A Monument to Daniel E. Sickles

Sitting in the saddle near the Abraham Trostle House, north of Stony Hill, [Daniel E.] Sickles was hit in the right knee by a low-velocity round shot. The knee was mangled and Sickles was placed on a stretcher next to Trostle’s Barn, where despite loss of blood and the onset of shock, he continued talking in rather good spirits with various officers, asked to have himself propped high enough so that his men could see that he was alive, and then requested and smoked a cigar. Taken to a makeshift field hospital at the Daniel Sheaffer Farm in the rear, Sickles had his right leg amputated, wrapped and place inside a small coffin, and eventually sent to the Army Medical Museum in Washington, where he visited it each year. In some measure the unruly 3d Corps commander had the last laugh: Effectively taken out of the war at his most controversial moment, he continued to aid the Lincoln administration in valuable ways and by losing his leg made himself into an instant hero in his mind and the minds of many others. After the war he served as minister to Spain and used the position as an opportunity to have an affair with Queen Isabella, the former ruler of the country. This only added to his prewar notoriety, which came from his having shot and killed on a Washington street his wife’s paramour, Washington District Attorney Philip Barton Key, the son of the author of “The Star Spangled Banner.” In a sensational murder trial prosecuted by Robert Ould (who would flee under a cloud of treason to become an assistant secretary of war for the Confederacy) and defended by Edwin M. Stanton (who became Lincoln’s secretary of war), Sickles was acquitted by reason of temporary insanity — the first such successful defense in America. Even more shockingly to Victorian morals, he took his unfaithful wife back. Sickles outmaneuvered his detractors. He lived until 1914 and presided over many Gettysburg reunions. When asked why no monument was erected to him, he claimed “the whole damn battlefield is my monument.”

David J. Eicher, The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War, p. 553

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s