Sickles at Gettysburg: The Controversial Civil War General Who Committed Murder, Abandoned Little Round Top, and Declared Himself the Hero of Gettysburg
James A. Hessler
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Winner of The Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award, 2009, given by the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table of Central New Jersey.
Sickles at Gettysburg: The Controversial Civil War General Who Committed Murder, Abandoned Little Round Top, and Declared Himself the Hero of Gettysburg', by licensed battlefield guide James Hessler, is the most deeply-researched, full-length biography to appear on this remarkable American icon. And it is long overdue.
No individual who fought at Gettysburg was more controversial, both personally and professionally, than Major General Daniel E. Sickles. By 1863, Sickles was notorious as a disgraced former Congressman who murdered his wife's lover on the streets of Washington and used America's first temporary insanity defense to escape justice. With his political career in ruins, Sickles used his connections with President Lincoln to obtain a prominent command in the Army of the Potomac's Third Corps—despite having no military experience. At Gettysburg, he openly disobeyed orders in one of the most controversial decisions in military history.
No single action dictated the battlefield strategies of George Meade and Robert E. Lee more than Sickles' unauthorized advance to the Peach Orchard, and the mythic defense of Little Round Top might have occurred quite differently were it not for General Sickles. Fighting heroically, Sickles lost his leg on the field and thereafter worked to remove General Meade from command of the army. Sickles spent the remainder of his checkered life declaring himself the true hero of Gettysburg.
Although he nearly lost the battle, Sickles was one of the earliest guardians of the battlefield when he returned to Congress, created Gettysburg National Military Park, and helped preserve the field for future generations. But Dan Sickles was never far from scandal. He was eventually removed from the New York Monument Commission and nearly went to jail for misappropriation of funds.
Hessler's critically acclaimed biography is a balanced and entertaining account of Sickles' colorful life. Civil War enthusiasts who want to understand General Sickles' scandalous life, Gettysburg's battlefield strategies, the in-fighting within the Army of the Potomac, and the development of today's National Park will find Sickles at Gettysburg a must-read.
28, 121; Williams, Lincoln and His Generals, 265–266; Goodwin, Team of Rivals, 533–536. 13. Hyde, The Union Generals Speak, 259–260; Brown, Retreat from Gettysburg, 262; Coddington, Gettysburg Campaign, 540, 544, 812, (n. 56, n. 60); OR 27/3: 532–533; Peatman, “General Sickles, President Lincoln, and the Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg,” Gettysburg Magazine 28, 120. 14. Peatman, “General Sickles, President Lincoln, and the Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg,” Gettysburg Magazine 28,
to blame him for her mother’s desolation, her own blighted childhood.” See Pinchon, 224–225. More recently, biographer Jeanne Knoop may have come closer to the mark when she speculated that Dan had neither the time nor experience to adjust as a father: “Dan was not used to dealing with an adolescent and the time it would take away from his busy schedule.… ” See Knoop, 120. 17. Dedication of the New York Auxiliary State Monument, 113; Daniel E. Sickles Military Record, Box B-36, GNMP; Swanberg,
“Introduction,” in Lee and Longstreet at High Tide, 17–18, 30. 9. Ibid., 21–22. 10. Ibid.22–25. In further defending Longstreet’s decision not to attack earlier on July 2, Sickles noted that Lee’s report hadimplied some censure towards Longstreet’s actions on July 3, when Lee stated that “Longstreet’s dispositions were not completed as early as expected.” Therefore, Sickles pointed out, “If General Lee did not hesitate to point out unlooked for delay on July 3, why was he silent about delay on
suffered rapidly in both men and horses.” When Longstreet noticed that no Confederate guns were unlimbered immediately west of the Peach Orchard, he pointed to a gap in front of General Lafayette McLaws’ lines and asked him, “Why is not a battery placed here?” McLaws protested that a battery would “draw the enemy’s artillery [fire] right among my lines…[and] be in the way of my charge, and tend to demoralize my men.” Unimpressed, Longstreet ordered that guns be placed in the gap. Four of the six
his brigade entered the battle, or the behavior of Tilton and Sweitzer’s men as he passed them en route to the front.27 Colonel John Brooke of Caldwell’s Fourth Brigade took over, and with Zook’s brigade on his right drove the Confederates out of the Wheatfield. “It was evident to me,” Colonel Brooke later wrote, “sometime before our division was sent to that part of the field that the 3d Corps was being worsted in the fight.” Brooke’s brigade splashed across the western branch of Plum Run,