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Daniel Edgar Sickles (October 20, 1819 - May 3, 1914) was a colorful and controversial American politician, Union general in the American Civil War, and diplomat.
Sickles was born in New York City to Susan Marsh Sickles and George Garrett Sickles, a patent lawyer and politician. (His year of birth is sometimes given as 1825, and, in fact, Sickles himself was known to have claimed as such. Historians speculate that Sickles deliberately chose to appear younger when he married a woman half of his age.) He learned the printer's trade and studied in the University of the City of New York (now New York University). He studied law in the office of Benjamin Butler was admitted to the bar in 1846, and was a member of the New York Assembly in 1843.
In 1852, he married Teresa Bagioli against the wishes of both families-he was 33, she only 15, although she was sophisticated for her age, speaking five languages. In 1853 he became corporation counsel of New York City, but resigned soon afterward to become secretary of the U.S. legation in London, under James Buchanan, by appointment of President Franklin Pierce. He returned to America in 1855, was a member of the senate of New York State from 1856 to 1857, and, from 1857 to 1861, was a Democratic representative in the United States Congress (the 35th and 36th Congresses).
Despite his one-legged disability, Sickles remained in the army until the end of the war and was disgusted that Ulysses S. Grant would not allow him to return to a combat command. In 1867, received the brevets of brigadier general and major general in the Regular Army for his services at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg respectively. Soon after the close of the Civil War, in 1865, he was sent on a confidential mission to Colombia (the "special mission to the South American Republics") to secure its compliance with a treaty agreement of 1846 permitting the United States to convey troops across the Isthmus of Panama. From 1865 to 1867, he commanded the Department of South Carolina, the Department of the Carolinas, the Department of the South, and the Second Military District. In 1866 he was appointed colonel of the 42nd U.S. Infantry (Veteran Reserve Corps), and in 1869 he was retired with the rank of major general.
Sickles served as U.S. Minister to Spain from 1869 to 1874, and took part in the negotiations growing out of the Virginius Affair. He continued his reputation as a ladies' man in the Spanish royal court and was rumored to have had an affair with the deposed Queen Isabella II. In 1871, he married again, following the death of Teresa in 1867, to Senorita Carmina Creagh, the daughter of Chevalier de Creagh of Madrid, a Spanish Councillor of State, and he fathered two children with her.
Sickles was president of the New York State Board of Civil Service Commissioners from 1888 to 1889, was sheriff of New York in 1890, and was again a representative in the 53rd Congress from 1893 to 1895. For most of his postwar life, he was the chairman of the New York State Monuments Commission, but he was forced out by a financial scandal. He had an important effect on preservation efforts at the Gettysburg Battlefield, sponsoring legislation to form the Gettysburg National Military Park, buy up private lands, and erect monuments. One of his key contributions was procuring the original fencing used on East Cemetery Hill to denote park borders. This fencing came directly from Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. (site of the Key shooting). 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.
Sickles lived out the remainder of his life in New York City, dying in 1914. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
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