soldier with rifle american civil warSpecial Order 191


The Thomas Stonewall Jackson
& Reverend Dr. John B. Ross
Connection Revisited

By: Joe Ryan


It has come to my attention that a document exists which is represented to be a note written in the hand of Jackson, and signed by him, dated September 10, 1862 and addressed to the Rev. Dr. Ross. Apparently this document has been on and off the auction market since at least 1997, its authenticity vouched for by two individuals, Robert K. Krick, a retired U.S. Park Service employee, who writes civil war books, and George Stevenson, Jr., now deceased, who was employed with the North Carolina State Archives during his life.

(This biographical piece is taken from a tour service website.) 

(This biographical piece is taken from a North Carolina State Archive website.) 

George Stevenson, Jr. died in 2009

In the Who Wrote The Lost Order piece, the issue of whether the opinion of a so-called "handwriting expert" is admissible in the trial court was discussed, with citations to case law in the Federal court system. There are about twelve of these cases, some involving the trial court's refusal to admit the opinion and others allowing admissibility, leaving it to the jury to give the opinion what weight it thinks it deserves. The opinions of this type of "expert" is not based on objective scientific principles and, therefore, is of little value to the jury in arriving at a finding whether or not a particular document is or is not written in the same handwriting as found on a comparison document. The jury has eyes and its eyes are just as effective, statistical studies show, as a so-called expert in recognizing similarities between the writing on one document and the writing on another. Both gentlemen apparently have offered arguments why they think the so-called Jackson note is actually written in the hand of Jackson. An effort is being made to obtain copies of their "letters of authenticity" and, if obtained, the letters will be posted here.

You Be The Judge

Here is the image of the note:

Stonewall Jackson Hand written note
(This note is written, supposedly, on the back of a paper stock used by Lee's staff)

Compare The Handwriting To McClellan's Copy


Is The Note Written In The Hand of Jackson?

Here are several documented examples of Jackson's actual handwriting. Compare these examples to the September 10, 1862 note.

Jackson's Handwriting1841

Jackson's Handwriting in 1861

Jackson's Handwriting in 1863

Jackson's Handwriting on September 10, 1862

Compare Lines of Written Text From These Examples

The Jackson Note To Ross

D.H. Hill's Copy of Mac's Order in Jackson's Hand

Jackson's 1863 Message to Lee

Compare Jackson's Signatures

September 10, 1862

May 20, 1863


Ryan's Comment

Notice the differences between the two examples: the 1862 example shows you a small "T" for Thomas that does not match the style of the "T" shown in the 1863 example. In the 1862 example, the "J" beginning the word "Jackson" is clearly separated from the following letters of the word. But in the 1863 example, the writer's hand carried the "J" directly by connection to the formation of the "a." In the 1862 example, the "kson" element of "Jackson" clearly does not match its counterpart in the 1863 example. In the 1863 example the block of letters sweep upward with a right slant, but in the 1862 example the block is flat with no right slant: Evidence that two different hands wrote the two signatures.


Compare the 1862 Jackson Signature with
"Jackson" found in the Lost Order

Thomas Jackson signature

Stonewall jackson

Is the writer of Jackson's note the same person who wrote Mac's copy?

Can you tell by the style?


Is The Note Written In The Hand of Kyd Douglas?

Kyd Douglas's handwriting, 1871

Kyd Douglas letter 1871
Doulas letter 1871
The handwriting of the Douglas letter does not match the handwriting of the note.



Assuming the Note is Authentic, What Was Its Purpose?

Is Stonewall doing no more with this note than what he did with his brother-in-law, D.H. Hill? In Hill's case Jackson gave him a defense against the charge he lost the order, and in Dr. Ross's, Jackson gave him a defense against the charge they collaborated? That's the issue in the trial court. Certainly the text of the note seems really to have no other purpose.

It reads:


Regret not being permitted to see Dr. & Mrs. Ross, but could not expect to have that pleasure at so unreasonable an hour.

