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American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles
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American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  261 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Hero, adulterer, bon vivant, murderer and rogue, Dan Sickles led the kind of existence that was indeed stranger than fiction. Throughout his life he exhibited the kind of exuberant charm and lack of scruple that wins friends, seduces women, and gets people killed. In American Scoundrel Thomas Keneally, the acclaimed author of Schindler’s List, creates a biography that is a...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Anchor (first published April 25th 2002)
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Tom
In a previous life I used to teach college level American History. Often, when applying for new jobs, the interviewers would ask me who was my favorite American. I would reply, with as much a straight face as possible, that Dan Sickles (pre Civil War) and Warren G Harding (after CW) were my favorite Americans. We will not dwell on Warren(though a President who drank, played poker and chased women can not be all bad).

Here is Dan in all his glory. Shooting his wife's lover, and getting away with i...more
Josie
The truth is often stranger than fiction, and the life of Dan Sickles is no exception to this rule. He is as interesting an American as you are likely to find. Diplomat, playboy, lousy husband, beloved general, congressman, leader, murderer, good old boy....all these things describe Sickles.
I became interested in him during a recent trip to Gettysburg. I picked up this book in the Visitor Center book store and I am glad I did. Interesting, easy to read, well written, this book is well worth you...more
Dergrossest
A surprisingly delightful book about pre-Civil War New York, the politics which led to the Civil War, the war itself and the aftermath of same, all told through the unbelievably colorful life and loves of Daniel Sickles. While undeniably self-aggrandizing, selfish, corrupt and of questionable personal ethics, he was nevertheless simultaneously brave, loyal, patriotic and extremely enterprising. An attorney, a Congressman, a serial adulterer, a murderer, a General and an Ambassador, Sickles' stor...more
Damon Lively
Scoundrel – that pretty much hit the nail on the head. Sickles was all that and more. I knew some of his erratic behavior prior to reading this book – but it really opens the door to his entire life (and not in an always positive manner). The book overview is focused on the act of murder predominately – but the book allows us to see more about Sickles and his detachment as a father and husband, his chauvinistic and sexist conduct, and really how politics and “name recognition” influenced that ti...more
CJ
This book is a fascinating look at a person who could either be considered a national hero or an irredeemable asshole.

This is the story of Dan Sickles, a native New Yorker who was brought up through the Tammany system. Although not well-remembered today, Sickles was a dynamic, popular, and very gossip-worthy figure of his time. His connections to Tammany Hall were definitely not entirely honest, but he often used them to accomplish good things, like the establishment of Central Park, and many ye...more
Elizabeth Desole
Wow what a swine. The first man to get off a murder charge through "temporary insanity". Also a member of Tammany Hall. And a civil war general. So interesting to realize how rough things were still in Washington DC 150 years ago. This guys takes the cake though for a king amongst DC scum-and that's really saying something. What one can get away with when well-connected

So this was from before I finished the book. The man was a regular Zelig.
He was a Tammany hall politician, then a US congressman...more
Francene Carroll
I got off to a shaky start with this book and almost didn't get back to it but I'm so glad I persevered. I admire the way Keneally traces the fascinating history of Dan Sickles while at the same time giving voice to his tragic wife Teresa who was despised and forgotten in her own time.

Sickles is a complex man with a seemingly boundless appetitie for both politics and women. His story is chequered and contains extreme highs and lows. I couldn't help admiring his energy while at the same time feel...more
Philip
The title of Thomas Keneally’s American Scoundrel leaves little to the imagination. The only unknown is to whom the label might be attached. Before we begin the title tells us that the declared subject, one Daniel Sickles, is charged, sentenced and already committed. The fact that in reality he was charged but also acquitted leaves enough space of doubt to generate sufficient interest to prompt a reading.

Daniel Sickles, in short, was a cad and a bounder, but perhaps might not have appeared so by...more
Theo Logos
Dan Sickles, the notorious scoundrel of this book's title, appears to have gotten away with so many of his sins because he was colorful, resourceful, and charming. Unfortunately for the reader, the same cannot be said of Thomas Keneally's writing. Keneally tells us what a colorful character Sickles was, but never really shows us or makes us feel it. One is left with the thought that Sickles must have been a fascinating and complex man, and the hope that someone will someday write a decent biogra...more
Joshua Horn
This biography of Dan Sickles, general, politician and scoundrel, adapt paints a picture of the wickedness and corruption of a certain section of 19th century American society. However, the story is told in a bit of a salacious way, just like it was in the 1800s.

Some parts, especially at the beginning were not well written. The author's non-American heritage demonstrates itself in some awkward language - such as saying Sickles "stood for" instead of "running for" office.

