Civil War-era docs stolen, sold on eBay; Man charged

A Philadelphia man stole 165 Civil War-era historical documents from the National Archives last year and sold them on eBay, federal prosecutors charged Thursday.

Denning McTague, 40, worked as a summer intern for the archives in 2006 and smuggled the documents -- including an 1865 order from the War Department announcing the death of President Lincoln to the troops and a letter from J.E.B. Stuart, the Confederate cavalry commander -- off the premises in a backpack.

"These are pieces of American history to be preserved, not sold to the highest bidder," U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan said in a statement.

McTague sold the documents on eBay, where he enjoyed an excellent seller's reputation. According to eBay, McTague's feedback score of 364 was 100 percent positive. In other words, buyers had no complaints about his service or the items he sold.

As an intern, McTague's responsibilities included arranging and organizing documents for the Civil War 2011-2015 sesquicentennial. Most of the documents he handled dealt with the ordering and sending of supplies and materials for the troops and munitions makers.

Such pilfering is very rare, said Susan Cooper, a spokeswoman for the National Archives in Washington D.C. Cooper would not put a price on the stolen documents. "Since we never sell our documents, and since they all unique, they are all extremely valuable."

McTague's Web site touts him as a dealer of antique books, maps and manuscripts. The site remains online, but no items are currently posted for sale.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, McTague intends to plead guilty to one count of theft of government property. Federal sentencing guidelines indicate that he will likely face a year in prison.

The paper also reported that he helped the FBI and archive officials recover 161 of the 165 stolen documents. McTague was caught after a legitimate dealer found some of the pinched documents on eBay, and contacted the archives, said Cooper.

The charges filed against McTague are available from the U.S. Attorney's Web site.

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