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Awesome Men Throughout History: Daniel Sickles

You know, for all the talk I’ve heard about how coarse and degenerate modern society is, we don’t produce guys like Daniel Sickles anymore. Sickles was a New York politician, diplomat, and Union army general whose DILLIGAF attitude would be unthinkable in today’s overly self-conscious, personal brand management-obsessed media atmosphere. I mean, we still have bounders and cads in America, but they’re all jaded, rich socialites who think everything is beneath them. Sickles, on the other hand, was as awesome as a violent, womanizing alcoholic could ever be.

We’ll start with the womanizing. Sickles was a pimp in every sense of the word. He tomcatted around with notorious prostitute Fanny White and got in trouble for bringing her into the New York State Assembly’s chambers, and even took her to England to meet Queen Victoria. That would be like meeting President Obama with Nina Hartley on your arm today. He also may have collected money from a few of White’s “assignments,” shall we say, in exchange for campaign favors. Later in his life, he would jump into bed with Spain’s deposed Queen, Isabella II, as well as a few of her attendants.

Sickles didn’t take kindly to anyone making passes at his wife, however. When he found out that his wife Teresa was having an affair with Philip Barton Key II (son of Francis Scott Key, who wrote our national anthem), he shot Philip in the street and killed him, and was acquitted after a long and dramatic trial thanks to a temporary insanity defense (the first in American history), and his wife’s written confession to the affair, which Sickles leaked to the press in an attempt to sway public opinion in his favor.

As a general, Sickles was a close friend of Gen. Joseph Hooker, who had a reputation (perhaps undeserved) as a boozehound and a rake, and whose headquarters was the site of more than a few truly epic parties. The scene there was compared to that of a “rowdy bar and bordello,” and if that’s true, then it’s a wonder they had any time or energy left to fight.

Beyond that, Sickles’ biggest moment was the Battle of Gettysburg, where he got his leg blown to pieces by a cannonball during a Confederate attack that killed most of the Third Army Corps under his command. He smoked a cigar and grinned on the way to his amputation, and saved his shattered leg bones so he could donate them to the Army Medical Museum (now the National Museum of Health and Medicine). He visited his severed leg on the anniversary of its amputation for years afterward.

Sickles was also a big reason why the Gettysburg Battlefields were preserved; he sponsored legislation to form the Gettysburg National Military Park, and personally contributed the original fencing that marked the park’s borders on East Cemetery Hill.

You’d think a guy like Sickles—debauched, crippled, probably ravaged by venereal disease—would have died young, but he made it to age 94, and he’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Not bad for a guy who, judging by his personal habits, would be on COPS with his face blurred out if he were alive today.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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