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Civil War Trust

Dispatches

Letters to the Skirmisher

What was the worst decision Abraham Lincoln made as President?

Abraham Lincoln did make some mistakes as President. Some consider Lincoln’s decision to suspend habeas corpus to be his worst choice.

Habeas corpus prevents police from holding people in jail without cause. According to the Constitution, all Americans have this right. In 1861, riots in Baltimore, Maryland threatened railroads that protected Washington, DC. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus to help stop the rioters.

Baltimore riots
On April 19, 1861, Confederate sympathizers attacked Union soldiers in Baltimore, Maryland. (Library of Congress)


The Supreme Court later ruled that Lincoln’s actions violated the Constitution. Many still criticize Lincoln for this instance when he interfered with American’s basic rights. Others argue he was justified in expanding the President’s power because of the war. What do you think?

Learn more about Abraham Lincoln here.

Rose Greenhow
Rose O'Neal Greenhow was the Confederacy's most celebrated female spy. (Library of Congress)

What type of espionage was conducted by either side during the war?

How did the war change how intelligence was gathered?

Espionage took many forms. Both sides had spies in high places and even destructive agents, like the Confederate conspirators who tried to burn New York City.

The war led to the first official establishment of a military intelligence wing of the armed forces. Although it frequently failed, it set a precedent for intelligence officers working closely and formally with combat officers. 

If you want to learn more about spying, read the story of Rose O’Neal Greenhow—a Washington socialite and Confederate spy.

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