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 Corpsdespite 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 book 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.
About the Author: James A. Hessler works in the financial services industry and is a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park. He has taught Sickles and Gettysburg-related courses for Harrisburg Area Community College and the Gettysburg Foundation. In addition to writing articles for publication, Hessler speaks regularly at Civil War Round Tables. A native of Buffalo, NY, he resides in Gettysburg with his wife and children.
FINALIST, 2009, ARMY HISTORICAL FOUNDATION DISTINGUISHED BOOK AWARD
WINNER, 2009, THE BACHELDER-CODDINGTON LITERARY AWARD, GIVEN BY THE ROBERT E. LEE CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE OF CENTRAL NEW JERSEY
WINNER, 2009, GETTYSBURG ROUND TABLE’S DISTINGUISHED BOOK AWARD
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Table of Contents
Order of Battle: The Third Corps at Gettysburg xii
Chapter 1 Murder! 1
Chapter 2 The Making of a First Class Soldier 21
Chapter 3 I Think it is a Retreat 49
Chapter 4 No One Ever Received a More Important Command 69
Chapter 5 The Third Corps Marches in the Right Direction 83
Chapter 6 In Some Doubt as to Where He Should Go 101
Chapter 7 No Relation to the General line of Battle 121
Chapter 8 Isn't Your Line Too Much Extended? 143
Chapter 9 The "Key" of the Battleground 161
Chapter 10 Gross Neglect or Unaccountable Stupidity 179
Chapter 11 The Line Before You Must Be Broken 193
Chapter 12 Let Me Die on the Field 213
Chapter 13 He has Redeemed his Reputation Fully 235
Chapter 14 Subsequent Events Proved My Judgment Correct 257
Chapter 15 My Only Motive is to Vindicate History 281
Chapter 16 Spoil a Rotten Egg 301
Chapter 17 Some Strange Perversion of History 315
Chapter 18 The Civil War is Only a Memory 359
Epilogue: That Damn Fool Sickles 389
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If this were fiction, I would say the author's main character is not credible. It would be impossible for one man to have so many escapades and not be publically ruined. However, this is not a work of fiction but the biography of a very unique and controversial individual. Daniel E. Sickles managed to pack more into his long lifetime than most people could in two or three lifetimes. His exploits and views make for hot debates on the Internet and at Round Tables, over eighty years after his death. These debates show no signs of ending, as Sickles is an integral part of the American Civil War having a direct influence over the Battle of Gettysburg and the history of the battle. James A. Hessler brings a wealth of information and a quite authority to the subject. He is a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg, teaches college courses on Sickles and Gettysburg and speaks on the subject. This shows in his informative readable text and the impressive footnotes supporting his statements. While a very serious history, this is not a dull overwritten book. Sickles is a lively character and the author maintains this level of energy throughout the book. This is a Savas Beatie book, as expected it contains a series of excellent illustrations and maps in the right places. It is a quality book with excellent paper that is a joy to hold and can be given with pride. What is in the book? The author concentrates on the murder of Key, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Second Battle of Gettysburg and Sickles' role in the establishment of the National Military Park. While a full biography, including his many affairs, estrangement from his children, financial ups & downs, elections and offices, the concentration produces both a biography and a history making a much stronger book. In 1859, Congressman Sickles murdered Philip Barton Key. Key and Sickles wife were having an affair that they made little effort to hide. Sickles publicly hunted down the unarmed Key and shot him several times. The resulting trial and scandal are part of American lore. The author examines the trial showing where and why what we think is right and wrong. The result is a look at the 19th Century double standard and what we call "stand your ground" laws. Sickles political carrier is shattered and his social standing ruined. In 1863, Major General Daniel Sickles commands the Third Corps Army of the Potomac. How that happens gives the reader a look at the system of "Political Generals" and the need for "War Democrats". A detailed examination of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg cover about 200 pages, the majority being Gettysburg. Both battles have excellent maps, allowing the reader to easily follow the battles. This is some of the best work on Sickles' actions I have read. The author considers all the questions providing intelligent answers, well supported with excellent footnotes. I found this slow going, not because it was boring but because the footnotes became required reading. The Second Battle of Gettysburg and the establishment of the National Military Park consumed the balance of Sickles active life. He attacked General Meade over a number of points, magnified his contribution to victory and defended his advance for 50 years. During that time, he had a number of allies and detractors. While the details change, with time, the theme is consistent. [Truncated review due to B&N limit of 3,500 characters]
I now own three Dan Sickles books. I took an interest in Sickles years ago while participating in a program about the ghosts of Washington D.C. at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, OH. I purchased two paperback books about the general, but while their info was good, they were boring. James Hessler has certainly written a much more lively and interesting book than the others. He also exhibits a good sense of humor in his writing. Civil War enthusiasts should certainly enjoy this book.