In his handling of Sickl...more
Matt
Scoundrel is the perfect word for Dan Sickles. The book shows how much of a scoundrel he was to his wife. The book seeemed to be about their marriage because after her death in 1867 it takes Keneally around forty pages to cover the final forty seven years of Sickles life. Sickles was a very interesting man and worthy of more study in some aspects the reader might gain respect for Sickles on one page and find themselves shaking their head on the next. Sickles was a complicated man worthy of study...more
Debra
I finished listening to this 11 disc unabridged reading of an American Scoundrel: Dan Sickles. The time period is 1858 through the civil war. Dan Sickles is a pampered, narsistic, upper class New Yorker. He thought nothing of bedding anything in skirts. His wife, 17 years younger, has an affair and Dan Sickles kills the adulter,is tried for murder, and is found not guilty. Women were property and his wife is disowned. Dan lives a long life considering the times. TB is common place and is known a...more
George
Feb 27, 2008 George rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Civil War, American political history
One of the great self-promoters in US history. There's very little likeable about this fellow but it's a very interesting book. Supposedly a hero of Gettysburg and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, but he came very close to throwing away the battle and his award was approved well after the war by his many political allies. The temporary insanity plea was invented by the attorney for this man at his murder trial for his wife's lover, although he was himself a notorious philanderer. But...more
Jonathan
Interesting bio on a Union civil war general I knew nothing about (I'm no civil war buff). Sickles led a very colorful life and knew a lot of the larger than life characters of his time. By the end of the book, i concluded i really didn't like the man nor find him particularly admirable. While that doesn't necessarily make a book unreadable or uninteresting (especially in this case), his lack of caring for women was a bit offputting. However, seeing Sickles' life intersect with so many momentous...more
Sinead
After hearing about General Sickles during a trip to Gettysburg and Washington, DC I knew I had to read this book. Seeing where he murdered his wife's lover left me in awe. I found his story very intriguing.

The book itself took me a long time to read. I consider myself to be a very fast reader, but it was very wordy and long-winded. This isn't a bad thing, but just different from the books I typically read.

I am so fascinated by General Sickles and this book helped to satisfy my intrigue.
Kenneth
I really liked the political history of Dan Sickles but the book got bogged down with too much everyday life and relationship information.
Lee
This book tells the story of Tammany Hall politician who murdered his wife’s lover and was found innocent by reason of temporary insanity and then later was a controversial Civil War General and several other notorious events after the war including an affair with the deposed Queen of Spain. The book mainly deals with his wives affair and the murder trial but it does deal with his actions during the Civil War and his life after the war. Pretty good read.
Les Wolf
This is the story of one of the most controversial figures of the Civil War Era - General Dan Sickles.
Thomas Keneally is the author of The Great Shame and Schindler's List and is an excellent writer. I learned a few things that I did not know and those little surprises are what make for a really good history book.
Don
What a story. This dude was a piece of work--from getting away with shooting his wife's lover, to befriending presidents--including Linclon--to raising his own army so he could be its general during the Civil War, this fellow was there for so much and was mostly on the grift the whole way.
Anita
Why didn't they talk about Daniel Sickles in history class? His story has everything: sex, murder, civil war, reconstruction, Cuba - come on, teachers, this will really get your students talking about the crime of the century of 1859 and the insanity defense - also would be great for a book club.
Michelle
I hadn't realised this was biography, I was expecting a Schindler's Ark type. Dan Sickles was a charming young Senator who spent money easily and cheated on his very young wife. After he is acquitted of murdering his wife's lover, he becomes a famous army leader in the Civil War. An amazing story.
Rashel
I enjoyed this book's presentation of history through the life of Dan Sickles. What an interesting time period in American history. Although the book was a bit slow/boring at times, the overall story and the perspective the author chose to focus on - his wife - was quite intriguing.
Rob
Dan Sickles? How did I get to be so old without knowing about this guy? Probably because his story is so amazing that most would have trouble believing it is real. Or maybe because scoundrels (not criminals) do not get the historical attention they deserve. What a fascinating read.
John
A charismatic sleazeball, even this slightly favorable leaning author cannot make readers love Dan Sickels. The book often has too much superfluous detail and then not enough on other sections.
Eric Smith
I had high hopes from this book, that it would be a great biography - it's not. The author wrote ""Schlinder's List"" and I think my hopes were justified. Instead I got a good biogra
Susan
Love, love, love this wild story. What a cad. The author's previous book was Schindler's List - the guy has a knack for finding jerks who seem to accomplish good while being bad.
Jessica peyton
Feb 24, 2008 Jessica peyton added it
Shelves: history
This was written by the author of Schindler's list. It is a well written story of the life of this unscrupulous general. If you enjoy history, you will like this one.
Andy
One of the most fascinating figures from the civil war period. His life outside the military is more interesting than his service during the war.
Franki Acevedo
I read this book back in 2005! I loved every page of it! Egotism, heartbreak, philandering, dules, MURDER, an absolute "good read"!
Deborah Sparrow
Great material but a difficult book to get through because of the writing style. The subject is the best part, and it is fascinating.
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Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982, which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), which won the Academy Award for Best Pict...more
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