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 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2006 01:34 pm
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Homeschool_Teen_01
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Hello everbody

I was thinking the other day about general Sickles, one of the corps commanders at Gettysburg who advanced his corps and almost destroyed the whole Union line.  I believe I read somewhere that he had been a mental case before the war.  I personally believe that if it hadn't been for men like Colonel Joshua Chaberlain, that the Union would've been defeated at Gettysburg.

Does anyone know any more information about General Sickles?

Thanks



 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2006 01:45 pm
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Marie
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Welcome to the board :)

Gen. Sickles a mental case?   Well, he was the first to successfully use the "temporary insanity" defense in a murder trial.  Whether he really was nuts when he shot his wife's lover or just clever enough to convince a jury he was is still up for debate.

He also visited his leg every year after the War.   Odd?

Look into biography of Sickles...he is an interesting character.

Regards from NW Ohio,

Jana

 

Last edited on Wed Dec 6th, 2006 02:05 pm by Marie



 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2006 01:45 pm
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Marie
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Welcome to the board :)

Gen. Sickles a mental case?   Well, he was the first to successfully use the "temporary insanity" defense in a murder trial.  Whether he really was nuts when he shot his wife's lover or just clever enough to convince a jury he was is still up for debate.

He also visited his leg every year after the War.   Odd?

Look into biographie of Sickles...he is an interesting character.

Regards from NW Ohio,

Jana

 



 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2006 02:10 pm
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susansweet
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His biography American Scoundrel  is an interesting book.  Mental case?  as Marie said he used the plea temporary insanity for the first time in history to get himself off after he walked up to the son of Francis Scott Key and shot him point blank on the streets of Washington D.C.   Sickles became a general , his wife was shunned for the rest of her life doomed to spend it shut up in a home in New York. 

Not my favorite person in Civil War history by a long shot. He milked that lost leg for everything he could too. 



 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2006 03:01 pm
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David White
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Yes, quite a guy.  The real scandal for him was taking his wife back after the murder trial, that cost him points in the court of public opinion.  Quite the lady's man too, supposedly fathered children with Queen Isabella of Spain while he was US counsel there.

As to his qualifications for general he was a pro-war Democrat like Banks and Butler and many others who were rewarded for their loyalty to the Union.  They were leaders in political life so how hard could it be, to be a leader on the battlefield ;).



 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2006 03:10 pm
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Homeschool_Teen_01

Susansweet is correct that Sickle's victim was the son of Francis S. Key.  On a geneology note, the Key's are related to the Lloyd, Tilghman, Buchanan and Winder families of Maryland's Eastern Shore.  Further up the tree is Robert E. Lee. 

Recently saw Sickle's leg at the Nat. Health/Med. Museum located on the grounds of Walter Reed Hosp.  Great museum for those of you visiting the D.C. area.  View combat medicine from the Rev. War up to the present, quite impressive how far medicine has come since then. 

Was Sickles a mental case?  Probably not.  In terms of military proficiency, he wouldn't receive very high marks.  However, for polical shrewdness, he probably set the mold for our current politicians.  Agree with the other discussants that he's not one of my favarite cw individuals either.

 Did Chamberlain save the union from defeat at Gettysburg?  I'm not a battlefield tactition by any means and my knowledge only comes from printed sources/lectures/visiting battlefields, but in a recent publication, Last Chance for Victory, the point was made that even if the csa had succeeded in taking little round top, it probably would not have changed the eventual outcome.

  Great to see future generations taking an interest in history, any history for that matter. 

 Do any of the discussants see any parallels between Lincolns' difficulties in in making political/tactical decisions during the 63-64 period and our current conflict in the middle east?  As you have figured out by now I'm better at questions than answers.

 

Doc C

 



 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2006 03:30 pm
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susansweet
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ah but Doc questions lead to good discussions. 

I had forgotten how Key was related to all those other folk.  I read the book after I had been to Gettysburg the first time .  My friend , a  professor at John Jay University, was my tour guide for the day . He is the one that told me about Sickles the first time. 