                                                                        T. J. Jackson

Sept 10/62 5 & 1/4am 


No salutation? "Dear Dr. Ross," or "Dear John?" No, "Sorry I missed you but had to leave town too early." Why the absence of the first person tense? "I regret not seeing you." The text states the obvious, that an attempt to see Ross at 5:15 a.m. would be a bit unrealistic under any circumstances. (Sunrise on September 10 in Maryland was at 5:41 a.m.)


Slipping Evidence Into The Record

In the long experience I have accumulated chasing down the facts in the case of the Lost Order, I am left with the distinct impression that pieces of evidence have been slipped into the historical record. An activity trial lawyers are known to engage in; either slipping something into evidence or slipping something out. The Jackson note seems an example of this.

The only positive way that you can know—Is Jackson's note authentic?—is to be sure the objective evidence traces the note through a chain of custody to Dr. Ross. Dr. Ross had children, a daughter married and she had several children as the piece you see below captured from the web shows. Did the note come down to the auctioneers through that chain? That is the test in the trial court, all else is circumstantial. We do not want an "opinion" of a "expert; we want the verdict of the jury.

It is for you young historians to track down Ross's living relatives

And inquire about their knowledge of the Jackson note.

What do the "authenticators," Krick and Stevenson, provide? I have inquired of Mr. Krick whether he can provide the "letter of authenticity" referred to by the on line auctioneers and have received this:

Robert Kirk Reverand Ross document

I have communicated with the auction house that apparently sold the Jackson note, asking for copies of Krick's and Stevenson's "letters of Authenticity" and will publish the content if a response is received. The original Jackson note may someday be examined, its paper stock identified.


How Does The Note Fit Into Kyd Douglas's Story?

Here is the relevant text of Douglas's 1886 version of his story as a percipient witness to the event of Jackson's presence in Frederick between September 7, 1862 and September 10.

". . . before we had been in Maryland many hours (Jackson entered on the 5th), one enthusiastic citizen presented Jackson with a gigantic gray mare. . . the next morning (the 6th?) when he mounted his new steed and touched her with his spur the. . . beast reared straight into the air, and, standing erect for a moment, threw herself backward, horse and rider rolling upon the ground. The general was stunned and severely bruised, and lay upon the ground some time. . . He was then placed in an ambulance, where he rode during the day's march. . .


Early that day (the 6th?) the army went into camp near Frederick. . . The next evening (the 7th?), Sunday, he went into Frederick for the first time to attend church, and there being no service in the Presbyterian Church he went to the German Reformed. . . ."


We are judging the credibility of Douglas's story with the handicap of one hundred and fifty years delay in critically measuring its details against the standard of what reasonable persons would be expected to do under the circumstances, and we must do this without the benefit of hearing Douglas respond to cross-examination.

Douglas introduces an ambulance into the story. Jackson might have used an ambulance for the purpose of entering Frederick unobserved by its citizens, giving him the opportunity to visit Dr. Ross without the fact becoming general knowledge. Douglas does not state that he went with Jackson on Sunday night (This changes in the 1940 rendition.).

Jackson could have gone to church as easily during the day than at night and, thus, could easily have been present at the First Presbyterian Church on Sunday, the 7th; but instead he waited for night to fall and then entered the town (whether in an ambulance or not we cannot say from the text of Douglas's story). After he visited with Ross, he could have gone to the German Reformed Church in order that the public see him in circumstances which distanced him from Ross. The point is, though we cannot say, with reasonable certainty, what exactly Jackson did, the opportunity of visiting Ross in secret was certainly there for Jackson to take advantage of.

"Early on the 10th Jackson was off. In Frederick he asked for a map of Chambersburg and its vicinity, and made many irrelevant inquiries about roads and localities in the direction of Pennsylvania. . . Having finished this public inquiry, he took me aside, and after asking me about the different fords of the Potomac. . . told me he was ordered to capture the garrison at Harper's Ferry. . .


The troops being on the march, the general and staff rode rapidly out of town and took the head of the column. . . ."

