A comparison of Venable’s authenicated handwriting (His
letter to McLaws) with the Lost Order reveals distinct differences in style of
writing and letter formation. The most obvious difference is the way Venable’s
writing appears elongated, spread out, while the writing of the Lost Order
appears compacted. However, the issue is for the viewer to decide.
Assuming that at least a two thirds majority of viewers
agree that Venable’s handwriting is not a probable match for that of the Lost
Order, the analysis must turn to the issue of whether JEB Stuart, or General
Lee, is the writer of the Lost Order.
From Stuart’s 1864 field note to Lee (“cross at
From the Lost Order:
From Stuart’s 1864 field notes:
The comparison seems to rule Stuart out as the writer of the
Lost Order, but the call is with the viewer.
With Stuart eliminated from the case, General Lee’s
handwriting becomes the focus of the analysis. On or about
September 1, 1862
, just after the
Second Battle of Bull Run, General Lee in some way injured his hands. That an
injury of some kind occurred at that time and that, as a consequence, he could
not write with his hands is the position he took with his daughter, when, on
September 13th from
he had someone answer her letter with “can’t write with his hands.” In October
1862 he wrote his wife, telling her his hand injury (undefined) was now gone.
Several versions of his accident are given by writers,
including Walter Taylor and A.L. Long. In substance, the story is that, pn
September 1, 1862
Lee was standing on the ground next to his horse, Traveller, holding the reins
in one of his hands. Traveller became suddenly startled, and jerked his head,
perhaps sidling or lunging in some matter away. Lee gained control, but in the
process apparently fell to the ground, front forward, and landed on his hands.
The nature and extent of his injuries are far from clear in the historical
record. He probably sustained at least a sprain to one hand, perhaps to both
hands, and may have suffered a fractured finger; which hand and which finger is
unknown. By September 9th, any swelling in the hand or wrist would
have subsided significantly.
Obviously, in the trial of the case, the issue of whether
Lee’s injury incapacitated him from writing with a pencil may be proven by
demonstrating that, in fact, Lee wrote the Lost Order.
The word “conspiracy” does not reasonably apply to the
process whereby Lee and Jackson engaged in planning battles. If Lee designed
the Lost Order as a ruse of war, he would naturally want to restrict knowledge
of that fact to his closest and most trusted confidant, Stonewall Jackson. In
the event the resulting battle went badly for the rebel side, General Lee’s
army severely beaten and driven back by McClellan, perhaps destroyed, Lee would
certainly not want it known by anyone not absolutely necessary to the ruse’s
execution, that he had designed the ploy as the means to gain an extra day or
two for Stonewall to capture Harper’s Ferry. Therefore, in the absence of evidence showing someone among his staff
wrote the Lost Order, it is not
unreasonable to expect that Lee wrote it himself, perhaps as the first draft.
copied from the
draft, and Lee dictated its text to someone, perhaps Charles Marshall, who
wrote a different phrase than dictated into paragraph six which A.P. Mason then
copied into Chilton’s letterbook.
If Lee wrote the Lost Order, those in his confidence would
have been limited to Jackson and the civilian who planted it, probably
’s friend, Rev.
Dr. John Ross.