The Yankee King of Spain
February 11, 2008 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Acquitted of the murder of Francis Scott Key's son by the first successful pleading of temporarily insane? Check. Civil War Union general? Check. Medal of Honor winner? Check. Amputated leg on display to the public? Check. Lover to the deposed Queen of Spain? Check. Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce you to Major General, Foreign Minister, and Congressman Daniel Edgar Sickles.

Feel free to skip to the beginning of the Time article on Sickles (Spanish Lover link), for a slightly dated (and slightly wrong), but interesting biography of the general before Spain. Also, check out this link with numerous photographs (scroll down) and for articles on the man from multiple sources and years.
posted by Atreides (18 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
From the Medal of Honor link:
Sickles then publicly forgave his wife, outraging the public, which had applauded his role in the shooting, and apparently ending his political career. just then the Civil War broke out and he saw his chance to get a new start.
They don't make 'em like that anymore. At least, I hope not.
posted by wtdoor at 7:06 PM on February 11, 2008

I am a descendant of daniel sickles.
posted by jrb223 at 7:10 PM on February 11, 2008

Plus, he invented anemia!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:23 PM on February 11, 2008

Just got done looking through the links, very nice, thank you. This book is a pretty good biography of the man too if anyone is looking for more depth. (and I really am related, a few generations back, through marriage... or at least that's the family lore)
posted by jrb223 at 7:29 PM on February 11, 2008

From the leg on display link: For many years on the anniversary of the amputation, Sickles visited his leg at the museum.

I like this guy.

And, from the Wikipedia article (of course with no citation, but I want it to be true):

Of the principal senior generals who fought at Gettysburg, virtually all have been memorialized with statues at Gettysburg. Sickles is a conspicuous exception. But when asked why there was no memorial to him, Sickles supposedly said, "The entire battlefield is a memorial to Dan Sickles." However, there was, in fact, a memorial commissioned to include a bust of Sickles, the monument to the New York Excelsior Brigade. It was rumored that the money appropriated for the bust was stolen by Sickles himself; the monument is displayed in the Peach Orchard with a figure of an eagle replacing Sickles's likeness.
posted by marxchivist at 7:32 PM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sired by Pop Sickles.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:37 PM on February 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Marxchivist: I was about to post that 2nd quote. This guy RULES.
posted by papakwanz at 7:44 PM on February 11, 2008

I grew up in the town where Francis Scott Key was from, Frederick, MD. This is the first I've heard of this. Thanks!
posted by Shanachie at 8:41 PM on February 11, 2008

There's a wonderful typo in the first link.
Sickles, armed with only this information forced his lovely young wife to write an admission of quilt.
posted by Flitcraft at 9:20 PM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

And now we get bent if Obama says he did a few lines 'back in the day'.
posted by eclectist at 9:58 PM on February 11, 2008

posted by LobsterMitten at 10:32 PM on February 11, 2008

This guy now rivals Richard S. Burton in my book as coolest bastard of the 19th century. And that's an era with a lot of competition for the title.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:41 PM on February 11, 2008

I am a descendant of the opera glasses.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:10 PM on February 11, 2008

Nice, Atreides. I'd never seen your first link, basically a rehash of a long article I wrote for American History magazine — "The Washington Tragedy," October 1998 issue — which even quotes me twice near the end. (I think it was online at one point, but not now, unfortunately, perhaps because the magazine has changed owners). Truly an amazing guy, and the W. A. Swanburg biography jrb223 mentions, Sickles the Incredible, is one of the best biographies ever.

Of the principal senior generals who fought at Gettysburg, virtually all have been memorialized with statues at Gettysburg. Sickles is a conspicuous exception.

One good reason might be that Sickles disobeyed orders at Gettysburg and many people, like this guy, believe he was in the process of possibly losing this crucial battle when his leg was shot off. ("Alternately, did he nearly blow everything by overextending his line, giving up strong positions for weak ones, stretching his men over a line three times as long as his original position, and leaving both his flanks dangling in thin air?")

I get the sense that Sickles probably would have been courtmartialed afterwards, even though the North won at Gettysburg, but his superiors felt that losing his leg was punishment enough.

Sickles, of course, get a lot of mileage out of his lost leg. As Mark Twain famously said, "It is my guess that if the General had to lose a leg, he'd rather lose the one he has than the one he hasn't."

p.s. In a display case near the one holding Sickles's leg, at least when I made my obligatory pilgrimage to see it, you'll find pieces of Abraham Lincoln's skull.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:06 AM on February 12, 2008

Sounds like a bad ass dude... but is he more bad ass than Aaron Burr?
posted by ph00dz at 4:36 AM on February 12, 2008

Very cool post.
posted by sfts2 at 6:31 AM on February 12, 2008

Sounds like a bad ass dude... but is he more bad ass than Aaron Burr?

No. At least I don't think so.
posted by thivaia at 7:23 AM on February 12, 2008

Great post about another of the eccentric americans of the 19th Century. I often wonder what it was about that time period that produced so many romantic oddballs.

If you don't feel like traveling all the way to DC, you can see the "only authorized replica" of General Sickle's leg at Greystone's Historical Emporium & Gallery in Gettysburg, PA. Or at least you could the last time I was there...

All this says something about America as a whole, but I'm at a loss to put it in words.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:20 PM on February 12, 2008

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