Serpent’s Tooth

Would a Federal agency coerce an innocent man into a false confession and then vilify him in the daily press? I didn’t think so. I was wrong. Read on for the facts of the case and for the evidence vindicating me.

When I celebrated my 78th birthday I still believed that my own government was fair and ethical. Two months later I was shocked into changing my mind. A single event ruined my life and ended forever my so-innocent belief in Federal virtue.

On the morning of January 12, 2011 I was in my bathrobe, face covered in shaving cream. There was a knock on my door. When I answered there were two men standing on the porch. The man in a dark suit flashed a badge and said, “We want to talk to you.” Their business with me was soon apparent. I was accused of changing a historic document. After several hours of bullying, of threats and false promises, I foolishly sign a statement incriminating myself. A few days later, the Archives issued an elaborate illustrated press release which was quickly picked by the wire services, newspapers, radio, and television. The proffered material portrayed me as a greedy, fame-seeking betrayer of our nation’s trust.

A fantastic story? Delusions of  persecution? Not at all. It raises the question, could a person of normal intelligence be talked into a false confession without the use of physical violence? The answer is “yes.” This cautionary tale needs background before it can make any sense. 

A Second Career 

About sixteen years ago my wife Beverly and I both retired. I had been a physician for forty years; she had been a court transcriber.  In researching a book, we were introduced to the Civil War courts-martial records at the National Archives. Wonderful stories!  We soon found that there was no searchable database, much less a subject index. The only index extant was a hand-written list of names, compiled in the 1880s. The archivists told us that completing a computerized database would be nearly impossible because of the sheer size of the holdings. We took this as a challenge to fill our “Golden Years.” We sold our home in California, bought one in Virginia and went to the Archives five or six days a week for nearly ten years. When done, we had trials of 75,000 Union Army men, 1,500 Navy men, and 5,000 Confederates. (They had burned most of their records.) Beverly keyed all these into a Microsoft Access database.

What use is such a database?

From it we have published a dozen books and nearly a hundred articles. Five historians have used the data to complete their published work. At least one dissertation is derived from our data, as well as a dozen regimental histories. It is currently launching a whole new look at Gettysburg. We certainly received no financial support from any governmental entity. Our project, self-funded and entirely voluntary, is a gift to the nation.

What is the Lincoln connection?

In the course of reading 75,000 courts-martial, we found over a thousand which contained notes in Lincoln’s own hand. Roughly half of these had already been noted in Roy K. Basler’s monumental Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. The other half were unknown either to scholars or to the general public.  The cases of 1861-1863 were reported in our Don’t Shoot That Boy (1999). The remainder of the war appears in Merciful Lincoln (2010).The latter book contains elaborate statistical analyses of the data, including a first-ever comparison of the clemency policies of Jefferson Davis with those of Lincoln. (Neither book made a dime in royalties.)

The Dark Clouds Gather

One of the Lincoln notes that caught our attention was squeezed into the margin of the trial of Private Patrick Murphy of the Second California Infantry. He had been sentenced to death. Lincoln reprieved him in a note dated April 14, 1865. This of course was also the date of the assassination. We immediately called this note to the attention of several Archives employees. They thought it so important that the page was removed from the usual files and was exhibited in the Rotunda of the National Archives, where it was seen by thousands. The date looked like “1865” to us. It looked like “1865” to the special Archives curator assigned to examine it. It looked like “1865” to all the tourists who viewed it.

The Storm Breaks

After studying this document for fourteen years, the Archives staff “suddenly” discovered, under powerful magnification, that the “5” had been written over a fainter “4.” (So faint it is hard to tell if there ever had been a “4.”) Indeed, in the enlarged images provided to the media, the overwriting is visible. In ordinary light, without magnification, the change is very hard to see. We missed it, they missed it. 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. And the two grim men standing there.

(The image of the “5” in the original document occupies eight square millimeters. In the the image provided in the Archives’ press release the “5” occupies 3,575 square millimeters, making it easy for the believing public to play expert.)

A “Federal Target Letter?” I’ve learned so many things, far too late. The September 2010 e-mail from the Archives asked very informally if I could help them with a questioned document, and added how much they had enjoyed my books. The email had a collegial tone, also like a letter from my fan club. What I did not realize was that this “friendly” note meant that I was a suspect in a Federal criminal investigation. Seem far-fetched? Seem paranoid? Go to Google and try Federal Target Letter. When, in April 2011, learned about this prosecutor’s gambit, it ran chills up my spine. You, too, might feel the same chill. Many who fear our own government do so with good reason.

