely

    Why are the National Archives being silent on Hambrick? They’re going to have to make some sort of statement sooner or later

    Are they checking Hambrick as we speak?

    Are they checking everything as we speak, just to see if anything else has been doctored?

    I saw the Nat Arch fellow on the video, telling us how, over the course of time he had shown this celebrated document to people as they came in (celebrated, presumably, as a result of Lowry’s book). AND, how, over the course of that time, he had come to suspect that the 5 was a forgery. This is kind of odd. i would have seen it right away, wouldn’t you?

    Just a few thoughts, Brooks

    Warmest regards


    • Brooks D. Simpson January 27, 2011 / 12:39 pm

      Wonderful comment.

      I was wondering how many times Hambrick might have been a target of interest for Union military authorities, and it was something to see the conflicts in what I could get my hands on.

      Moreover, work is being done on some other documents dated April 14, 1865, bearing Lincoln’s signature. I’m aware of two not so far discussed. One’s in volume seven of the Papers of Andrew Johnson, on page 550, with an image of a second endorsement on page 551. Both concern the release of prisoners of war upon taking the oath of allegiance. Lincoln’s endorsements come on April 14, and the image offers a handwriting sample. A third one is mentioned in the notes. This volume was published in 1986, twelve years before the Lowry “discovery.”

      In short, anyone who wanted to show Lincoln as being generous or lenient on the last day of his life had documents in hand, and the Lowry “discovery” is unnecessary. Moreover, given Appomattox and Lincoln’s own thoughts turning to peace and reconstruction, why would he have not been in a more lenient mood on April 14?

      I don’t blame either Steers or Shenk for accepting Lowry’s “find” at face value. By that time the “find” had been praised by the National Archives as well as several Lincoln scholars. And yes, it seems to have taken Trevor Plante some time to act upon his initial reservations. Moreover, although we have a printed version of the text as of 1953, one could suggest that errors are made in printing/transcribing, too. After all, such was the case with the document in the Johnson Papers, right? In that case, only the availability of the image of the document allows us to challenge the transcription.

      There were press reports about the “find” in 1998. Newspaper archives have them. In this day and age, people would have raised questions immediately, and the image of the document would have been circulating. That suggest just how much had changed in a relatively short time.

      [Note: I joined that project in the second half of 1984, and was set to work on volume 8 as well as a special project. The only thing I saw in volume 7 was the lengthy introduction, because I remember protesting rather vehemently against the editor’s use of the word “colored” to describe an African American.]

      Dating the Murphy document requires that one look at Murphy’s service records and the record on his incarceration and release. One should also go beyond the endorsement to see what happened. You would have thought the National Archives would have done this before confronting Lowry, given the seriousness of the charge. The appearance of the “5” now looks glaring, because we are told what to look for, but lots of people had been looking at it for years, and if they wondered about it, they were very, very quiet.

      For all the talk about the “5,” it is Lowry’s confession, and then the odd recantation/explanation/countercharge, that leaves me still looking to him as the person who either did something or who knows who did and who benefited from that. But an able attorney could cause real trouble, and those who believe Lowry have to accept that they are challenging the National Archives and be honest enough to say so. At this point the NARA has questions to answer, and I assume that officials are not ready to answer them. What that means is anyone’s guess.

  3. John Stewart January 27, 2011 / 2:32 pm

    Dear Brooks,

    Okay, now that I’ve had a bit of time, I’ve found masses of 1998 press reports about the Lowrys’ find, BUT it’s all Murphy. NO HAMBRICK

    Why is Hambrick not mentioned?

    After all, he’s in the Lowrys’ 1998 book, as well as Murphy, no?

    Why this 1998 press fascination with Murphy at the expense of Hambrick? Why did the 1998 press totally ignore Hambrick?

    I admit, as I admitted before, I have not seen the Lowry book – only saw a snippet on Google Books – but that snippet shows Hambrick

    I think it’s vital to see what the Lowrys REALLY said about Hambrick in their 1998 book

    Warmest regards,


    • Brooks D. Simpson January 27, 2011 / 3:10 pm

      I can’t explain why anyone omitted Hambrick (and, after all, I didn’t hear of the find in 1998 or saw the book when it came out in 1999). Using Amazon’s search, the Hambrick discussion is on page 216, with an image of the document on the next page.

  4. John Stewart January 27, 2011 / 4:55 pm

    Dear Brooks,

    Okay, I should have exercised my brain cells a little before I asked you why the 1998 press coverage (Feb., March, April 1998) failed to mention Hambrick.

    It was because the press didn’t know about Hambrick

    They weren’t reviewing Lowry’s book, which came out in 1999, they were reporting on his Murphy find, that’s all. No book involved

    Your mention of the 1999 publication date was what set this straight in my mind

    Okay, in early 1998 the press didn’t know about Hambrick. At that stage of the game, if the Lowrys had known of Hambrick, they certainly didn’t spill the beans, did they? I mean, if they had, the press would have been all over it.

    Did the Lowrys themselves know of Hambrick in early 1998? Probably not. There are various reasons I can think of for their withholding Hambrick at that time, but, given that they gave Murphy, and that in the 1999 book they named both Murphy and Hambrick, none of those reasons make much sense to me. So, all in all, I’d say they found Hambrick subsequent to the press flurry of early 1998.

