SATURDAY In lieu of the McClellan poetry feature normally posted on Saturdays, I thought I'd wrap up some thinking on Sears and the Lost Dispatch.
On Friday, I criticized Sears' argument that Lee did not know McClellan found the Lost Dispatch, Special Orders 191, based on my reading of Sears' Landscape Turned Red and Controversies and Commanders (he does not raise the subject in his McClellan biography.). I felt that no conclusion could be reached on this matter, that the meagre evidence was contradictory - that to reach a gratuitous conclusion and then build it into your narrative was a "fallacy of abundance."
After I made the point , a friend emailed "The Twisted Tale of the Lost Order" by Sears from North & South, Vol. 5, No. 7 (Oct., 2002), pages 54-65.
In Friday's postscript I misleadingly said that Sears had shifted his position in this article: actually, he has not. What he has done is present much more evidence on both sides of the question and try to deal with all the additional data presented so as to be able reach the same conclusion as previously.
This article puts him in the position of arguing away three explicit postwar statements by Lee that Stuart brought word that McClellan found the Lost Order. Overall, with the new information, his denial is somewhat less extravagant than before, but it is still superfluous and checkmated by contradictory sources.
I took some hours to outline the evidence referred to in Sears' three pieces, but it created an unbloglike list of dubious worth in amplifying this matter. Let me take the shortest section of my list, which is an outline of Sears' evidence and arguments listed in his essay in Controversies and Commanders. This is exhaustive in representing the views as set forth in that book:
(1) Sears says Lee received a (one?) report from Stuart that a civilian saw McClellan receive a paper, get excited, and say "Now I know what to do!" This was followed by HQ bustling. [Note: Harsh has identified two reports as received by Lee. There is no physical record remaining of these communiques.]
(2) Sears says Lee long after the fact mistakenly injected SO 191 into news of the civilian's report. He was a victim of hindsight and a bad memory. [This is Sears' surmise.]
(3) The spy himself, Sears says, could not have known McClellan received SO 191 because no Union soldier would tell such information to a civilian, particularly one from Maryland.
(4) Union discretion "evaporated" the next day, says Sears, when Union staff talked to the New York Herald, which then published news of the find in the morning edition of 9/15/62. [Sears allows for newspaper leaks but adamantly disallows the spy getting what the reporter got.]
(5) Lee did not see the news reports because he had "outrun" his Southen sources for Northern newspapers, Sears says. [Sears has not cited this surmise.]
(6) Lee's ADC, Marshall, says that Lee learned of the find from McClellan's report in March, '63. [We do not know which report Sears is referring to.]
This is the whole kit and kaboodle in an essay entitled "Last Words on the Lost Order" and I think it suffers from being published in hardback, where the publisher's editors have no ACW knowlege to ride down Sears' excesses and simplifications, nor to force him to confront all the data surrounding a controversy. To a trade publisher, Sears is the expert. The North & South article clearly benefits from placing Sears under knowledgeable supervision, and is therefore two or three times denser and richer that it would be had Sears been left to himself. (See his books on this topic if you disagree.)
So, Sears more reasonably argues his points from more sources. The question remains intractable, however. A little less so than in 1999, but to derive an opinion from this, convert that conclusion to "fact," and then to make that "fact" critical to your interpretation of events is still a fallacy.