Given the plain text of Douglas's 1886 story, we have the impression that the time Jackson moved through Frederick must have been well after 5:15 a.m., as Douglas has him asking pedestrians on the street for a map and asking questions in public. For people to be up and about on the 10th, if Douglas's story is an accurate statement of the event, the time of Jackson's passage through the town clearly was sometime well after dawn. This view of the event, of course, contradicts directly the statement recorded on the Jackson note. The note and Douglas's statement are not consistent with each other.

Most obvious is the fact that Douglas does not include Jackson stopping at Dr. Ross's house on the way out of town.

"I was with him every minute of his time he was in that city—he was there only twice. . .]."

Being reasonable people, how can we accept Douglas's statement that he was with Jackson "very minute of his time" in Frederick?

The University of North Carolina Press published a book, in 1940, titled I Rode With Stonewall. According to the Press, the book was based on an "original manuscript" provided by the descendents of Kyd Douglas. David Perry, the Editor-in-Chief of the Press, when questioned by me, stated that the manuscript has been lost. He cannot say whether it was returned to those who produced it, or became lost while in the possession of the Press. Mr. Perry, whose UNC Press ordinarily does not publish fiction, acknowledged that, if the manuscript were presented to the Press for publication today, the Press would probably decline the invitation.

Here are the relevant elements of I Rode With Stonewall:


This book is not a biography nor a history. . . The greater portion was written immediately after the close of the war from diaries I had kept and notes I had made and when my recollection was fresh and youthful. It was then laid aside and about thirty-three years have passed over it.


Now I have been persuaded to rewrite this manuscript. . . I have added somewhat and taken away more freely. . . .

            April 1899                                         H.K.D.


Note: Douglas died in 1905.



As the only living nephew of Henry Kyd Douglas, I inherited all of the original manuscripts, diaries, letters, and photographs that have made the publication of this book possible. I am indebted to. . . the labor of Mr. Joseph McCord of New York. . .

Sharpsburg April 1940       John Kyd Beckenbaugh


The Book


"On the 5th we crossed the Potomac at White's Ford. . . and started forward in the direction of Frederick. On that march that day a patriotic citizen presented General Jackson with a horse. . . The next morning (the 6th) the General mounted her, and. . . she rose on her hind feet into the air and went backward, horse and rider to the ground. The General was stunned, bruised, and injured in the back. He lay upon the ground for more than half an hour before he was sufficiently recovered to be removed. . . The General was placed in an ambulance in which he rode during the day. . .


On the morning of the 6th, Jackson's command. . . went into camp about Monocacy Junction about three miles short of Frederick. [He did] not go into Frederick that day. . . . Later in the afternoon, the General was called to Lee's tent. . . . When he got back to his tent he did not venture out again until late in the evening.


He did not go to church Sunday morning (Why not?), but at night he asked Morrison (his cousin) and myself to go to church with him. He rode in an ambulance, we on horseback. . . .


There being no service in the Presbyterian Church, I took him to hear my old friend Dr. Zacharias of the Reformed Church. . . . (But according to his 1886 version, Douglas was not with Jackson inside the Reformed Church.)


At daylight on Wednesday, the 10th, Jackson was in motion. About sunrise (5:41 a.m.) he and his staff rode into Frederick, but early as it was, there were many people in the streets. (If this is so, why would Ross not be up and about also?) He asked his engineer for a map of Chambersburg and enquired of the people the distances to various places

. . . .


The General was anxious (why?), before leaving Frederick, to see the Rev. Dr. Ross, the Presbyterian clergyman and a personal friend, and I took him to his house. The Doctor was not up yet and the General would not allow me to disturb him by ringing the door bell, but he wrote a brief note and left it with a manservant on the pavement to deliver to him. We then went by the most direct route. . . to the head of the column.


