Daniel Edgar Sickles. Politician, Union Major General during American Civil War, U.S. House of Representatives, Governor of South Carolina, U.S. Minister to Spain. b. 1825, d. 1914.

Described by most of his contemporaries as mean spirited, rude, stubborn, poorly mannered and cruel, Daniel Sickles managed a long career in the American political system by being a professional politician. In modern terms he would easily have garnered the admonishment of "asshole."

Originally from New York and a graduated of the University of the City of New York, Sickles began his political career as a printer and lawyer in New York. During his first stint in the U.S. House of Representatives he gained notoriety for shooting Philip Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key, because of Key's "attentions" to Sickles' wife while he was out of town on congressional duties.

Daniel Sickles managed to get himself acquitted of any wrongdoing in the shooting. Shortly thereafter he took to raising his own troop of volunteers in anticipation of the start of the American Civil War. With the start of the Pennisular campaign he was made a brigadier general despite little or no military experience... just the right political connections. In early 1863 he was promoted to major general and would later command the Second Corps at Gettysburg.

It was at Gettysburg that he would command troops during significant action for the first time in his short military career. He failed miserably. His corps were badly beaten when he decided to advance without orders. Before the rest of the army knew what was happening, General Sickles' command had advanced to Peach Orchard and been routed. Sickles would lose a leg in the fighting. Many of the other generals considered the plausibility of dragging him into a woodshed but figured the leg wound might teach him a lesson. It did not.

Throughout the Civil War, Sickles actions boldfaced the concept of "political general." His actions at Gettysburg were the lowlight of years of irresponsible command and disregard for military protocol. Only his political influence allowed him to retain command.

After the war Sickles was appointed governor of South Carolina but was soon dismissed from that post for gross mismanagement. He continued to find work through his considerable influence and in 1869 was appointed Minister to Spain. After his return to the states he successfully ran for Congress and served another two terms before his retirement.

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