The Fateful Hours

Who were these two men? One was Mitchell Yockelson. He used to be an archivist, specializing in World War Two records. Now he is a detective, with the title of “Investigative Archivist, Office of the Inspector General.” He had a business card. The other man, the one who flashed a badge, said he didn’t have a card, but wrote his name on a piece of paper: “Greg Tremaglio.” He did all the talking, and got right to the point.

“You changed the date on Private Murphy’s file.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The original date was 1864. You changed the 4 to a 5. This is on Lincoln’s note on Patrick Murphy’s court-martial”

“I did no such thing. I would never do such a thing.”

“We’re not here about your guilt. We know you did it. There is no point in saying you didn’t do it, because we know you did it. Your guilt has been proven. But we can help you to make the problem go away.”

“But I didn’t do it.”

But what about Miranda?

It is important to note here that although their unannounced visit to my home was to extract a confession for a crime, I was at no point advised of my rights. The right to remain silent. The right to have an attorney present. The abrupt attack upon my integrity left me psychologically off guard. Tremaglio pressed his point over and over, playing good cop and bad cop alternately.

The Fateful Hours, Continued

“If you give us just a little statement, just to clear up our records, we’ll forget all this. We are trying to improve our security procedures and you can help us. Just tell us how you did it. If you come clean on this, the matter will be closed and you’ll never hear of it again.”

“So, you want me to make a false confession?”

“Of course not. It wouldn’t be a false confession, because we know you did it. Yes, we know you did it.”

“If I sign such a confession I would not only be in deep trouble but banned for life from the Archives.”

“Please listen, doctor. This is just to close out this investigation. If you give us a statement I promise you’ll never hear of this matter again and there certainly will be no publicity. And you will not be banned.”

“But I don’t want to sign a false confession.”

“I’ve tried to give you a chance to cooperate, but if we don’t settle this today, I’ll have to pass it on to higher authorities and it will be out my hands.”

At the edge of the cliff

Physical threats would have waked me out of this reverie, but the repeated psychological pressure was more effective. Anything to make them go away. 

After a prolonged time of badgering and bullying, threats and promises, I (foolishly, very foolishly) wrote that I had done it. Ah, but that wasn’t good enough. Tremaglia moved in.  Now he wanted a motive. I protested I that had no motive. He suggested that I was seeking fame. He suggested that I put down what kind of pen I had used. Bottom line, he dictated a plausible, detailed confession to a crime I had never committed, with the promise of no publicity and no bad consequences.

After they left I had a very bad feeling, a premonition of disaster. When I told Beverly what I had done, she had more than a premonition, she was furious. “Don’t you know that the cops are allowed to lie? Why didn’t you wake me up? I’d have thrown them out of the house. They had no evidence, because there is no evidence! We sat at the same table in the Archives for ten years. We helped the staff get rid of people who were damaging the records. Neither of us would write on the records, and neither of us did. Their promise of nothing bad happening is a lie. Cops lie. Something dreadful will happen. And soon.”

The Axe Falls

“Soon” was quite correct. On the morning of January 24, 2011, a UPS courier brought me a letter banning me from the Archives, for life. As I read the letter, the New York Times called, wanting a statement. As I listened to the man from the Times, the doorbell rang. It was a correspondent from the Washington Post. The rest of the day, it grew only worse. Several radio and TV stations wanted interviews. More papers called. We finally stopped answering the telephone. The source of this furor was a long, detailed and illustrated press release sent out to all media by the Archives. Far from “no publicity,” I was portrayed as a greedy, fame-seeking, self-confessed destroyer of our national heritage. The only reason they had not asked the Department of Justice to prosecute me was that “the statute of limitations had run out.”

The Blogging Jackals Pile On

The Internet is the perfect playground for risk-free personal attacks. Choruses of self-righteous rage echoed through the nation’s servers. Practically frothing at the mouth, persons unknown to me mourned that I would escape prison. Persons who had never done a moment of research or writing proclaimed that our fifteen years research and meticulously cited publications were “bogus,” and “shallow.”