As I read the book I got angier and angier at the man.  He sure did know how to self promote himself .   He was quite the ladies man but heaven forbid his wife from "entertaining " a friend in her lonliness .  

Oh geeze don't get me started.  lol . 



 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2006 11:40 pm
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Johnny Huma
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Dan Sickels was quite an interesting character. Did he  the save the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg as he so stated till his death? Well probably not..But he sure did put a wrench into Bobby's plans for taking the Peach Orchard. Until Sickles moved forward it was ground for the taking and Bobby squarely had his eye on it for his artillary as to wreak havoc on Cemetery Ridge. We all blame Sickles for that move but keep in mind that 3 times he had sent courriors to Meade requesting permission to make the move. Sickles was not Meades favorite general by a long shot and chose to ignore his request with no returned orders, so Sickles took it upon himself to go to the higher ground in his front. Had Meade sent back word to Sickles to stay put instead of ignoring him things may have turned out different. I think Sickles had the right as a Corps commander to make a decision based on his position that he did not like. Too bad it was not a good one based on there was no support for his troops there. The Sickles monument at Gettysburg is a piece in itself..It was made to hold a bronze bust of him. Although to this day there is no bust there. The money raised for the bust 28,000 dollars seemed to disapear. The keeper of the trust money was good old Dan himself. He was so good at promoting himself he managed to get a Medal of Honor for Gettysburg. But all in all we have to give him due respect for making the move to make Gettysburg a National Park because he is the one that got the ball rolling. Was Dan insane...Yea like a fox.....

Huma



 Posted: Thu Dec 7th, 2006 01:55 pm
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David White
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Johnny:

You make it sound like Meade left Sickles hanging, which is not the case and even assuming you are correct, Sickles had an obligation to tell Meade he was moving of his own volition, which he did not.  Sickles just can't be defended in his actions at Gettysburg.



 Posted: Thu Dec 7th, 2006 02:20 pm
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Johnny Huma
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Dave,

General Meade was involved on the 2nd with suring up his  right flank as that is where he expected an attack to take place. Meade does have to take some blame here because as I stated Sickeles did not make the move before 3 attempts were made for permission to make the move from Meade. Meade chose to ignore his request totally until he realized Sickles had made the move on his own in which case

he now had to counter. The brunt of the attacks were not going to be made on Meades right flank but his left. Had not Meade reenforced Sickles because of the move Longstreets Corps may have had easy pickins rolling up Meades left flank.

Because of Sickles move Meade had to send troops there because he knew the position Sickles held was not a strong one and his troops were spread thin. With the reenforcements coming in to support Sickles it put a lot more troops on the left flank then Meade wanted there but it also saved that flank from disaster waiting to happen. Hence sickles claims he saved the day at Gettysburg because of the move since Meade had no intentions of suring up his left flank. I am not defending Sickles here I am stating the historical facts of how it went down. A good book to read for a

good study to what really happened at Gettysburg is "Last Chance for Victory"..

Thanks for your response

Huma

 



 Posted: Thu Dec 7th, 2006 02:30 pm
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David White
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Ugh, I hate that book.

I like Sauers, Gettysburg: The Meade-Sickles Controversy much better.  Without doing some research I don't recall Meade blowing Sickles off but I do know Meade gave him no uncertain orders to hold his position. 

Last edited on Thu Dec 7th, 2006 02:37 pm by David White



 Posted: Thu Dec 7th, 2006 05:00 pm
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Doc C
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David

Wouldn't say I hate Bowden's/Hunt's book but feel that Coddington's, Sears', Pfantz's are better. In my opinion, Bowden/Hunt lose it when after their description of each of the 3 days they attempt to justify Lee's decisions. Couldn't tell that Lee made any mistakes during the first 2 days. Lee had everything figured out, in a nice little bundle but his subordinates failed to carry out his orders. Some truth to this but not as clear cut as the authors would lead us to believe.

