ALL THE LAWS BUT ONE: A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
Fort McHenry, May 1861
Among the many historic events which occurred during the Civil War, one stands out in special relation to Fort McHenry. It was an event which tested the powers of the President against the limits of power of the Presidency written into the Constitution. At the beginning of the war Lincoln stretched his powers to the edge. In the eyes of many, he went over that edge and violated constitutional law.
The war began in 1861, and until Congress could convene in July the President was forced to make decisions without the advice and consent of Congress. One of these was deciding on measures to take to insure Maryland did not secede and join the Confederacy.
Maryland was rife with secessionists. Many prominent citizens in the state openly voiced their hatred for Lincoln and the U.S. Army. Many supporters rallied to their call of "Secession" in Baltimore. Obviously, Lincoln was desperate to keep Maryland in the Union for it was through Baltimore that vital rail and telegraph lines passed from the west and north before proceeding to Washington. So determined was the President to preserve the north's tenuous hold on Maryland, that he sanctioned extreme measures against the state's secessionists.