Douglas's story, in its relevant details, hardly makes sense when measured against the standard of how ordinary persons can reasonably be expected to behave. The General "was anxious" to see his old friend, but though he had three full days and nights to visit his old friend, he did not do so? Instead, the morning of the 10th, when he is leaving Frederick, he rides to his old friend's house at 5:15 a.m. and writes a note to be delivered by a stranger to his old friend, and the note he writes reads more like an announcement that he didn't have time to see his old friend than it reads like a personal message to a friend. Here the Church's recorded position regarding the event is important to consider, as it appears clearly to contradict the contention by Douglas that Jackson did not, in fact, actually visit with Ross.

(This text was posted on the Church's website, in 2007)

(This text comes from an article written by the church in 1980)

(This text was written by Pastor Dixon, in 1905; note nothing about a visit.)

Leaving a note with a stranger, to deliver to his old friend when he wakes up, hardly constitutes "a visit." Therefore, there must be some record in the church papers, perhaps in the minutes of the church meeting that resulted in the acceptance of Dr. Ross's resignation letter, that supports the statement that, in fact, Jackson and Dr. Ross "visited" together at some point during Jackson's time at Frederick.

So, for you young historians, there is leg work to do: what is the chain of evidence that supports the finding that the Jackson note has reached the public view by the hand of some relative of Dr. Ross? Douglas's relative, Mr. Beckenbaugh, makes reference to "letters" that accompanied the manuscript. Did someone connected to the University of North Carolina Press find among these materials the Jackson note and keep it? If so, you must believe it is a facsimile of a supposed message made by someone connected to Douglas.

Observation: It seems to me the possibility is strong that Douglas manufactured the note at the time he introduced the sentence about taking Jackson to the manse, into his manuscript in 1899. Why he would do this, introduce the scene into his manuscript and then create the note, can only make sense if something was happening among the surviving officers and the contempory Fox news pundits. Was there a rising debate about how the order got lost, with some people focusing on Jackson and Ross? To block it, Douglas produced himself as a witness to testify Jackson never actually met with Ross, and then produced something to support his testimony? Happens in the trial court every day. But I am too old, too little time, to dig into the issue. So far, I have not come across anything in the literature about this. Though I have not read the huge pile of material created by these officers, going back and forth, which exists as the "Southern Historical Society Papers."

Ryan's Conclusion

Assuming the note is in fact written in Jackson's hand, its purpose must have been to create the impression that Jackson had not met with Dr. Ross at any time he was in Frederick; in the trial court, given its text, no other explanation for its existence seems reasonable. And the reasonable inference to be drawn for this, is that Jackson sought to give Dr. Ross the means to deny he was involved with the lost order.

If the case of the Lost Order were tried to jury verdict in a court room, the witness list for the trial would be as follows. The trial would consume at least six weeks of court time.

Witness List

Robert E. Lee

Thomas Jackson

James Longstreet

D.H. Hill

Rev. Dr. John B. Ross

Kyd Douglas

John Morrison

Charles Marshall

Walter Taylor

Robert Chilton

A.P. Mason

Charles Venable

Rev. Zacharias, Reformed Church

Custodian of Records, Presbyterian Church

Barton Mitchell

John B. Bloss

Silas Colgrove

Col. Pittman

A.S. Williams

George B. McCellan

Mr. Prim, McClellan's executor

George B. McClellan Jr.



Further research reveals the Jackson Note is a fraud perpetrated by Henry Kyd Douglas; the fraud beginning in about 1870-1880, as the means of negating the claim—based on John Whittier's poem Barbara Fritchie—that Stonewall was humiliated by Fritchie as he rode out of Frederick on September 10, 1862.

Here is the essence of Whittier's poem, published in 1864.


In 1882, J. Thomas Scharf, the Maryland State Land Surveyor, published a book entitled, The History of Western Maryland. In the book, Scharf writes this about Stonewall's supposed encounter with Mrs. Fritchie, invoking a statement Henry Kyd Douglas made before the publication of his article in the Century Magazine, in 1886.

Note: In this version Of Douglas's story, Jackson mounts a horse in Frederick

Scharf, in his 1882 book, also states, without providing a source, that, on Sunday, September 7th, Jackson attended services at both the Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church.