The next day was worse. The story was on the front page of the Washington Post. On page six was a remarkably unflattering photo and several more columns of character assassination. Follow-up reports further skewered me. In a shameless attempt to keep the publicity alive, the January 27, 2011 Post carried an urgent announcement that the document was now withdrawn from circulation. Paraphrased, “This is a very important document, and, no, you can’t see it.” The Archives took the occasion to rehash and repeat all their allegations against me. They did so again on February 23.

If queried, I strongly suspect that  Yockselson and Tremaglio would confirm each other’s story. My word against their two. Why would they want to incriminate themselves? The objective material at the end of this declaration will override their assertions. 

The central point here is that I did not make the change in Murphy’s court-martial. Or any other Federal record. Ever.

Why didn’t I wake up Beverly? She was still recovering from major surgery and had difficulty sleeping. In hind sight, I should have brought her to the table. In retrospect that is abundantly clear.

Why this enormous effort to “get” me?

In the great scheme of Washington DC power struggles, I am a nothing. No power. No funds. No connections. Just a hobbyist who enjoys reading old records. I have no academic credentials as a historian. No faculty position. No tenure. We have written books. Our income from book sales averages $12 a day, 75 cents per hour for each of us, certainly far below minimal wage. As for fame, a few dozen historians know the scope and credibility of our work. The general public knows only the libel and slander heaped upon me.

When district attornies run for re-election, they often crow about their success rate in convictions. For the Archives Inspector General to justify his budget, he needs convictions. Recently he flew four full-time inspectors to the country’s largest Civil War show, to search for stolen items. They didn’t catch a single bad guy. Maybe he needed to catch someone. Even an innocent someone.

Why was I such a dupe, so easily badgered?

Perhaps because I had a disadvantaged childhood. I grew up in a quiet neighborhood where we respected the police as friendly authority figures — sort of like Andy Griffith’s little village of Mayberry. I has heard distantly of bad cops, but had never encountered one. I never dreamed of lying cops knocking on my own front door. In retrospect, I wish I’d been slammed around by the pigs as a youth, it might have knocked some “street smarts” into me. At age seventy-eight I was still a liberal, a believer in justice. No more. Later on, we will see that I was not just gullible; I was another recipient of the Reid Method.

Was there actually a forgery?

Yes, or least probably. Somewhere between 1953, when Basler catalogued it in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VII, pages 298-299, and around 1997, when we first saw it, someone wrote a “5” on top of the “4.”  (At least, Basler reported a “4.” Basler himself stated that his compilation would exclude “routine pardons and clemency actions,” so it not clear how or why Murphy became part of the Basler collection.) In very strong light, with great magnification, it is easy to see that something is amiss. In ordinary light, un-magnified, it is very easy to miss. We missed it, but so did the Archives staff for fourteen years. So did the thousands of tourists who saw it. If there was a change in the document, who made it? I don’t know. It was there when Beverly and I first opened that folder.

Why the effort to “get” me, continued.

The scope and intensity of the Archives campaign against me seems disproportionate. A sledge hammer to crush an ant. An all-out effort against a political nobody. It certainly had an effect on me and my wife: disturbed sleep, nightmares, severe internal symptoms, and profound feelings of degradation. But it was intended to effect the public. To what purpose?

This is Washington DC, where the important decisions are made in secret; lies, deceit, and hypocrisy infect every act. I will never know who decided upon this all-out assault upon me, but here are some possibilities.

A boost for the rotten morale in the Archives?

In 2010, a survey of morale and working conditions in Federal agencies, found the Archives dead last. The worst morale of any agency. (Washington Post September 2 and 7, 2010).In the cellar. Bottom of the heap. When organizations and even countries are in trouble, nothing is more useful that a good outside enemy. Hitler used the Jews. Hugo Chavez blames the United States. McCarthy blamed the Communists. By “exposing” me as an outside enemy, was morale improved?

Matthew 7:3

On February 7, 2011, the Washington Post reported that the Archives had botched a six-year project to make records digitally available. The Government Accountability Office named the Archives as “one of the government’s most troubled information-technology investments,”  and blamed “weak oversight and planning” on the part of the Archives The initial contract was for $317 million, but costs have already ballooned to $567 million, with the final estimated cost of $1.2 billion – and it still doesn’t work. This billion dollar massive screw-up rated a small article on page A-15. My alleged change of a single numeral rated the front page and a five-day news cycle.

Making a show of “improved” security?

