On this day in … well, you can guess there’s something Civil War–related going on. For instance, in 1862, you’ve got the Battle of Malvern Hill, which is a Confederate defeat, and yet one in which Robert E. Lee still manages to turn chicken [you know what] into chicken salad. Then, a year later, there’s Gettysburg, complete with non-existent shoes and the terribly handsome Henry Heth—who is shot in the head, by the way. Don’t worry; he survives. Union general John Reynolds is not so lucky, however, and the Virginian John Newton eventually assumes command of Reynolds’s old corps. This, of course, was before he was exiled to the Tortugas.
In legal news, the truly horrid Constitution of 1902 finally expired on this day in 1971, while in 1732, the General Assembly passed a law allowing pretty much anyone to plead benefit of clergy. This was a relic of English law in which literate first-time offenders—especially those staring down a noose—might plead benefit of clergy and win a pardon [see comment below]. The slave Mary Aggie, convicted of stealing from her owner Annie Sullivan, used this tactic, and with Lieutenant Governor William Gooch’s help she actually won. Lest anyone think that the burgesses had suddenly become friends of the slave, they added to the number of felonies for which slaves, free blacks, and Indians could not plead benefit of clergy.
I mean, let’s not get carried away.
IMAGE: Battle of Malvern Hill by Richard Schlecht (click for a larger image)