Authenticity and letters - a comment

We are all indebted to Stephen Sears for his summary description here of the origin of "McClellan's letters to his wife." His pointing out the location of May McClellan's notes was useful to me - I had missed those going through the microfilm in the past. I had also missed the inscription "Extracts" on McClellan's book of notes.

Let me draw your attention to something at the end of his communication:
In sum, then, I believe everything points to the accuracy and authenticity of both McClellan’s and May’s extracts; and I have done everything possible to insure the accuracy of my transcriptions of the letters. They had no reason or motive or agenda to do otherwise. Nor, I stress, did I.
My point, to mount that hobbyhorse again, is that these documents are not letters. I previously proposed a universal author disclaimer in handling these materials:
As the author of this work, I use the expression ‘McClellan’s letters to his wife’ as a convenience to the reader and myself fully aware that these writings cannot be validated as actual wartime correspondence.
In his handling of these notes, particularly in his volume of McClellan's correspondence, Sears explains to readers what the documents are - he doesn't need this disclaimer (above) because he has provided much more information than is in the disclaimer. After he explains their origin, he should be absolutely free to call them letters or telegrams or emails or whatever - the reader has been informed, his duty is done.

It is other authors who rely upon Sears' work without explaining the documents who have not done their duty - they offend. Those who toss around the term "letters" without explanation have been irritating me to the point of writing these posts. Let's recap where we are with these documents.

* We have two sets of notes.
* We have two editors of said notes (Prime and Sears).
* We have blended the two sets of notes with reference to each other but without reference to original letters.

Stephen Sears came to a point in handling these materials where he believed they were authentic letter extracts - there comes a point where one has earned that opinion. Moreover, he did not hide what they really are from the rest of us.

But Sears' readers and modern writers who use the term "letters" are not entitled to use that term without explanation. If they want to supply less information than he supplied, let them use my disclaimer.

I regret any imputation of an agenda to Mr. Sears - but I'm not sure we can absolve the note takers (May and GBM).

It was very good of him to weigh in this corner of the ACW forum, and I appreciate it.