The Archives have been much criticized. Employees have stolen armloads of documents.  Early this year, the Archives just discovered that they had lost the original copy of the Wright Brothers patent application for a flying machine. True, they have millions of documents to guard, but….the Wright Brothers? The Archives have also lost the maps for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombing missions. They have also lost a sheaf of telegrams sent by Abraham Lincoln. They have also lost a collection of Andrew Johnson papers. They have also lost many of the original NASA moon mission photos. They have also lost Eli Whitney’s patent for a cotton gin. An Archives employee, Leslie Waffen,  stole two entire truckloads of audiovisual material. Someone stole a map of Cuba, annotated by John F. Kennedy. Eighty-one full boxes of national security material is missing from the Suitland facility. Huge quantities of Bureau of Indian Affairs documents were put out in the trash. (Washington Post February 23, 2011)

Beverly and I have done research at the J. P. Morgan library in Manhattan and at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Those places have real security. True, tight security causes Americans to whine and complain to their Congressman, who then berates the Archives. But the Archives staff get paid to stand up to such pressure. Did “getting” me insure a larger Congressional appropriation? (They very recently installed new and expensive security cameras.)

Not just lost — also stolen.

Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor, hid documents in his socks and walked out the door with them. Charles Mount, “art historian,” stole 400 documents.. Howard Harner, history buff, stole more than 100 Civil War documents. Denning McTague, age 40, took a job as an intern and used this access to steal 164 Civil War documents. Evelyn Lincoln, John F. Kennedy’s personal secretary, made off with a huge collection of JFK items, which she sold to a cleaning supply salesman. And these are just the thieves we know about!

Not the first screw-up by the Archives

In the late 1800s nearly a million Civil War veterans applied for pensions. These elaborate documents are a gold mine for family historians and medical epidemiologists. The index to these roughly 10 million sheets of paper was on 3 by 5 cards. About thirty years ago these cards were put onto 16 mm. film and the original cards were destroyed. The microfilm is of poor quality and the Navy cards are mostly unreadable. A precious source, degraded forever.

Denial – the first step to a new and possibly disastrous policy.

For several years, there has been much-denied rumor that Civil War holdings in Washington DC are to be moved to some place in Missouri. Will the millions of pages of pension records and 75,000 hand-written court-martial records be digitized so as to be accessible? Not likely. An absolute Mecca for historians and family historians is about to be moved a very inconvenient distance. Why? The second part of the rumor is that the Archives needs more room for Congressional records.

ArchivesWorld – fun for Mom, Dad, and the Kids

Research at the Archives has been actively discouraged. Hours of operation are shortened. More record and research areas are being converted to exhibits with “inter-active” features. “Here, Ralphie, push this button and see Eisenhower speak.” “Mommy, who is Eisenhower?” TV screens, light-up displays, flash bang, gee whiz exhibits designed for a generation with the attention span of a gnat. Download Daniel Webster on your iPod. In there a strange mixed message in my being “outed?” Our records are very valuable, but let’s have more theme park gadgets, fund raisers, and geegaws in the gift shop.

Noses out of joint?

Archivists lead a strange life. Surrounded by the most wonderful documents, they rarely have time to look at them. Their days are filled with requests for information, interspersed with soul-killing administrative meetings. The requests for help are a strange mix of rational and crack-pot. I was in a consultant’s room when an urgent call came in. “I have a publisher’s deadline this afternoon. Quick, I need the serial number of Charles Lindbergh’s pistol.” Another caller had had a dream that gold was buried in a highway culvert; he wanted know which culvert. Every archivist has experienced an angry family historian, come to research his ancestor, “a famous officer in the Civil War.” The records showed that the ancestor was a buck private, who had deserted.

Life is a trade-off. Beverly and I had the time (perhaps 15,000 hours) to read the records by taking the greatly reduced income of pensioners. Did some archivists feel a bitter jealousy? Certainly not the legendary Mike Musick, now retired, who took joy in helping seekers, and who was so patient with the mildly deranged who seem to drift into such facilities. But another, less benign archivist, was far less encouraging, in fact he loudly declared our research to be “bogus” and completely inaccurate. He also complained bitterly that we were making more work for him. The details of this man’s toxic interactions can be saved for some other venue, but many of them centered around  an effort by the senior senator from Illinois to protect the Lincoln records.

