Major General Daniel Sickles
3rd Corps Commander
Daniel Sickles was a political general. Before the Civil War, he was active in Tammany Hall politics in New York City. He received the rank of brigadier general for raising a volunteer brigade. He led units at the Battles of Seven Pines, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. During the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Major General Sickles unilaterally decided to move his 3rd Corps off Cemetery Ridge into the Peach Orchard, and the corps was virtually destroyed. He was struck in the leg by a shell, and his leg had to be amputated. He donated the leg in a casket to the Army Medical Museum in Washington. The leg bones are still displayed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. General Sickles would have probably been court-martialed for disobeying orders and leaving his assigned defensive position if he had not been seriously wounded. Instead, he received a Congressional Metal of Honor thirty years later for his actions.
Daniel Sickles' life was filled with controversy and scandal. He was reputed to be a womanizer and drinker throughout his adult life. Congressman Sickles murdered his wife's lover in 1859. The rival was Philip Barton Key, son of the writer of the "Star Spangled Banner." Key was gunned down in La Fayette Park which is across from the White House. Sickles had been informed of his wife's affair, and he had forced her to make a written confession which was published. When Key waived to Sickles' wife, Sickles had a friend detain him. Sickles went and got his guns. Then he shot him several times. Defense attorney Edwin M. Stanton got Daniel Sickles acquitted with an innovative defense of temporary insanity. Incidentally, Edwin M. Stanton became the Union's Secretary of War during the Civil War. Daniel Sickles was an attorney himself. He had left New York University before graduation to work in a law office. He had been admitted to the bar in 1844. Daniel Sickles had a successful law practice, and he had become influential in politics. After the Civil War he was appointed U. S. Minister to Spain by President Grant. He was reputed to have had an affair with the deposed Queen of Spain. For twenty-six years in his later life, he chaired the New York State Monuments Commission, but he was forced out by a financial scandal.
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