I have been reading Robert Bruce Murray's Legal Cases of the Civil War, a new book from Stackpole.

The chapter on procurement cases, especially the parts on Fremont's contracts for river gunboats, left me with the impression that Fremont made decent bargains that were overturned in political witch hunts.

Murray's summary of the case of Clement Vallandigham is also interesting. Vallandigham was a prominent Democrat arrested by the military for giving peace speeches in Ohio, and the military proposed to dispose of him. An appellate court, considering the challenge of military jurisdiction, was loathe to interfere:

He [the presiding judge] began this analysis by pointing out that in time of war, the president derived his authority and power expressly from the Constitution's provisions that he should be the commander-in-chief of the army and navy. This, the judge added, invested the president with very high powers that were not defined in the Constitution or by any legislation.

This is a terrifying analysis, when you think of it.

The president must use his own judgement in the exercise of these powers. The only control was ... impeachment.

This is a concept currently beyong our sense of the possible: unlimited power that is constitutional. Unlimited power, exercised in an unprecedented way, and then held up by the courts as constitutional.