Civil War Mystery or Civil War Hoax?
August 2, 2009 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone help me solve a Civil War mystery?

I'm reading a screenplay set during the American Civil War and the author's notes give the following as reference material:

"...then on the Eleventh day of November 1864, and Emissary who had made many ventures into the South as both Courier and Spy, was instructed by the President of the Union to personally make himself known to the President of the Confederacy and to offer a proposition of Amnesty to the South to hasten the Cessation of Warfare between the States. The mission was only partially completed due to interference by an irresponsible gang of cut-throats whose sympathies were with the South, and the subsequent assassination of the Emissary by 'person or persons unknown'.

Arthur March, a Northerner (b. Cleve, Indiana, 1829) and formerly a Special Investigator for the State of Ohio, was held for questioning in St. Louis, Missouri, and released. No other arrests were made.

Arthur March, 35, dapper, prematurely gray..."

Kelsop R. Addaps, The War's Bequest, Vol II, Chapter 7

I've searched for Kelsop Addaps and found nothing, except this, which is a French translation of the document I'm working from. No mention of either the book title or author in the Library of Congress or any rare book sites I could find. I checked for Kelso and Addams as well, thinking the name might be a typo. Searches for Arthur March turn up a guide to Federal Bankruptcy from 1876 and some modern physics writings....

I've done Mormon Genealogy searches (they have the best records) as well as 1860 US census records and come up empty.
Arthur March:
born in 1819 in Essex, UK
born in 1849 in Holcomb, UK
born in 1847 in Pottstown, PA

Kelsop Addaps:
No results, nobody with that last name shows up ever.

Searching for "Person or Persons Unknown" in all of 1864 newspapers throughout the US got me one article about someone putting rocks on train tracks in Janesville, Wisconsin and one article from Pennsylvania about something else unrelated.

I don't want to write this off as a hoax without exhausting every possible avenue, but at this point my Google-Fu is completely worn out. Can anyone else shed some light on this?
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Adams with one d?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:02 PM on August 2, 2009

Best answer: Considering Lincoln won reelection on November 8, 1864, it seems odd he would initiate something like this three days later. Combined with the results of your search, I'd say hoax. For all questions Lincoln I'd email this guy. He's forgotten more about Lincoln than probably everybody reading this question ever knew. I just looked at his book Lincoln's Last Months which covers this time period and has a whole chapter on peace negotiations. No mention of anything even close to this scenario.
posted by marxchivist at 1:04 PM on August 2, 2009

Best answer: I'd think such a plan would've been at least mentioned in a book titled The Peacemakers of 1864, wouldn't you? And yet, it isn't.

Most likely made up.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:26 PM on August 2, 2009

It may be that the fake reference is part of the fake screenplay world as well. That is, not a hoax, really but a contrivance.

Neither that author or book in any form appear in Harvard's online catalog. Trust me, they would have this book if it existed.
posted by vacapinta at 1:33 PM on August 2, 2009

Why not ask whoever wrote that screenplay about it?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:06 PM on August 2, 2009

Harvard can have surprising lapses. So does, but I've found plenty of rarities here that you won't find in Cambridge.

Not Mr Addaps, however.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:44 PM on August 2, 2009

I'll go with hoax/contrivance, but you'll have to write the author of the screenplay to be sure.
posted by languagehat at 3:22 PM on August 2, 2009

All signs point to contrivance. In particular, the capitalization in the paragraph looks like an attempt at pseudo-archaism and would be difficult to explain otherwise (capitalization of all or some random nouns went out of use in the late eighteenth century).
posted by nasreddin at 3:44 PM on August 2, 2009

Response by poster: I was leaning toward contrivance myself, but I wanted to be absolutely certain. Plus, I find the author's name, Kelsop R. Addaps, puzzling. It's a very peculiar name. It looks like an anagram or something, but I can't seem to figure it out....

Sadly the person who wrote the screenplay died decades ago, so I can't ask.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 5:08 PM on August 2, 2009

It sounds like a name from a Thomas Pynchon novel.
posted by yclipse at 6:04 PM on August 2, 2009

Yeah, I was trying to figure out where someone might've come up with that name, too, since it's so out-of-left-field.

What was the name of the screenplay's author? Maybe that'd help.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:04 PM on August 2, 2009

Response by poster: At marxchivist's suggestion, I emailed William Harris and here's the response I got:

The account of a peace mission sent by Lincoln immediately after his re-election in 1864 must be fiction. In fact, I have never heard of March. Later, in January 1865, Francis Blair, Sr., went to Richmond and secured Jefferson Davis's agreement to send a commission, headed by Vice President A. H. Stephens, to meet with Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Since Lincoln remained firm on emancipation and the restoration of the Union, nothing came of the meeting. He had already, in 1863, indicated his willingness to grant a liberal amnesty and the restoration of political rights. At Hampton Road, Lincoln even said that he would support compensation to slaveholders for the freedom of their slaves.

I should point out that there were other half-baked schemes, without authorization, for peace.

If you have access to the War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (126 volumes), you could check to see if March appears in the index. I plan to go to my university library later in the week and will check the index to the volumes. I will let you know if I find anything. The War of the Rebellion records are on the web, but I cannot find the index to them.

Best wishes in your research.

I think that pretty much settles it. Thanks everyone!
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 3:03 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

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