As to weather or not Sickles movement of his corps was warranted who are we to judge. However, there was an extremely credible eye witness who saw this movement and its folly, Hancock, who remarked on cemetary ridge as he witnessed this movement that they would "come tumbling back".

Do say one thing for Lee. He may have had his sights set on attacking the peach orchard initially but upon seeing the III Corps there, he was able to appreciate that an en echelon attack further south was the better choice.

Doc C



 Posted: Thu Dec 7th, 2006 05:22 pm
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David White
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Doc:

Maybe hate is too strong but I don't like it.  Actually the other author is Bill Ward a former Longhorn lineman and that is not the reason I don't like it.  I spent a morning one day debating him on why Stuart is not to blame for the loss at Gettysburg.  I don't like the book because it seems to be a modern rehashing of the Lost Cause Mythology.  It definitely is popular, but notably among the Lost Causers we've been talking about in the other thread, i.e. Lee didn't fail, it was all his subordinates' faults.

Agree with your analysis, however, especially about the other authors.



 Posted: Thu Dec 7th, 2006 05:51 pm
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Doc C
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Dave

Captured my thoughts exactly. Was written with a lost cause mentality.

Doc



 Posted: Fri Dec 8th, 2006 02:17 am
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Johnny Huma
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Comrads,

I will agree with you that the book seems to be pro Lee. When one wins a battle as Meade did at Gettysburg no one stood up and said  "There he is the great General of the Army of the Potomic"...Instead the Union commanders all claimed that the deeds they themselves had done on the field won the Battle of Gettysburg leaving Meade to the dogs. Some of those Generals may have had stake to that claim as Hancock who was a great asset to Meade on those 3 bloody days. Meade didnt even get a "That a boy" from Washington..Instead he got thrown to the wolves for not pursuing Lee on his retreat and destroying his army...In fact some of the Corps Commanders at Gettysburg went as far as to say Meade wanted to make a retreating move on the morning of the 2nd.

On the other hand Lee lost the Battle of Gettysburg and solely admitted it was his fault without pointing fingers at any of his subordinate commanders. But also with this take into consideration none of these commanders came forward and said

"General Lee no it was my fault" and there was enough of that to go around...

So as history goes "Success has many friends but failure is a lonely bastard"

I think Lee needs some defending here and I think that is what the authors  intent

 to get across as to why Lee's 3 days of battle did not go his way...Some of those reasons lie within his own command and others lie with the Union Army...

Recently a rather large building was being constucted here where I live and three walls of the framework collapsed. It was not the intention of the owner of the construction company for this to happen but his foremen had overlooked some construction basics. Who do you think took the rap? The constuction plans were deemed solid as the owner of the Company researched it all. The fault was with his employees who did not execute the plans properly..None the less the owner took the responsibility for the haphazard construction. This was not the plan he laid out but something or someone down the line failed..!!

It is hard for one to believe that  General Lee all of the sudden lost all of his abilites to command when he crossed the Mason Dixon. In fact his ability to read a battle in progress is what led him to many victories with inferior numbers and also the ability to read his opponent. Lee's Plans for Victory at Gettysburg were sound. He could change the battle plan as he did on the 2nd day seeing that a en echolon attack would harvest the best results...But the walls fell as they did above even though the plans were sound. Well then there must have been some employees that failed him somewhere....

And on the other hand I dont believe Meade gets enough credit for his stand at the Burg..Here is a rather unkown at the time of the battle who goes up against Bobby Lee and Wins the battle...He and his Corps commanders made all the right moves..

Well maybe excluding Sickles...But isnt that how this debate  started...;)

Meade should have been crowned Prince of the Potomic because all the commanders before him with all their witt and charm with superior numbers could not whip Bobby

and on most accounts were embarresed by him...So lets all give an "At a boy to good Ol George".....And well deserved....

I have read the other works mentioned above and they are also great books..

Lets face it the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought a thousand times over and over

in books in movies and debates...And no matter how many times History may want to fight the battle  The results are the same....The Union Wins again..and again over and over...