It appears that, in April 1900, Douglas did, in fact, speak at Cooper Union in New York City.

Note: in this version of his story, Douglas has Jackson

attending service Sunday at Dr. Ross's church.

Douglas's story was referred to in a book published in 1901.

Here is another on-line auctioneer, trying to sell the Jackson Note at about the same amount Mr. Krick states his friend paid for it, in about 1997. Notice the auctioneer's description of the letters of authenticity Mr. Krick and Mr. Stevenson provided the original seller, and the statement regarding a speech Kyd Douglas made at Cooper Union, in which the facts he is stating again change.

Exactly when Douglas made his speech at Cooper Union, the auctioneer's account does not state. What is plain is that Douglas kept changing the facts of his story which renders his credibility zero. It is obvious from his story that he was motivated to manufacture the Jackson Note as the means to negate the claim that the incident Whittier waxed poetically about, happened. Douglas had no intent, in manufacturing the story, to document Stonewall's contact with the Rev. Dr. Ross, his intent was to document the non-contact between Stonewall and Fretchie.

Note: The evidence shows that Douglas gave public voice to his story about Jackson's stop at the manse and the note before his article "Stonewall Jackson in Maryland," was published in the Century Magazine, in 1886; yet, in the Century Magazine article, he left out entirely his story of Jackson's stop at the manse; then, his nephew produced his manuscript for publication in 1940 which included the lines left out. From this we can infer that Douglas chose the audience he would tell the story to. He obviously did not think it prudent to include the story in his 1886 piece.


A lesson learned here is how tenuous a so-called "expert's" opinion is, in the field of handwriting comparison. The auctioneer quotes Mr. Krick, "Chief Historian" of the U.S. Park Service, as stating, in his letter of authenticity:

"You have a really awesome artifact, combining a wonderfully rare publication with a unique autograph from a well-documented incident."


Hardly. As to Mr. Krick's reference to a "wonderfully rare publication," he is referring to the reverse side of the Jackson Note which looks like this:

Note: The text of this document appears at page 601 of Vol 19, Pt. 2, of the Official Records of the Rebellion. However, its text does not match exactly the text printed in the OR. For example, the heading text is not type set the same, nor is the syntax of the first sentence the same. This means that the text in the OR is from a difference source than Kyd Douglas. Hard to believe we have two type-set machines at work in Frederick on September 8th, engaged in the same task.


So we are supposed to believe, Mr. Krick, that General Lee's staff possessed a typewriter?

Hard to believe Mr. Krick did not know when he offered his opinion that there was about as much likelihood of Lee's staff having a typewriter, in September 1862, as a snowball has of surviving in hell. But, oh I see; a type-setting machine must have been used. So there must be hundreds, thousands of these flyers, but where are they, what happened to them? Apparently, Mr. Krick knows that what he describes as a "wonderously rare" document is, in fact, the only example of the type-set flyer that is known to exist —a fact which, in itself, negates the authenticity of the document.

As for Mr. Stevenson's opinion that the handwriting of the Jackson Note matches known examples of Stonewall's handwriting, you be the judge. Give it the weight you think the evidence shows it deserves.

Doesn't it strike you odd that there is so much North Carolina involved with the promotion of the Jackson Note? The UNC Press published Douglas's manuscript, the dealer, according to Mr. Krick, who first offered the document for sale, is from North Carolina as is the current dealer; and we have an employee of the North Carolina State Archives providing what appears to be an official opinion regarding the document's authenticity.

Finally, turning your attention back to reality and to proof of a chain of custody, it seems reasonably clear to you by now, doesn't it, that the links of the chain go back to Douglas, not to Dr. Ross. All the more reason why the Presbyterian Church's production of Dr. Ross's resignation letter is so important to the resolution of the ultimate question—Did General Lee use Special Order 191 as a ruse of war?


By Joe Ryan

Los Angeles Civil Warriors Round Table: Antietam, September 17, 2012