Lincoln Document in National Archives Altered; Wal-Mart Cancels Store Near Wilderness Battlefield: Civil War in the News January 2011

Two items related to the Civil War were in the news in late January 2011. Here’s a brief summary of these events

The National Archives in Washington D.C. announced January 24th that historian Thomas P. Lowry admitted to altering a document signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The document was a pardon issued to a Union Army soldier who was to be executed for desertion. The pardon was dated April 14th, 1864. According to the National Archives, Lowry changed the date on the document to April 14th,1865, the day Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. In 1998, Lowry announced he had “found” documentation of what was perhaps Lincoln’s last official act as President before his death.

Lowry’s “discovery” of the document received national media attention, and he wrote about the pardon in a 1999 book about military justice in the Civil War. Eventually, archivist Trevor Plante became suspicious that the “5” in 1865 had been written in darker ink over the “4”.  After an investigation concluded that Lowry had altered the document, Lowry confessed to Federal agents on January 12th that he had brought a fountain pen into the research room against regulations and wrote a “5” over the “4”.

For his part, Thomas Lowry admits to signing a confession, but insists he was coerced to do so.  He denied any wrongdoing. The National Archives has banned Lowry from its facilities for life.

In Virginia, Wal-Mart made a surprise announcement January 26th that it was abandoning plans for a Supercenter near the Wilderness battlefield in Orange County. The Orange County Board of Supervisors had approved Wal-Mart’s plans, but that approval was being challenged in court.  In a victory for preservationists, Wal-Mart decided not to build on the 51 acre site, and would maintain the acreage as green space, thereby preventing anyone else from developing it. Wal-Mart said it was looking for another location in Orange County to build the Supercenter.

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