But it is a great thing that History is alive and well and all the people using this board and others like it still want to know and relive what was once a sad time in our country..It is all important for us to know and our kids to know..for if we do not know from where we came then how can we know where we are going...

Thanks for reading guys and gals

Huma

 



 Posted: Fri Dec 8th, 2006 11:29 pm
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Widow
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Johnny, I liked very much your analysis of the lose-lose situation Meade was in.  True, he wasn't a brilliant commander, but he was solid at Gettysburg.

And Home-School Teen, you've seen just a small sample of the controversy about Dan Sickles.  A clever and successful New York City politician who got himself appointed as a general.  His murder trial before the war, as someone else pointed out, was the first to use the defense of temporary insanity.  Meaning that he went crazy when he saw his wife's lover, and lost all control.  Plugged the guy.  Then regained his senses.

When a man is seeing a married woman, generally it's a good idea to keep it secret.  Not Philip Barton Key.  The Sickles house in Washington faced Lafayette Square, which is in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.  From the windows Teresa Sickles could see her lover walking across the square, waving a white handkerchief to signal her to come out.  He was probably looking up at her window.  Anybody in the square could see him do it, including one Dan Sickles, the cuckolded husband.

A little detail here for you.  Sickles' defense attorney, the one who came up with that new defense, was none other than Edwin McMasters Stanton.  You can judge what a successful lawyer Stanton was by getting Danny Boy acquitted.  Later he was President Lincoln's Secretary of War.

Sickles ignored his beautiful young wife.  Just left her at home while he went out partying and politicking in Washington.  She didn't know anybody and after a while she was so lonely.  Then she met the dashing Key, who paid a lot of attention to her, was sympathetic, and she fell in love.  They met in his apartment.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The irony is that Dan didn't divorce Teresa after his trial.  He kept her, and I suppose her life was miserable, having to live with the killer of the man she loved.  Did she wonder if he would go insane again and pick her the next time?

Well, he had plenty of killing in the war.  His leg was amputated at Gettysburg, and he had it preserved.  Donated it to the medical museum at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington.  He visited it every so often, and later, he took his girlfriends there to see it.  Fun date, hm?

Patty

Last edited on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 11:37 pm by Widow



 Posted: Sat Dec 9th, 2006 09:10 pm
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Hi, again, Home School Teen,

This is a follow-up to my previous post about Dan Sickles' murder of Philip Barton Key.

It was a big scandal in Washington.  Not because Mrs. Sickles was having an affair with another man.  Not because her husband killed him.  The scandal was the WAY it was done.  The traditional way was for the husband to challenge the lover to a duel.

It was a formal procedure, called the Code Duello (I think that's from the Italian).  The challenger chose a friend, called a second, to make the arrangements with the other man's second.  They set the time and place, and checked the weapons to be sure everything was done fair and square.  Sometimes a doctor was present to treat any wounds.  Killing a man in a duel was not considered murder, it was an affair of honor, and there was no trial.

Dan broke the unwritten rules by just walking up and shooting Key to death in broad daylight.  That's why he was charged with murder.  No duel, no honor.  So how could he be acquitted?  Stanton came up with the temporary insanity defense.

Only men sat on juries, and they had to consider if Sickles was justified in killing his wife's lover.  Well, of course, he had the right to do it, to defend his honor!!  But not that way.  If it was killing in cold blood, malice aforethought, planned and carried out, that was first-degree murder, subject to hanging.  But if it was a moment of passion, where his reason left him out of control, then he couldn't be held responsible.  So the theory went.  And so the jury was persuaded.  And so he lived to fight another day, and lose a leg at Gettysburg.

That's a serious injury and he could have died of infection.  But he didn't.  In later years he worked hard to save the battlefield as a national park.  For that we can thank him.  For the rest, we can only shake our heads.

Patty



 Posted: Sun Dec 10th, 2006 02:58 am
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ole
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Sickles' unauthorized move is good for days of discussion. Did it save the Union left on Day 2? If Lee's plan hadn't been stymied, would Longstreet's assignment have been successful? Would he have been able to roll up the Federal left? I doubt it, but it could have happened.