The archivist featured in the press release, Trevor Plante, certainly made a good impression on the female correspondent from the Washington Times, who gushed over him. “Mr. Plante, a totally competent, dedicated, and just plain nice young man…” In our ten years of daily visits to the Archives I am not aware of having offended Plante in any way, and when he found a major Lincoln document about a year ago I sent him a letter of congratulation. In my years of casual encounters with him he seemed grouchy, distant and in a constant bad mood. As to his vitriolic attacks upon me in the press, I like to think that he believed my “confession” was genuine. To think otherwise, would postulate a truly dark erosion of his soul.

The Greek Furies

In ancient Greek religion the Furies were agents of vengeance, terrifying with their hair of snakes and blood-dripping eyes.  The Washington Post of February 23 described a new Archives campaign of “more aggressive” investigation and prosecution. Paul Brachfeld, Inspector General of the Archives and former Secret Service agent is the leader in this new policy. Certainly recovering stolen items is a worthy cause, but arriving at a front door on a mission to badger an innocent man into a false confession, is stepping over the line from diligence into an abuse of police powers.

Which brings us to the Reid method.

Who is John E. Reid and what is his trademarked technique? It is a nine step program for eliciting confessions, especially from persons protesting their innocence. It has been widely criticized for eliciting false confessions. I learned of this technique weeks after my encounter with the two Archives. It described perfectly the sequence of maneuvers practiced upon me. I can verify that it works, because I am innocent and yet I “confessed.” (The technique is banned in Manitoba and Alberta because of a number of false confessions in suspects later cleared by DNA.) Here are nine steps as paraphrased from Wikipedia.

Step One. Lead the suspect to believe that the police has evidence against the suspect.

Step Two. Try to shift the blame to some other person who might have prompted the suspect to commit the crime. Develop themes that would justify or excuse the crime.

Step Three. Discourage the suspect from denying his guilt.

Step Four. Here, the suspect will often give a reason why  he could not have committed the crime. Use this to move toward a confession.

Step Five. The interrogator reiterates his sincereity.

Step Six. Here the suspect will become quieter. Suggest alternatives.

Step Seven. Suggest two alternative explanations, one more socially acceptable than the other. Which ever the suspect chooses, it becomes a confession.

Step Eight. Lead the suspect to repeat the admission of guilt, in front of witnesses.

Step Nine. Record the admission paper or audio-visual media.  

Are interrogators honest? One researcher followed Baltimore homicide detectives for a year and concluded that a police interrogator is “…a salesman, a huckster as thieving and silver-tongued as any man who ever moved used cars or aluminum siding, more so, in fact, when you consider that he’s selling long-term prison terms to customers who have no genuine need for the product.” (Conti, Richard. Journal of Credibility Assessment, 1999, Vol. 2, No. 1, page 26.)

A very specific lie

During the course of my interrogation Mr. Tremaglio asserted that only two other persons had ever checked out Murphy’s file and both were Archives employees. The National Archives own Inspector General’s audit found that, “Too many employees have access to the stacks.” There are many employees who could have tampered with  Murphy’s records over the years, without leaving a paper trail.

Honor and Shame

The Washington Post reporter who sat in our dining room asked me, “Why do you claim that you didn’t do it?” Without thinking, I replied, “Because I am a man of honor.”

Washington DC is a strange land, a foreign land. Only a rube, a bumpkin, a simpleton, an outsider, would use a word like “honor.” The jackal bloggers hooted in derision at “honor.” In the current viciousness of partisan politics honor is a foreign word and shame is an unknown emotion. Heartland values quickly dissolve in the acid rain of our nation’s capital. My family has long fought for the honor and integrity of this nation: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the first Gulf War. I was an Air Force officer, an Eagle Scout, and a Scoutmaster. My honor includes many things, including the absolute integrity of our research. (see http://www.ValidDatabase.com, now under construction.)

People who know our work……..

We received many messages from historians. Paraphrased, they wrote: ”This ia dreadful event and makes no sense. Such a thing seems utterly out of character. You are well-known for reverence for and protection of the records.” All very nice, very comforting but acclamation will not carry the day. I need something more concrete. Ecce. Mira. Regardez.

The damage escalates

On February 16, 2011 I was to be awarded the Barondess Lincoln Prize. The award has been withdrawn. On May 5, 2011 I was to address the MidAtlantic Regional Archives Conference. The invitation was withdrawn; “Your presence would have been disruptive.” A respected academic journal refused to publish an article I had co-authored unless my name was removed. A carefully earned reputation has been ruined, our credibility damaged forever by this dark stain, our dignity deeply wounded.

