We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France

When everything else fails, make something up
25 January 2011, 18:45
Filed under: Bizory monument | Tags: ,

When you’re talking to a used car salesman and he doesn’t know the answer to one of your questions, you can be sure he’ll make something up. Better for him to confuse you and defuse your worries, or generate some fear, uncertainty and doubt than for him to deal with you honestly. After all, he just wants your money.

Now, one hopes that when studying history, a higher standard will be exhibited by historians. Thomas P. Lowry committed fraud by altering a pardon authored by Abraham Lincoln so that it would read as having been signed on April 14, 1865 – the date of Lincoln’s assassination – instead of April 14, 1864. Lowry took a fountain pen with him into the National Archives and literally re-wrote history by changing 1864 to 1865. For his discovery, the amateur historian was popularly hailed, invited to speak at conferences and able to publish his work freely.

I follow a few Civil War blogs and, while I’d read about it the Washington Post this morning, there is nothing quite like the collective ire of the community. David Woodbury’s of Battlefields and Bibliophiles quotes some of Lowry comments about the pardoned soldier, Patrick Murphy, in ways that likely will apply to people’s opinions of Lowry himself. Eric Wittenburg notes that this is stain on the historical community. Brooks Simpson offers some thoughts on how this could have gone unnoticed.

To me, this falls in the same category as Mark Patterson’s vandalism of the Bizory monument or the hideous monuments to Longstreet in Gettysburg and to Peace in Normandy, only…. it’s far worse. He was literally altering the historical record and in pursuit of that one goal of all too many revisionists, fame. Historians seek truth. Lowry just wanted respect he hadn’t yet earned.

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