Bottom line is that Sickles jeoparradized Meade's set up. Whether or not his preparations were sound or that he had contingencies to cover any situation is not the question. Sickles' placement disrupted his commanding officer's plans. Whether by fate it turns out fine, does not excuse the move. It is not clear that his placement saved anything. It is clear that he did not follow his commander's orders.

Sorry about that, Johnny, it's the way I see it.

Ole



 Posted: Mon Dec 11th, 2006 03:06 am
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Johnny Huma
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Ole,

Sickles is not one of my favorite Generals of the war. But I have to stick with the fact that his decision was based on not liking his position on lower ground and as a Corps commander he was responsible for his men and to give them what he believed to be the best fighting advantage. Should he have been brought up on charges for his move. You bet...He did make the move without the consent of the commanding General. Would have Meades left flank held had Sickles not made the move? Here I will totally disagree..Longstreet would have walked through Meades left flank had he not bolsterd it because of Sickles ill fated move. It almost collapsed with the reenforcements being sent in. Had that flank been hit with just the 3rd Corps trying to hold it reenforcements would not have come soon enough to relieve the pressure.

That does not leave Sickles off the hook and I agree that he created a mess for Meade but none the less it sure gave Dan at least one leg to stand on after the war in his own defense. He was not brought up on charges for his actions..Why?

This should have warrented a court martial at the least not a Medal of Honor.

I believe Meade did not push the issue due to the fact that the attack did strike there

and I am sure there was talk going around that Sickles may have saved the day for Meade..I am sure Meade wanted no part of a confrontation about who was right or wrong and clearly had his sights on how to win the battle. Meade was upset with Sickles move but was a good enough General to see he had to counter it swiftly.

Thus Sickles being out of action and the battle won for the Union Meade did not have to defend a loss or point fingers at anyone. Had the Union lost at Gettysburg I think you would have seen that Ol Dan would have had lash marks on his back and would have been the sole blame for the loss. So by the win Dan escaped the noose...

 



 Posted: Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 06:40 am
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Why were a lot of men made generals during the war? Certainly some men proved competent enough in the position for it to be understandable while others it makes very little sense why they were generals. Perhaps why they were even officers period.

I'm not going to go into whether or not Sickles was or was not competent enough for it to be understandable why he was a general. Fact is, I'm probably the last one who can claim to be qualified enough to even make such a decision. All I'm trying to point out is that some people ended up being a general for reasons other than actually demonstrating that they were capable of being competent in that position. Some it might have been who they knew, others it was simply politics. Seems at least on the Union side there were a lot of pre-war politicians who fought and ended up being made generals whether they deserved it or not.

I like playing Civil War computer games and can claim to be competent as a general, even though I loose from time to time. But how would I actually fair on the actual battlefield. I mean, I've got a major advantage in that the games I play I can usually see most of the opposing forces. And I can click on opposing forces to determine their strength, morale, and general status in terms of attacking or being attacked. Which means I can then better direct my own forces because unlike an actual battlefield, I have all the info at my fingertips. I'm not having to rely on aides bringing me reports from the battlefield and then sending them to particular commanders for certain troop movements. Nor am I having to try and mount a hill or tall enough building from where I can better see the battlefield, especially with field glasses. And of course if I no anything about a particular battle, then I have a clue as to what worked and what didn't work. Thus I can try and repeat that which did work while trying to come up with something different for those elements that didn't do so.

So what's my point in bringing this up? Why does it even pertain to anything I'm saying? Well, the games let me play armchair general. And I wouldn't be terribly surprised if some of the folks who became generals during the war had also been doing exactly the same thing. Not playing with computer games, mind you, but taking what they knew of the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Indian Wars and telling folks what they would have done had they been in charge. Maybe some folks took such thengs seriously and actually put people who never should have been in command right there. Just a theory and undoubtedly a bad one.

 



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