Thomas Lowry’s Version of Events

20 02 2011

Fellow blogger Drew Wagenhoffer passed along the information that Dr. Thomas Lowry (see here and here) has started a WordPress site presenting his side of the whole National Archives incident. You can read it for yourself here.  While he is using a blog platform, I’m not sure if he’s going to make regular posts as events unfold or simply revise/add to what he already has up. Dr. Lowry claims to have taken a lie detector test and passed with flying colors. He has also named the men who obtained his confession – Mitchell Yockelson and Greg Tremaglio – and one way or another I’m interested to see what happens next.





The Lowry Kerfuffle

25 01 2011

Update: For anyone who thinks that by asking how this fraud slipped by for so long I’m being too harsh or judgmental, check out Harold Holzer’s comments on the New York Times blog Opinionator.  Yikes!!!

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In this post I linked to stories about Thomas P. Lowry and his apparent doctoring of an Abraham Lincoln pardon.  Needless to say the topic has been burning up the blogosphere, Facebook, and discussion groups the past two days.  Dr. Lowry and his wife now deny having committed the act despite a signed confession.  While history is rife with confessions signed falsely under duress, I’m not Oliver Stone and things don’t look good for the doctor.  But anything is possible, and John Coski is willing to give Lowry the benefit of the doubt.

I wondered aloud how such a fraud could have gone undetected under the circumstances (those circumstances being the long-time inclusion of the document in Basler’s edition of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln and the association of the fraudulently dated document with perhaps the most studied day in Lincoln’s life and one of the most studied days in American history).  Most accept that Dr. Lowry’s motivation was to gain some fame by the “discovery” of the document, yet at the same time many claim that it was such a minor blip – after all, it didn’t really change anything we already knew about Lincoln – that hardly anyone, and certainly no one important, even noticed at the time it was made, despite the NARA press release.  Some have said that another reason the discovery went unnoticed was that Dr. Lowry received little attention from mainstream historians, yet the book in which the doctor doctored document was used received the endorsement (I know, a blurb is a blurb is a blurb and I don’t expect blurbers to have gone over every footnote with a fine tooth comb) of a mucky-muck in a Lincoln scholar organization and another from an established historian who also wrote its foreword.

In various forums, my questioning of how the fraud went undetected at the time and took 13 years to correct (kudos again to the folks at NARA – better late than never) has resulted in accusations that I am flinging out a red herring to deflect blame from Dr. Lowry (whom I do not know) – I’ve maintained from the outset that he deserves whatever he gets.  Seems like a strawman red herring (a straw-herring?), though both those terms are so over- and mis-used they’ve become meaningless to me.  Others seem to think I’m pointing fingers at specific individuals or classes of individuals for not catching the fraud earlier.  Other than NARA, I don’t believe any one person or group of people should have caught it.  But I was imprecise in what I was trying to say.  Given the vast number of folks who consume every tidbit of info on Lincoln and in this case his assassination, which includes pretty much everything concerning the days surrounding his murder, I’m really just mystified none of them, none of them, looked into the announcement any further.  Maybe it really wasn’t a big deal and nobody noticed.

But they’ve sure noticed now.

In a different life I was a corporate internal auditor.  In my experience, there are two types of auditor personalities (both dull): one who wants to catch the bad guy, the bad guy being his focus; and one who wants to find out how an act can in the first place be committed and in the second go undetected – he’s interested in systems and controls.  I was always the second type.  Old habits die hard.  I’m sorry if my doubts caused anyone to take offense.

As for how the fraud could have been mechanically carried out, I’ve communicated with my NARA contacts past and present and others familiar with the doctor and his wife.  The Lowrys were trusted researchers: they spent a lot of time in the archives. A whole lot of time. Were some of the restrictions placed on less regular visitors relaxed in their case? Not formally or in practice by anyone I’ve heard from. But if Lowry’s confession is to be believed, somehow that pen made it into the central research room.

Also, as trusted researchers, when they declared their discovery it was taken at face value – NARA likely didn’t feel the need to verify prior to making the announcement of what some there believed a major find.  That a trusted researcher might tamper with a document signed by Lincoln, a sacred document, may have been unthinkable.  Perhaps precedent also came into play – no other Civil War document alteration has come to light at NARA in 150 years.  since its founding in 1934.

What has impressed me most over the past 24 hours is the sense of loss felt and expressed by people I’ve corresponded with who were close to Dr. Lowry (yes, some respected historians are in that group).  They all considered him a friend.  By most accounts he’s been a good guy, quick to help and give advice.  Perhaps some of those friendships can be repaired.  Short of exoneration I suspect most will not.  All in all this has been a very sad episode.  Shakespearian in character, if not in scope.  Burnham Woods has come to Woodbridge, VA.





