Who Wrote The Lost Order? Not Lees Staff
With the assistant adjutant general, Robert H. Chilton, eliminated as the probable writer of the Lost Order, the investigation of who did write it logical shifts first to the members of General Lee’s headquarters staff. The staff members at the time of the Sharpsburg Campaign are as
The first of these, A.L. Long, was at the time of the Sharpsburg Campaign, Lee’s military secretary. The following example of his writing demostrates clearly that Long was not the writer of the Lost Order:
On September 9, 1862, two letters were sent by Lee to President Davis. The second one—neither is timed by the hour—acknowledges the receipt of a letter from Davis stating that he was enroute to Maryland, by way of Gordonsville and Culpeper. Lee’s second letter tells Davis not to come, and states that he is sending Walter Taylor to reach him before he crosses the Potomac. At or near the time Lee’s letter was prepared, Lee caused A.P. Mason to write out the original, first creation, of Special Order 191. Under Confederate Regulations, a “special” order is one that deals with a single issue, such as the detachment of an officer for some reason. Such an order is not distributed to any one other than the officer involved and his immediate superior, in this case, Lee himself. Lee’s order was, in fact, executed. Taylor left the army some unknown time on the 9th and returned to Virginia. Failing to encounter Davis—he had already turned back to Richmond—Taylor passed through Culpeper and went to Winchester, returning to the army on the 18th, the day after the battle at the Antietam.
An examination of Taylor’s handwriting plainly eliminates him as the writer of the Lost Order
5, In terms of longivity Charles Marshall was the next most senior member of Lee’s personal staff. Marshall grew up in Warrenton, Virginia, and may have been a distant relative of Chief Justice John Marshall. After the war he settled in Baltimore, became a lawyer and raised five sons, two of which became well known New York lawyers. Marshall was the only member of Lee’s staff who was with him at Appomatox Courthouse. He may be the writer of the document labeled “Special Order 190” which A.P. Mason copied into Chilton’s letterbook to make Special Order 191 into a ten paragraph document. Special Order 190, except for paragraph six and the reference to D.H. Hill, is an exact duplicate of the text of the Lost Order. Marshall’s handwriting shown below is plainly not a match for that of the Lost Order.
Comparing the examples of Marshall’s handwriting with the Lost Order demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that he did not write the Lost Order..
In 1876, the silence of Lee’s staff changed when Walter Taylor, the first of the staff members to publish memoirs, stated in a footnote that Charles Venable “always said” the Lost Order must have been lost by a courier on his way to deliver it to D.H. Hill. Although he lived into the 20th Century, at no time did Charles Venable adopt Taylor’s statement as his own. Venable was for many
years a professor of mathematics at the University of Virginia and had many opportunities to answer questions concerning his involvement in the creating of any copies of Special Order 191, but he never disclosed to anyone, as far as the historical record is concerned, that he actually knew anything about the order’s creation, much less its
If anyone who was on Lee’s staff, can be designated the prime suspect in the case of the Lost Order, it must be Charles Venable; since he is the only one who, by the hearsay statement of Taylor, was supposed to know something about it.
In examining Venable’s handwriting, for comparison with the Lost Order, the opinion of a so-called “handwriting expert” is useless. As a federal court has explained, there is a lack of empirical evidence that such an “expert” is any more proficient than a lay person to correctly match handwriting samples. Scientific studies have shown that such an expert is no more likely to match samples properly than lay persons; in other words there is no statistical edge shown by the expert in matching samples as compared to lay persons matching the same samples. The process of matching samples of handwriting constitutes no more than a subjective observation of a particular writer’s style and comparing that style to the suspect sample. (See, United States v. Saekee, 62 F.Supp.2nd 1097 (U.S. Dist. Lexis 15125 (2001)
The Lost Order Front and Back
It is left to the viewer to decide, whether Venable’s writing is a probable match for the Lost Order. Comparing names, though, like “Hagerstown” and Frederick” which appear in both examples, it appears unlikely that Venable wrote the Lost Order. The flow of the writing is distinctly different and the formation of the town names appear substantially different in style.
In the comparison of the many handwriting samples so far, so of which are orders, the Lost Order’s appearance stands out as decidedly different from the others; its as if it were a first draft
Who wrote the Lost Order Venable or Stuart?
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