- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Many readers may find "scoundrel" and "notorious" too mild to characterize "Desperate Dan" Sickles (18231914) -- manipulator, murderer, and military maverick may more readily come to mind. Impatient for success, Sickles broke the family mold of upper-class respectability. Ambition overtook probity; charm dismissed morality, and Sickles took to the great American highway of politics (with its dubious turnoffs into influence peddling and corruption) to launch his action-filled career. Elected to the New York State Senate, he ably promoted the pending Central Park project. But when elevated to the U.S. Congress in 1856, he marked his term by calmly shooting his neglected wife's lover, Philip Barton Key, son of the author of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Though much of the public's sympathy in the case accrued to 21-year-old Teresa Sickles (the granddaughter of Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart's librettist), the 40-year-old Sickles sailed through his murder trial, winning acquittal on a temporary-insanity plea.
A staunch supporter of the Union and President Lincoln, Sickles raised the Excelsior Volunteer regiment upon the outbreak of the Civil War. As a major general, he commanded his men in the fighting at Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg, employing a costly and still hotly debated strategy. Having lost a leg in the war, Sickles went on to an amazingly active social and political career, including an exhausting mission to Colombia and a return to Congress in 1893.
Thomas Keneally (Schindler's List) has written another surefire bestseller with this colorful, fast-forward biography. Keneally's skilled chronicling provides a brilliant if crowded canvas in which political, military, and social leaders are vividly portrayed. He deftly switches from the ponderous President Buchanan to the gloomy lincoln, from the cautious General Meade to the eager Grant, from the neurotically social Mrs. Lincoln to the unrequited Teresa, abandoned by her husband in rural Upper Manhattan. Sickles himself survived until the age of 91, bankrupt, under investigation for misappropriation of public funds, but still philandering until the end. This worthy new biography brings Sickles back to exuberant life against a vivid panorama of his time. (Peter Skinner)
Peter Skinner lives in New York City.