Stephen Sears responds

Stephen Sears writes:
Dear Dimitri,
I would like, if I may, to clarify certain matters in your posting of today.
First, the McPherson matter. You have missed the essential point that McPherson published quotes from the McClellan letterbook (to be further defined below) in the LoC one year before the publication of my McClellan correspondence book. His Battle Cry of Freedom was published in 1988; my correspondence book in 1989. No such plagiarism of me that you claim was possible.
Dear Stephen, you do not understand my claim. In Battle Cry, McPherson identified notes taken from the LoC book by the date (if any) shown in the LoC book; and if there was no date, he used the letter without specific citation. I am not saying McPherson used your book for Battle Cry - he used it for his 2009 article. In his 2009 essay, he may have gone back to his Battle Cry notes but where a note had no date, he referred to your book to supply one, which he then used without attribution. The question of whether McP actually used the LoC for GBM "letters" in Battle Cry is a fascinating one, which I will return to in another post. For now, let's agree to credit Battle Cry with original LoC research.

No doubt he did his own research in the McClellan Papers LoC (just as I did). He applied his own informed judgment as to supplying dates, etc. (just as I did).
He supplied (in Battle Cry) the year but no more. I am not seeing dates in Battle Cry reconstructed by McPherson, just years added on to incomplete dates. More on this below. If your point, however, is that later, in 2008-9, McPherson arrived independently at the two dates you happened to supply through your own efforts in a book he mentioned (yours) but does not cite, I cannot give him the pass you seek. Remember: he is citing a source without dates in a way that sends researchers to the source looking for a date to verify. This is false citation. And the dates are yours.
No doubt he found the McClellan letterbook, with the guidance of the LoC's finding aid and/or microfilm content listing, as easily as I did. The letterbook has been well known to Civil War students since at least 1934, when Meyers quoted from it.
Of course Stephen. I have quoted from it often over the years. It was referred to much earlier than 1934 in McClellan's Own Story. Prime discovered it and characterized it. But here's the problem every reader of this post must understand. Your position is and has been that the extracts must be supplemented with May McClellan's notes to complete them. You combined LoC sources, then you added dates and contextual information per your research and judgement. This resulted in a book of "letters" that writers can cite by date. McPherson in 2008-9, citing a book of extracts, many of the entries without headings and in a different order than your final product, does not lead readers to the source of his citation.
And if the book of extracts What I term, for convenience, the McClellan letterbook is a bound standard letterbook of 224 pages, entirely in McClellan's handwriting.
I object to this term of convenience. A letterbook is a book used to capture copies of outgoing correspondence. A notebook is what would be used to take notes (extracts) from letters. Further, IIRC, this book is smaller than letter paper size.
On page one, in the general's hand: "Extracts from letters written to my wife during the War of the Rebellion, [signed] Geo B. McClellan." Thus General McClellan makes personal affidavit that 1) what follows are his copies in his handwriting of extracts of letters; 2)the letters are to his wife; 3) they were written during his wartime service.
This cannot be an affadavit unless we know that it was signed after the book was full and unless there are witnesses or corroboration of some sort. It is quite inadequate - a start without a finish.

GBM's inscription may just as likely have been made when the book was empty - at the time of inscription, it may have signalled his intention to include in it only letters to his wife. Since there is no addressee shown in the notes, he may have included extracts to persons not his wife, not caring about the title page inscription, himself knowing which entries were which. By the same token, he may have added material to the letters, and/or interposed memories as notes to enrich existing letters, interposed extracts of letters to whomever in his dated entries, or composed entire notes from memory based on recollections being jogged by whatever he was consulting. McClellan witheld this book from Prime and the project of his memoirs. The book was discovered and then enriched through the peculiar tactic of veiled note passing between May and Prime. Prime and May devised an obscure methodology that involved Prime prompting May for this or that and May delivering whatever without Prime ever seeing a letter, without Mrs. McClellan, the owner of the alleged letters, ever involving herself.
These are not notes; we have McClellan's word on that.
Extracts are notes. Unheaded, undated extracts are especially good candidates for the label "notes." Uncorroborated text in a discovered notebook are what I confidently call "notes."
Reading the letters demonstrates that they are extracts, not notes.
Extracts are notes. Besides which, again, McClellan was free to make whatever entries he liked from whatever source he was using with whatever fidelity suited his obscure purposes. And I am struck by certain un-letterlike entries which I will bring to the attention of this group, particularly crossouts, in future posts.
McClellan was working from the original letters, with the intent (I believe) to aid him in his memoir-writing.
I salute this conjecture without subscribing to it. We don't know what he was doing or why.
They form a virtual wartime diary, containing what is clearly the meat of each letter; reading them makes that clear.
Reading cannot make clear what has been omitted, or changed, or enhanced. Furthermore, the virtual wartime diary aspect depends on your (Stephen Sears') own datings and your own rearranging of the actual order of entries as they appear in the book. In other words, applying your judgements, you have changed the sequence of material based on dates you have assigned. This is not a problem but it is another major distinction between the LoC holdings and your book that writers (like McPherson) need to keep in mind if they are going to cut you out of their citations in favor of the LoC.
He deleted personal matter; the ellipses in my transcriptions are McClellan's.
You are characterizing deletions as "personal" that you cannot see or check on. Since May supplied military (non-personal) material not in the original notes, it is absurd to say "he deleted personal matter" as if that were all that was deleted.