How to prove my innocence.

On February 4, 2011 I submitted myself to a polygraph test. The results showed that I told the truth when I asserted: (1) that I did not make the change from “1864” to “1865;” (2) that I did not evade investigators in 2010-2011; and (3) that my “confession” was coerced. For a PDF of the six-page report contact civilwarjustice@aol.com

We have retained a certified forensic document examiner. As of February 25, 2011, here are her preliminary findings. There is no discernible “4” under the “5” in “1865.” Bleaching of the “4” is unlikely, as such would swell and change the paper. This raises the question, was there ever a “4” in that location? Lincoln, like everyone in that era used a dip pen. The numerals 1, 8, and 6 become successively lighter. Then the 5 is very dark, possibly from dipping the pen again into the ink bottle.

This opinion is rendered moot by the Archive’s recent posting on its Facebook page. Using powerful magnification, bright light, transmitted light, ultra-violet illumination at three different frequencies, fiber optic raking light, and x-ray flourescence, the Archives concluded that a “4” had been gently scraped away and a “5” added in a different ink. The Archives reading room has relatively dim light, to protect the documents. The researcher has no access to the high tech tests just described, and it took fourteen years and special tests to “discover” that a change had been made.

My seat for ten years was a few feet from the elevated guard post. Three other people shared my table. The chances of my gently, slowly scraping off a “4” and using a “special pen” to add a “5” without being caught were zero. Such a change was done in private, and only Archives staff members have privacy with the records. 

The pot calls the kettle black

In a carefully crafted and skillfully orchestrated attack, based upon a false and coerced confession, the National Archives administration has positioned itself as the knight in shining armor. The reality is quite the opposite. Objectively the most demoralized Federal agency, stolen blind by its own employees, stolen even blinder by outside thieves, unable to keep even the Wright Brothers patent secure, and squandering nearly a billion dollors  in a botched digitalization attempt, it has used the full weight of the Federal colossus to jump with both feet upon an unpaid amateur researcher, after failing for fourteen years to properly examine the document in question, which was held in the sole custody of the Archives itself. 

The Archivist of the United States

David S. Ferriero saw real blood while serving as a Navy corpsman in Viet Nam. He has seen plenty of political blood as a top administrator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, and the New York Public Library. In his present post he supervises National Archives facilities across America and many of the presidential libraries. He is subject to pressures by Congress and the White House. We met once, for thirty seconds, at a funeral in July 2010. I doubt that he remembers me, so his excoriation of me in the Washington Post was most likely based on the counsel of self-serving hirelings, men willing to crush an innocent man to further their own careers.

The enforcer

The January 21, 2011 letter in which I was “permanently banned” from all Archives facilities, was signed by Richard Judson, Acting Assistant Archivist for Administration, with offices at 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. I have filed an appeal, addressed to him. 

 Contact us:

civilwarjustice@aol.com or j.accuse@yahoo.com

Our fifteen years of work is at:

http://www.TheIndexProject.com

 Additional information sites:

http://www.AccusersSmitten.com

http://www.ValidDatabase.com

Should justice be done?

Most readers of this blog will have no direct knowledge of my guilt or innocence, but if our relationships in the past, and/or the facts presented here, seem to warrant a review of this case, a note to Mr. Judson, cited above, or a note directly to me (email or USPS), might serve to set in motion a rethinking by the Archives. That facility was like home to us for a decade and I still feel a personal affection for all those boys in blue, whose memories we caused to live again.

Key Words:

National Archives, Lincoln, change, record, National Archives discovers date change on Lincoln record, Thomas Lowry confesses to Altering Lincoln Pardon to April 14, 1865, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero announced today that Thomas Lowry, a long-time Lincoln researcher from Woodbridge, VA, confessed on Jan. 12, 2011, to altering an Abraham Lincoln Presidential pardon that is part of the permanent records of the U.S. National Archives, pen, amateur historian.

 

About tomlowry

Civil War Author, accused of changing a Lincoln document.
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7 Responses to Serpent’s Tooth

  1. Alex Burns says:

    I have known Tom Lowry for about 5 years. My relationship to him is that I take care of his computers, but this isn’t about me.