    The wider, ethical question here, remembering the Dreyfus case, is “IS LOWRY INNOCENT?” As any cop can tell you, a confession is only worth the paper it’s written on. A confession is not proof of anything. Means nothing. BUT, men have been sent to Devil’s Island for less. Everyone wants to hang Lowry right now, but he hasn’t had a trial yet. We should all have learned from past mistakes and miscarriages of justice, and should all declare that while we may not fight for Lowry, we must fight for his right to a fair trial.

    Warmest regards


  5. John Stewart January 27, 2011 / 5:23 pm

    Dear Brooks,

    When looking and re-looking, and looking yet again at the supposedly falsified date, I ca’t help but wonder if it was truly tinkered with at all

    What it looks like to me is that President Lincoln started to run out of ink – got to 186 – then dipped his nib to finish it off. He put 5 instead of 4. We’ve all done things like that

    Unless it was 5

    But, people have found Murphy’s pardon, right, and confirm it as April 14, 1864. Don’t they? That is true, isn’t it? Or is it?

    Of course, I’m not looking at the original, only the image on the computer screen, but its’s a good image.

    Has a test been done independent of the NARA?

    The depth and quality of the black ink surrounding the faded 186? Do they match? Does the supposedly falsified 5 match with the rest of the dark ink? It certainly looks as if it does, at least from my angle.

    And what about Lincoln’s way of writing the number “5”. Of all the numbers, it is the one subect to most idiosyncracy. has anyone checked this?

    Has anyone checked to see what Lincoln was doing on April 14, 1864?

    Did I not read that the National Archives arbitrarily DECIDED that Lowry was the guilty party? Did I also not read that they went to his home and knocked on his door? I know nothing of the interrogation techniques employed by NARA, but any such visit, I suggest, from government officials, may be mighty scary to an individual.

    Could it be, after all this, that the guilty party is Abrahamn Lincoln himself?

    Warmest regards,


    • Brooks D. Simpson January 28, 2011 / 12:09 pm

      On April 14, 1864, Lincoln reviewed some 67 court-marital cases and met with Henry C. Lea, who was writing pamphlets in support of the Union cause. You can find that in Lincoln Day-by-Day.

      • Harry Smeltzer January 29, 2011 / 9:14 am

        And there’s no similar listing of file reviews on 4/14/65. Which I know neither proves nor disproves the Hambrick case.
        Here are some possibilities:
        Lowry didn’t fake the Murphy pardon, found it first and Hambrick later (confession is the wrench)
        Lowry found the Hambrick pardon first and faked Murphy later (makes no sense to me – why do it?)
        Lowry found Hambrick first and then Murphy without faking it (but if so, why the NARA hoopla about Murphy alone?)
        Lowry faked Murphy first, then faked Hambrick to lend support (yikes!)
        Lowry faked the Murphy pardon first, then found the pristine Hambrick (an ironic and juicy scenario and, in light of everything, maybe the most likely)
        Did I miss any?

      • Brooks D. Simpson January 29, 2011 / 9:37 am

        I am aware of a lot of work being done right now on Lincoln endorsements dated April 14, 1865, that are not in the National Archives.

        What we know is that Lowry “discovered” a document that had already been found (Murphy) and that another document (Hambrick) had not only been found but had already been microfilmed.

        I’m sure that last Monday the NARA thought it was answering questions. You’ll note it’s not answering them now.

  6. John Stewart January 27, 2011 / 6:22 pm

    Dear Brooks,

    Okay, this has been an interesting learning experience.

    I have proved, to my satisfaction, that the Murphy pardon was, indeed, April 14, 1864

    But, that does not prove Lincoln didn’t mis-write 1865

    One has to be there – pen, ink, inkwell, distractions

    Only that morning he had been with Grant at HQ

    If Lowry DID change the 4 to a 5, then I can’t make out a 4 underneath the 5. I just can’t.

    I see something under the number, sure, but that “something” is under more than just the number. It’s a sort of palimpsest-type ghosting of some sort. That’s what it looks like to me.

    Warmest regards,


  7. Jane Singer January 27, 2011 / 7:19 pm

    Again I ask, does the Hambrick pardon exist at NARA only in a microfilm form? If it is not in manuscript form perhaps that is why there was nothing made of the alleged discovery.

    • Brooks D. Simpson January 27, 2011 / 8:04 pm

      Again, the people at the NARA can best answer that question.

  8. Harry Smeltzer January 29, 2011 / 9:53 am

    There is one other possibility I left out, and a pretty obvious one. The Murphy pardon was of a US soldier, while Hambrick’s was not. Maybe Lowry needed something along that line, and made the change regardless of the timing of his finding out about Hambrick.

  9. tomlowry February 19, 2011 / 1:32 pm

    I did not work from microfilm. Beverly and I read the paper, original, transcripts of each of the 75,000+ Union Army general courts-martial. Took us roughly 15,000 hours including data entry. All self-funded. The Hambrick entry in my book is a Xerox from the original paper. A close look shows that Lincoln’s pen made four “blops,” including the final digit in 186x. It looks like a 5 or maybe a three. Those of you commenting on my book without seeing it can request a free copy. Send your mailing address to civilwarjustice@aol.com
    Tom Lowry

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