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Posted at 5:18 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Historian accused of altering Lincoln document at National Archives

By Lisa Rein

It was the largest find in Civil War history in a generation: Just hours before going to Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln pardoned a Union soldier court-martialed for desertion and saved him from execution.

The document, written in Lincoln's hand and discovered by two amateur historians from Woodbridge poring over rarely touched files at the National Archives, was a testament to Lincoln's compassionate nature. Thomas Lowry became a media star and based a book on his discovery. It became a new piece of the narrative of one of history's most famous assassinations.

Except it wasn't.

The Archives said Monday morning that the pardon that has transfixed Lincoln historians for 13 years was altered by the man who came across it in the research room of the Archives in downtown Washington.

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By Lisa Rein  | January 24, 2011; 5:18 PM ET
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