Guest Post: Stephen Sears' second postscript on the McClellan telegram

Stephen Sears  offers this Postscript II on the McClellan telegram and the Lost Order:

In a phone conversation with Gene Thorpe some time since, he and I agreed that the only certain way to settle the question of the sending time of McClellan’s telegram to Lincoln on Sept. 13 was to have McClellan’s original sending copy. Did he time-mark it 12 M (noon) or 12 Midnight? For my Papers of McClellan book (1989) I searched for this elusive sending copy, and I know Mr. Thorpe has too. No luck so far.

The whole matter therefore comes down to what happened starting at 2:35 a.m. on Sept. 14 at the War Dept. telegraph office in Washington. In the absence of McClellan’s sending copy, the primary copy of the Lincoln telegram is the operator’s received copy. I maintain he did his job capably. That is, he correctly copied McClellan’s 12 M time mark on the file and carbon copies and on the copy for Lincoln. Someone added “idnight” to Lincoln’s copy. As explained earlier, by the logic of the case I believe it was the president himself. I further believe, knowing George McClellan as I do and knowing the situation on Sept. 13, he would never have sent his exuberant Lincoln telegram at midnight, an hour after his dark and gloomy 11 p.m. telegram to Halleck.

Mr. D’Aoust claims the War Dept. operator did not do his job—for some inexplicable reason (and not for the first time) he changed McClellan’s 12 Midnight time-mark to 12 M on the file and carbon copy and the Lincoln copy. Then an unidentified someone added “idnight” to the Lincoln copy, but not to the file and carbon copies. Then between 11 and 12 o’clock that night, a very worried McClellan abruptly became exuberant and composed the Lincoln telegram.

None of this—the dolt operator, a hyper General McClellan—makes sense to me. Despite being accused as a fabricator of facts, I think the facts supporting a noon telegram are correct and relevant.  And that’s really all I have to say on the subject. If there is a jury out there, I’d like to hear their verdict.

-- Stephen Sears