This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday July 2 1861

The right of habeas corpus is so basic to America that it is enshrined in the Constitution. Including such features as protection from arrest without specific charge, right to reasonable bail and the like, it went straight out the window today. President Lincoln, in what would become one of the most controversial actions of the war years, today authorized Winfield Scott, Commanding General of the US Army, to suspend this right as he saw fit anywhere between Washington and New York. Many saw the suspension of civil liberties as the first step down the road to tyranny and the failure of the American experiment in democracy.

Wednesday July 2 1862

And on the eight day (after the series of battles which became known as the Seven Days) Gen. George McClellan would no doubt have liked to have rested, as would his men of the Army of the Potomac. Unfortunately although the battle was over the retreat was not. The army marched from Malvern Hill to Hampton Roads. The advantage of this position was that Union gunboats in the James River could provide covering fire for the entire force, both flanks. Lee’s forces were mostly too tired to attack anyway, except for cavalry attacks on infantrymen.

Thursday July 2 1863

Hundreds of books have been written about the Battle of Gettysburg; dozens about various aspects of this, the Second Day, alone. Meanwhile, the end of the Siege of Vicksburg was drawing very near. Attempts by the Confederacy to break reinforcements through Grant’s lines had failed, and supplies were running low. Mule meat was beginning to seem tasty, considering that the alternative was to eat rats. Negotiations were proposed.

Saturday July 2 1864

Harper’s Ferry, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and at the bottom of steep bluffs, is also where Maryland, Virginia and the new state of West Virginia come together. It was fought over repeatedly and changed hands more than once. It was under threat again today from the forces of Jubal Early. The Confederate general, head of virtually the only remaining Rebel force able to move, was in Winchester today. There was skirmishing on Bolivar Heights.

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