Who Wrote The Lost Order?  Not Chilton



The tale of the Lost Order has been most often told by the prolific Civil War writer, Stephen W. Sears. Sears presents the Lost Order as the reason General Lee failed to defeat the Union Army at the Battle of Antietam. The essence of Sears’s story is that General Lee intended to drift into the Cumberland Valley where there was room to maneuver and give the enemy battle. If Lee could have kept McClellan ignorant of his position and plans for a day or two longer, Sears writes, he might have crushed McClellan’s army. But McClellan’s receipt of the Lost Order wrecked Lee’s grand plan by forcing him into battle before he was ready. (See, Sears’s The Lost Order, published by North and South Magazine, Vol. 5, Num. 7 (Oct. 2002).)

Sears accounts for the order’s loss by identifying R.H. Chilton—the assistant adjutant general attached to Lee’s army—as the person who wrote and signed the copy of Special Order 191 addressed to D.H. Hill, then failed to diligently ensure that it reached Hill’s hands. Identifying Chilton as the writer of the Lost Order gives credibility to the story that the order was lost by accident, rather than by General Lee’s design. But Sears is simply wrong that Chilton wrote and signed the Lost Order. Although  the objective evidence indisputedly shows that Chilton did not write or sign the Lost Order, establishing by clear and convincing evidence who did write it, provides the definitive answer to the question of whether its loss was an accident as Sears claims, or was planted in McClellan’s hands by General Lee’s design



Compare Chilton’s Authenticated handwriting to The Lost Order
This business letter was written by Chilton while he was employed after the war with the Columbus Manufacturing Co
Chiltons authenticated handwritting

The Lost Order Sears States Chilton Wrote:

Lost Order Sears claims Chilton wrote

Compare These Two Documents above in Chilton’s Authenticated Hand With The Lost Order:
Lost Order

Chilton Wrote Lee’s Letter to Davis, Dated September 20, 1862:

Compare The Signature Shown on The Lost order To Chilton’s Signature Shown Above:
Chiltons lost order signature

Chilton’s Authenticated Signature:
Chiltons authenticated signature

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.




Collected by Joseph Ryan

Who wrote the Lost Order?

Supporting Exhibits

Sharpsburg Campaign: Photo Album

Lee's Ruse of War: Special Order 191

Joe Ryan

Joe Ryan Original Works

@ AmericanCivilWar.com

About the author:
Joe Ryan is a Los Angeles trial lawyer who has traveled the route of the Army of Northern Virginia, from Richmond to Gettysburg several times.

American Civil War Exhibits