Furthermore the sheer number of ellipses encountered by the reader are disturbing. I will put up a separate post with a notebook entry showing its elipses and we will insert placeholder of made-up personal information to see exactly how absurdly the "personal matter" explanation holds up.
May McClellan's copies, made c. 1886, are also from the original letters;
Again we have a provenance issue. From the original letters? Says Prime, sight unseen. Did she also sign an "affadavit"? No, we have hearsay from Prime and an approximate date.
her overlaps with her father's extracts indicate she was not consulting the letterbook.
Disagree. May was responding to Prime. Prime was interacting with May on the basis of the notebook. We don't know how Prime prompted May, nor do we have insight into their interactions. This statement is conjecture based on "indicates." Better to say what we know: the overlaps indicate a methodology we do not understand concerning letters Prime was not allowed to see.
There are no cross-outs or other emendations in the letterbook or in May's copies (where did that notion come from?).
It came from viewing the notes on microfilm. I will fetch some examples.
Examining the overlaps demonstrates that both were careful transcribers.
Not true: the overlaps are unknowns. My feeling, no better than yours, is that they could represent the written "prompts" Prime delivered to May that May included in the returned document to anchor her add-on material. Remember, Prime is asking May for material keyed to this or that notebook entry and the notebook is filled with entries lacking dates, times, places. The way Prime might talk about an entry with someone is to cite it like poetry, giving the first line of the note or those lines introducing material wanting further development.

Again, you have characterized GBM's lacunae in the notebook as pointing to personal information being omitted, and yet here is Prime extracting from May military additions to the "letters." As military memoirs, if we want to treat them that way, the contents of the LoC notebook are proven incomplete by the actions of Prime and May. Supplemental military material from May might still be incomplete. Or fabricated. Or sourced to a non-letters source. We have no way of knowing.
After May's copying, the original letters disappear from the record.
They were never in the record. The existence of original letters is hearsay. Mac's cryptic, secret notes are supplemented by material of unknown provenance from May under the direction of Prime using unknown methods.
You find five layers of distance between the now-lost originals and my correspondence book. I view the case differently. First, McClellan's extracts and May's are a single layer; both copied from the original letters; both were equally careful; neither had any motive to be less than honest in what they were doing.
They cannot be a single layer until put together by an editor; the sources are unknown; the degree of care is unknown; motives are unknown.
Most important, the candor of McClellan's extracts makes it obvious he had no intention of these letters being published, and no reason to pull his punches. History, at least, is very fortunate General McClellan did what he did.
The candor of his extracts, as you call them, present all sorts of problems that can be magically resolved by labelling them "candor" and assigning that "candor" to the original, unknown, unseen source. McClellan's intentions are baffling and any history worth an H would tread lightly among these notes.
Delete Prime from any credit in this.
That is impossible. Prime explains his role in McClellan's Own Story. It is the role of scholarship today to take the notebook, plus Prime's version of what he calls the letters, plus May's notes, and add in your own (Searsian) final version of each in order to compare them in a transparent manner that shows the judgement producing each item. You have combined the material in Wartime Correspondence and you have told us by footnote which elements were combined but the method not clear enough. A new reference is needed that gives us something like this:

To Mary Ellen McClellan [salutation added by Sears]

October 31, 1862 [only "October" in the original]

The troops went out trick or treating tonight and oh what costumes. [Source: LoC notebook]. How I wish I had a costume and could join them! [Source: May McC notes, LoC]. I would dress up as Stanton and scare someone to death. [Source: LoC notebook, deleted by Prime, restored by Sears] How I despise that man. [Source: LoC notebook, crossed out, omitted by Sears and Prime, replaced in GBM's hand by the following] How much travail that rogue has inflicted ... [Lacuna in LoC notebook, completed in May Mc's LoC notes with the following] Ah, but we must shoulder the burdens God has laid on us.
And so on.
He [Prime] was a hack, and the crimes he committed on McClellan's Own Story are reprehensible. He played no role in my work.
It is impossible that he played no role in your work. That is like saying McClellan's Own Story played no role, that May McClellan's notes, elicited by Prime and used by you played no role. The "letterbook" was not discovered by researchers in the LoC, it was discovered and used by Prime. Your work represents - as a minimum - what you perceive as a correction to Prime.
Finally, my bracketed work on dates or place of writing are no more than any responsible editor of any correspondence book would and should do.
Absolutely! And the editor who adds them must be identified as the owner and cited by users.
I maintain, then, that my transcriptions of General McClellan's letters to his wife are but one step from the lost originals, and since the letter writer himself (and his daughter) did the selecting and copying of the extracts, and neither had any motive whatever to be less than honest in what they were doing, that is a very, very small step indeed.
You ask so much of us. I am sorry to refuse agreement.

With regards,
Until next time,