Did Some Litter Win the Civil War for the Union?

If you see an old McDonald's bag lying around a parking lot, there's a good chance it will still be there a week later. And that's a shame, because there's one very compelling reason to pick up any and all strange trash you might find: It might just change the course of human history.

In the 1860s, Confederate General Robert E. Lee laid out a plan called Special Order 191, which instructed the clone troopers to turn on the Jed- sorry, wrong number. It actually contained all the planned movements of the Confederate Army for months in advance. Lee handed it out to his most trusted men, including the famous "Stonewall" Jackson.

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Jackson was ... a little less careful. Rather than write out individual instructions for each commander he was responsible for, he just gave them all copies of the full Order 191 document. One of those commanders lazily stashed his copy in an envelope, and forgot it next to his cigars. We know this because that's where a dutiful Union scout, presumably picking up around the countryside on a work release program, found it.

Did Some Litter Win the Civil War for the Union?National Park Service

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He then sent the envelope up the command chain on the Union side (who were a lot more careful with the documents), until it got to General George McClellan. This was a huge deal. Without those papers, the Union might have never been able to beat the South at their own game, and we could very well have ended up with two countries, one of them substantially worse than the other.

So remember, kids: Don't litter.

Unless you're part of a massive racist army. Then by all means ...

The South honestly never stood a chance, learn more about why from Ken Burns' The Civil War.

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