President Abraham Lincoln and Tad LincolnPresident Abraham Lincoln and Tad Lincoln by The U.S. National Archives, on Flickr

(See, son? This is where some jerk will forge a 5 and make his fortune)

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (thus passes the glory of the world). It is an odd time we live in, one where the goal of being famous for being famous plays out in tens of reality TV shows. Going on the Bachelor or Bachelorette is not about finding true love so much as staring or giving a boost to your acting or singing career. It has gotten to the point where people will even perpetrate hoaxes like the “Balloon Boy” in an effort to get attention for their reality show ideas.

But there are still folks who will just go for the good old straight up fraud to get their 15 minutes of fame and, hopefully, parlay that into something more. Take the case of amateur Civil War historian Thomas P. Lowery. He wants to be a credible historian and writer. Along with his wife he scoured the National Archives for little known artifacts of Civil War justice.

Lo and behold, they found a really interesting tidbit. A pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln, with a date of April 14th, 1865. It caused a bit of a shock as this would have to be one of the very last acts of President Lincoln before he was killed at Fords Theater by John Wilkes Booth during a performance of “Our American Cousins”.

All that would be great if it were not for the fact that the document is a forgery. Not that the solider in question was not pardoned for desertion, he was. It is that he was pardoned by that very document one whole year before.

It is alleged (and Lowery signed a confession which he has since recanted) that Lowery used a fountain pen to write over the 4 in the 1864 date, some time in 1998. He then announced to the world and the National Archives that they had missed document that had major historic importance.

It is kind of sad that the Archives was duped like this, but who in the world would think that anyone would actually mark up a document stored at the archives and signed by the 16th President of the United States. Still that call to glory apparently was too much.

The National Archives has taken the document off of display. They intend to keep it in a storage facility, since all the notice would make too many people want to handle it. After earning the defacer of documents Lowery notoriety the document has earned some for itself. The archives also does not intend to try to remove the added 5 since that would just damage the document further. If you just have to see the altered document, you can find a picture of it at this link to the Washington Post.

All I can hope is that Mr. Lowery is forbidden from handling national historic documents every again and there are no Jersey Shore wanna be’s that decide to a take pen to another historic treasures. Even ones just resting in a box at the National Archives.

What’s on your mind tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.

Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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