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Battles, People & Key Events > Obscure Characters in the Civil War

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message 1: by Andy (new)

Andy  | 2 comments While doing a research paper for school some years back I came across Major General Daniel Sickles USA. I found his life fascinating, as a politicin, a cold blooded killer and then a soldier. He even dipped his hands into the Presidential Election of 1876. The books include: "The Congressman Who Got Away with Murder," and "American Scoundrel."

message 2: by George (new)

George | 93 comments I have "American Scoundrel". It's a very good read about a very bad man. The first man to get off a murder conviction on temporary insanity grounds for killing his wife's lover, even though he was a notorious philanderer himself. Although he was eventually awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his action in the Peach Orchard and the Devil's Den at Gettysburg, it was awarded by his political friends long after the war ended. Most authors I've read think he came very close to losing the battle on the second day for the North by taking his unit off the ridge line altough it did confuse Longstreet's efforts to flank the Union line.

message 3: by Beth (new)

Beth Miller (parrishouse) | 3 comments I have also read "American Scoundrel" and had a discussion at length about Sickles with a Berdan's Sharpshooter re-enactor up on Little Round Top last October. Sickles was an unbelievably ego-maniacal and political animal. The guy I spoke with at LRT seemed convinced that Sickles' action on the 2nd day actually added to the Union success via the confusion factor George alludes to, but even if this was so, it was an irresponsible and brazen act of insubordination and ego. I always have found it interesting that the NY monument up on LRT is by far the most grandiose, perhaps a reflection of Sickles' influence on what his state's marker should look like. When once asked why there was no monument to him personally on the battlefield, I believe the story is that he replied, "The whole damn battlefield is my monument" or something of this nature. He was forever implying that he had won the battle for the North. I could go on and on. This man was heinous, but he does make for a colorful story and certainly puts a hole in the idea that all officers were gallant and true! I have always felt sorry for his poor wife, such a victim to the double standards of the day. At any rate, a MOST interesting character!

message 4: by George (new)

George | 93 comments Well, don't expect me to stick up for Dan Sickles. I completely agree that his action was irresponsible. It would have been helpful if he had only informed Gen. Meade that he intended to take his corps off the ridge line and forward into the Peach Orchard. Then at least Meade might have countered the orders or at least reacted to the gaping hole in his defense. The only reason the Union flank didn't collapse was that Gouverneur Warren came up with his engineers and realizing the situation called in reinforcements who made it in time to plug the holes Sickles created.

The subsequent Confederate attack at Little Round Top, started off much later in the day and was much weaker as a result of Sickles action, but he hardly merits any acclaim for that, since there would have been no Union forces at all at LTR had it all been left up to him, and the entire Union position would have been unhinged and collapsed. Lots of Union troops under his command died unnecessarily as well. At least Sickles paid to some extent as well in losing his leg. In the end, it did benefit the defense though, even if Sickles should have been cashiered for his actions. Good book though.

message 5: by Beth (new)

Beth Miller (parrishouse) | 3 comments I agree completely, George. And I'm so glad you mentioned Gouverneur Warren. I really admire him, and, of course, he was treated pretty unfairly later in the war. While I suppose he doesn't fit under the title of this thread "Obscure Characters in the Civil War" I do think he's an under-appreciated character in the Civil War. As a Mainer I'm as much a Chamberlain fan as anyone (OK, so I'm a bit obsessed with Chamberlain, and the inaccurate movie "Gettysburg" has nothing to do with it!), but the truth is that Warren's role in getting the army to LRT at all warrants at least as much recognition, or more, as the actions of JLC and his 20th Maine (and the troops of PA, MI, and NY). The Warren statue is one of my favorite sites at Gettysburg, along with the engraving in the boulder up near the NY monument recording the facts of Strong Vincent's death.

I do think the book on Sickles was quite good, and I don't think it overstated his deplorable character as some might presume. In reading it, I think, it would be possible to think, "Oh my God, was this man really this slimy?" and I think history pretty much verifies that yes, in fact, he was. And I always hate myself for giggling every time I think of the man - because he caused a world of hurt to many - but he's just almost comical in his nastiness.

message 6: by George (new)

George | 93 comments Ok, I was just a bit worried there that you thought I liked this cad. I think it's fair to say that Warren and Strong Vincent deserve the real credit in saving the Union on Day 2, since Chamberlain wouldn't even have been there if it weren't for them, along with other units who also played major roles, but I think Chamberlein's defense and final counterattack against the 15th Alabama has to be one of the greatest small unit actions in US military history. it would be hard to find one more significant. So, I rather like him too. He didn't exactly disappear after Gettysburg, of course, and commanded the Union troops who accepted the surrender at Appomatax, which is more than sufficient proof of how his actions at Gettysburg were regarded by the Union command.

As for obscure characters, I suppose most of the actors are fairly obscure these days, however, I've always been something of a Pat Cleburne fan, even if he did fight on the other side. He was an Irish immigrant. Probably the finest divisional commander of the war on either side. He probably would and certainly should have been promoted to corps commander, but he came out in favor of enlisting slaves into the army and freeing them. didn't go over big at the time. The Confederate government didn't get around to it until late 64, early 65, more than a bit too late to have any impact. Wound up dieing at the Battle of the Generals at Knoxville, when Hood threw what remained of his forces into the teeth of the Union defense and destroyed his command along with 7 Confederate generals to no effect.

message 7: by Andy (new)

Andy  | 2 comments I had an opportunity to read Sickles’s personal papers at the NY Public Library. Many wounded Union solders wrote to him asking for his help in receiving pensions. One interesting letter even came from the widow of Confederate General Longstreet, asking Sickles help in receiving appointment for a federal position (I think it was in the post office?)

Irish General, who was on Sickle's dream team of lawyers in his murder case? Thomas Meagher

message 8: by Coalbanks (new)

Coalbanks | 7 comments Stand Waitie, Cherokee, Confederate cavalryman, one of the highest-ranking Confederates to surrender after Lee. I've read a couple of short articles on him but have not found or searched for more, is he as obscure as I suggest?

message 9: by George (new)

George | 93 comments Well, at least Stand Waitie made in onto a US postage stamp.

message 10: by Mark (new)

Mark | 12 comments I'm currently reading a book about Stephen D Lee(very distantly related to the other Lee). He's known as the South's other Lee. Although just starting it. I'm amazed at what he has done and how little I knew about him. He was the go between for the troops at Ft. Sumter and the Confederate troops in Charleston. He was the one who officially asked for Maj. Anderson to surrender his garrison. He was on his way back when the shelling of the fort began.

He also played a significant part in the second battle of Manassas. I will update as I read more.

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