2011 Manassas and PWC Sesqui Activities

4 01 2011

Here’s an article with a calendar of sesquicentennial events in Virginia in 2011.  Below are events scheduled for Manassas and Prince William County in the first quarter:

  • Manassas Museum: “Mosby in Manassas and Prince William.” Lecture. 2 p.m. Jan. 16. Free. 9101 Prince William St., Manassas. Info: 703-368-1873, or www.manassasmuseum.org.
  • Manassas Blue and Gray Ball: Civil War food, music and dancing. Jan. 22, Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10900 University Blvd., Manassas. $150 per person. Info: 703-361-6599 ext. 102.
  • Old Manassas Courthouse: “There Stands Jackson: The Life and Times of General Thomas Jonathan Jackson.” Lecture. 7 p.m. Jan. 27. Free. 9248 Lee Ave., Manassas. Info: 703-367-7872.
  • Manassas Museum: “Back of the Big House and the Planters Project.” Lecture on slave life during the Civil War. 2 p.m. Feb. 6. Free. 9101 Prince William St., Manassas. Info: 703-368-1873 or www.manassasmuseum.org.
  • Liberia Mansion: “A Slave’s Life at Liberia Plantation.” Living history, music and stories at the Liberia Mansion, 8601 Portner Ave., Manassas. 2 p.m. Feb. 12. $15. Info: 703-368-1873.
  • Old Manassas Courthouse: “Plantation Culture from Those Who Built It: A View of Slavery through Architecture and Art.” Lecture. 7 p.m. Feb. 24. Free. 9248 Lee Ave, Manassas. Info: 703-367-7872.
  • Liberia Plantation: Dinner with General P.G.T. Beauregard. March 19. $25. 8601 Portner Ave., Manassas. Info and registration: 703-368-1873.
  • Manassas Museum: “Manassas: Legends and Lies.” Lecture by John Hennessy. Book signing follows. 2 p.m. March 27 Free. 9101 Prince William St., Manassas. Info: 703-368-1873 or www.manassasmuseum.org.
  • Old Manassas Courthouse: “They Fought Like Demons: Female Combatants in the Civil War.” Lecture. 7 p.m. March 21 Free. 9248 Lee Ave, Manassas. Info: 703-367-7872.

The March 21 lecture may be presented by Elizabeth Leonard, who gave Bull Runnings an interview recently.

If any of you have any more information on these events, let me know in the comments section!





Manassas in the News

2 12 2010

Here are a couple of news items concerning the battlefield and surrounding area.

This one on cemeteries located on the battlefields of Manassas.

And this one on expectations for tourism in the coming year.





Civil War Hollywood (and Burbank)

21 11 2010

A couple of announcements from the entertainment world hit the wires this past week.

The long anticipated, talked about, delayed, postponed, suspended, whatever Abraham Lincoln project by producer Steven Spielberg was again in the news, this time with the announcement that Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis will play Abe.  I’m not really sure how this film will be an adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, because that book doesn’t read like a film.  At all.  I suspect that the purchase of the movie rights to the book, which was made prior to its publication, was more a PR move than anything else – an attempt to lend some gravitas to the effort.  But I think Day-Lewis would be aces: the guy just doesn’t do anything badly.  He’s the real deal.  And the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum reported on Facebook that the actor and Goodwin toured the joint in Springfield this past Friday.

Elsewhere, word has it that the executive producer of the hit series Lost (Carlton Cuse) is working on a series set in Virginia during the Civil War.  Not a lot of info on this yet, but it’s being described as an “event”.  Whatever that means.  Hopefully, it doesn’t mean that I’ll get really interested in it only to get turned off because I’m never sure if the episode that week will be a repeat, or even if the show will be on that week, or if I’ll have to wait until December for the season premier, or why the fat guy stays fat even after all the food in the Shenandoah Valley has been burned up by Sheridan.  Start the damn show in September, run about 30 new episodes in a row and then repeat them over the spring and summer, just like Gilligan’s Island.  And you can still get away with letting the fat guy stay fat.





Wa-Po Again

19 11 2010

So it would seem that the cavalcade of commentators at Wa-Po is a continuing enterprise.  Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf has weighed-in on the Sesquicentennial today.  Perhaps my irritation at one expert’s repeated use of the word “must” spilled over into the tenor of my posts regarding this series (they keep using the word “blog”, but I do not think it means what they think it means).





Fundraiser for Carnegie Free Library, Carnegie, PA

18 11 2010

Friend Jon-Erik Gilot, who is working with the manuscript collection there, informs me that a fundraiser is to be held on Saturday, November 27 at the Carnegie Free Library, Carnegie, PA.  A film, The Angel of Marye’s Heights, will be shown in the music hall, a cool room in and of itself; I’m told proceeds from the ticket sales going toward the library and its Civil War collection.  After the movie, the Espy Post GAR room (above via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette) will be open for tours, with additional artifacts from the collection on display.  I’ve written about the room before here, but you can see more on the manuscript and artifact collection here.  In short, the room was pretty much sealed up in the ’30’s after the vets stopped meeting, with all contents left in place (pretty much).  Back in the 80’s it was opened up and the whole room and much of the contents restored over a 20 year period.  It’s something to see.  The library also has a Civil War collection on display in another area.

Details on this event are available here.








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