General Daniel Sickles. When I wear this t-shirt to Gettysburg [where I bought it} it always draws a laugh. Sickles is my favorite general from the American Civil War- and it is not due to his generalship. He wasn’t a very good general. He is my favorite general for the reason that he was probably the most entertaining and controversial general/ man in the war.
As far as the war goes- Daniel Sickles is most remembered for taking his troops off of the Federal’s ‘fish hook’ at Gettysburg. He saw higher land out in front of him at the Peach Orchard and thought that was a better position than where he was at. So without orders he moved his III Corps. A big mistake and once he was out there it was too late to turn back. Sickles would lose his leg to cannon fire. Legend has it when he was being carried away- to show the troops he was still living and to rally them, he got a cigar and was puffing away and smiling as he went. This took him out of the war but it didn’t stop him from stirring up trouble. A biography of his life would use the term in its title “American Scoundrel” and that about sums up Sickles and his life. He was never boring and always up to something.
Before the Civil War there was the murder of his wife’s love- the son of Francis Scott Key- Philip Barton Key in Lafayette Square across from the White House, Devil Dan was a US Congressman at the time. He got off by using the ‘temporary insanity’ defense for the first time in American history. He stayed with his wife which angered people more than his killing of Key which they a lot of people could understand.
Sickles would return to Congress and one great positive he did- he sponsored legislation in Congress to preserve Gettysburg’s battlefield by buying up land and forming Gettysburg National Battlefield Military Park. There is no monument to Sickles at Gettysburg- he visited often and when asked once why there was no monument he supposedly waved his arms and said something on the order of “The whole entire battlefield is a memorial to Dan Sickles.”
There is also the incident when Dan was head of the New York Monuments Commission and $27,000 came up missing and he had to resign.
Sickles was full of shenanigans – I could go on a lot longer but if interested in the man- and he is as colorful as it gets- there are a few biographies- the one I’d recommend is the most recent by Gettysburg Battlefield Licensed Guide- James Hessler ‘Sickles At Gettysburg” which does concentrate on his controversial actions at Gettysburg but does go into his entire life story. Sickles lived until age 94 and never a dull moment.
I bought the above Sickles t-shirt at the same place I purchased my John Wilkes Booth t-shirt- the Gettysburg Museum of History on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg.
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