    Tom is a very decent, friendly, older gentleman, with such a love of history that he was willing to spend much of his life over a 10 year period researching dusty old archives, so that he, and others like him, could better understand that most tragic of all wars, the Civil war that ranged brother against brother on the field of battle.

    While Tom has written several books, if money was his objective, he would have been better served by continuing to practice medicine. If fame were his objective, he could have signed up for one of those reality shows Beverly enjoys so much.

    Some immature person altered one letter in an archive, probably a prank, he or she may have chuckled at the fact that others, both amateur like Tom, and professional like the archivists, were taken in by it. For heaven’s sake, it could even have been one of the archivists themselves, who, when faced with possible discovery, pointed the finger at Tom.

    Was Tom singled out for fame and fortune for noting the (incorrect) date, no, but the document was put on display, as it had now assumed a greater importance because of the alteration. Here comes a second, and more plausible motive for railroading Tom Lowry, the archivists were embarrassed when the truth came out, and needed someone to hang. Tom was convenient because he had spent a lot of time in the archives, and an attractive target because he, as an enthusiastic amateur, had done something the archivists had been unable to do. He was also vulnerable, given his age, somewhat trusting nature, and preoccupation with his wife’s illness.

    I have no doubt that the weight of the mighty Federal government will prevail. It’s a shame, because a good, kind, thoughtful man’s reputation has been ruined. He deserves better. I’d like to see the agents responsible for railroading Tom fired, or at least reprimanded, but I doubt that will happen. For those of you who have known Tom for longer than I, or relied on the wonderful research he and Beverly have provided, please stand up for your friend and colleague, and prove me wrong.

    For those of you in the press, you ought to know better than to publish stuff the government puts out without questioning it. Are you simple tools of government propaganda? Show a little backbone and take a look at Tom’s side of the story a little more closely. Talk to his friends and colleagues, check the quality of his work, put some of the archivists, and the investigators under the microscope.

  2. patrick Ailliot says:

    When I ‘ve read this story of changing date , I can’t believe it ! Mr Tom Lowry made a false in History ? unbelievable ! So I see that i’m right , Mr Lowry is an honest man but the federal government ? sincerely with you !!! Patrick Ailliot chairman CWRT of France

  3. Pingback: Tom Lowry Vs. the National Archives: Where’s the Email? | TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog

    • tomlowry says:

      The Archives said that they e-mailed me for a year abot Patrick Murphy and I “evaded” them. I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of NARA e-mails sent to me in the past eleven months.
      I will be amazed if there are any (Unless the NSA hackers create some!)

  4. John Koster says:

    Dr. Thomas Lowry has been generous with his time and expert assistance to many professional and amateur historians. Some of them recently6 turned on him like a pack of rabid jackals, while others found the charges against him ibncredible. I go with “incredible.” Dr. Lowry evaluated the similarity of two handwritten signatures for my most recent book, CUSTER SURVIVOR, based on factors such as angle of slant and arachnographia, and his verdict — the signatures were probably written by the same person — was independently confirmed by a police chief with pre-med training and FBI training in handwriting analysis, and by a police detective who is now the mayor of Ridgewoood, New Jersey, and renowned for his honesty and common sense.
    One notes that Dr. Lowry lives in the same state where the Norfolk Four, terrified young sailors, were coerced into confessing a rape and murder that DNA and polygraph tests proved that they could not have committed. The police detective who framed them just received a sentence of 12.5 years in prison for two counts of extortion and one count of lying to the FBI in unrelated cases. Let’s suggest that the people who coerced a confession out of Dr. Lowry — who also recently sustained his honest good name with a polygraph test — also be questioned by the FBI. I think he was framed.

    John Koster

  5. John B. Grimes says:

    I just learned of this when, after several years not having seen Tom, I wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed one of the book he had written and had given to me. When I was working for Tom for a short period of time, I found him and his wife Beverly to be uncommonly fine people. Bright, Intelligent, enthusiastic and from every other aspect honest and very respectable folks whose whole time was taken up with working on their many projects at the Archives. It is absolutely incredible that the wholly despicable acts of false accusation laid on the Lowrys has be fostered by management at the Archives. It is not surprising that the media piled on since I see so much of one sided reporting from the media on all sorts of issues. The media is most often not interested in telling a balance story, but to manufacture the one side of the story that is the most sensational. I am horrified that this has happened to such a fine and genuine couple. A pox on the incompetent management at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). .

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