Major General Daniel Edgar Sickles

Sickles

Dan Sickles commanded III Corps, Army of the Potomac during the Battle of Gettysburg. He learned that, at about noon on 2 July, John Buford's cavalry division had been withdrawn from its position on his left flank and not replaced. This may have been a factor that led Sickles to redeploy III Corps, originally posted at the far left on Cemetery Ridge to the summit of Little Round Top, forward to higher ground along the Emmitsburg Road from the Peach Orchard and the Wheat Field and anchored on the Devil's Den. Another speculation as to the motivation for this move is that he may have recalled his recent experience at Chancellorsville where Joe Hooker had ordered III Corps to move from the high ground at Hazel Grove only to be subsequently savaged by Confederate artillery that had occupied his abandoned position.

George Meade, on hearing of Sickles' liberal interpretation of his deployment orders, rushed to him for an explaination. When Sickles replied that he had made the move for the higher ground of the Peach Orchard, Meade replied, "General Sickles, this is in some respects higher ground than that of the rear, but there is still higher in front of you, and if you keep on advancing you will find constantly higher ground all the way to the mountains!"

At just about the time Sickles offered to return to his original place in line, John B. Hood's and James Longstreet's artillery opened up, and Meade noted that he didn't think the Confederates would let Sickles return. Because Buford's cavalry had been ordered by Alfred Pleasonton to retire and not replaced, III Corps was flanked on its left by Hood's division which swept it from Devil's Den and into the Wheatfield. A bit later, Lafayette McLaws' division made an assault on the right across the Emmitsburg Road in the area of the Peach Orchard and the Sherfy and Codori houses. Sickles was driven back to his original lines on Cemetery Ridge. The withdrawl was generally orderly thanks to the men of 1st and 2d Brigades of Romeyn Ayres' Second Division, of George Sykes' V Corps who provided cover for the retreating III Corps.

During the battle, a shell mangled Sickles' right leg. Sickles was seen smoking a large cigar as he was carried from the field on a stretcher. Thomas Sim, a III Corps surgeon, later amputated the leg just above the knee and, instead of having it buried with the rest of the amputated limbs, wrapped and preserved the leg "for whatever disposition Sickles might later want to make of it." Sickles had a miniture coffin made for his amputated leg, and donated it to the Army Medical Museum. For years afterward he delighted in taking friends there to "visit" his leg. It now resides in the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

After Sickles was wounded, III Corps was under the operational commend of Winfield Hancock, who was co÷rdinating the center of the Army of the Potomac.

Born on 20 October 1819 in New York City, Dan Sickles had frequent encounters with his parents and boarding school teachers. He had a long association with Democratic party politics at Tammany Hall. In 1852, against the wishes of both families, he married Teresa Bagioli. Sometime in 1858, she began having an affair with Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key. The day after confronting his wife about the affair and having her attest to it in a written affidavit, Sickles saw Key in front of his house signaling to Teresa in an attempt to arrange another assignation. In a rage, Sickles went upstairs, grabbed his pistols, went out to confront Key, and shot him several times; the last shot in the head at close range. Arrested and tried for murder, Sickles was acquitted, resting his defense on the plea of temporary insanity--the first time this plea was used.

REFERENCES

  1. Gallagher, ed., The Second Day atGettysburg. Kent State University Press, Kent, OH, 1993
  2. Swanberg, W. A., Sickles the Incredible. Stan Clark Military Books, Gettysburg, PA, 1956.
  3. Phipps, M., "They Too Fought Here." Programs of the Sixth Annual Seminar, National Park Service, Gettysburg, PA, December 1997.


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Photo source: Library of Congress
Thomas Price corrected an error on this page.
Created 20 MAY 1996; Revised 24 JUL 2002
http://schwartz.eng.auburn.edu/ACW/lrtmap.docs/sickles.html