"Oh Say Can You See" Dan Sickles Sneaking Up On Me.

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War Horse

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This is Sickles' version of the events of July 2, directly extracted from his March 1864 testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. It's quite amusing, and some brilliant political spin doctoring:

At a very early hour on Thursday morning I received a notification that General Meade's headquarters had been established at Gettysburg, and I was directed by him to relieve a division of the 12th corps, (General Geary's division, I think,) which was massed a little to my left, and which had taken position there during the night. I did so, reporting, however, to General Meade that that division was not in position, but was merely massed in my vicinity; the tenor of his order seemed to indicate a supposition on his part that the division was in position. I also received a notification from General Meade that he approved of my course in moving up to Gettysburg. Of course, as soon as I had determined to do that, I addressed a communication to General Meade from Emmettsburg, informing him of what I had done, and expressing my anxiety to have his sanction of it. I received a communication from him informing me that he approved of my course, and that the two brigades and two batteries which I had left at Emmettsburg would be relieved and ordered to join me. I brought them up during the night, under General Graham, and they arrived in the neighborhood of daybreak. Not having received any orders in reference to my position, and observing, from the enemy's movements on our left, what I thought to be conclusive indications of a design on their part to attack there, and that seeming to me to be our most assailable point, I went in person to headquarters and reported the facts and circumstances which led me to believe that an attack would be made there, and asked for orders. I did not receive any orders, and I found that my impression as to the intention of the enemy to attack in that direction was not concurred in at headquarters; and I was satisfied, from information which I received, that it was intended to retreat from Gettysburg. I asked General Meade to go over the ground on the left and examine it. He said his engagements did not permit him to do that. I then asked him to send General Warren with me, or by himself; but General Warren's engagements were such as to make it inconvenient for him to go. I then asked him to send General Hunt, his chief of artillery, and that was done. General Hunt accompanied me upon a careful reconnoissance of the whole position on the left, in reference to its topography and the best line for us to occupy, and also with reference to the movements of the enemy. I pointed out to General Hunt the line that on a subsequent part of the day, when the battle opened, I actually occupied; that is, a line from Round Top on the left, perpendicular to the Emmettsburg road, but somewhat en echelon, with the line of battle established on Cemetery ridge. I asked for General Hunt's sanction, in the name of General Meade, for the occupation of that line. He declined to give it, although he said it met with the approval of his own judgment; but he said that I would undoubtedly receive such orders as soon as he reported to General Meade. Before making my dispositions on that line, I waited for some time for orders, but received none. The enemy's demonstrations became more and more decided.

I had strengthened and supported my outposts in order to give me timely notice of the attack, which I knew was very imminent. Buford's cavalry, which had been on the left, had been withdrawn. I remonstrated against that, and expressed the hope that the cavalry, or some portion of it, at all events, might be allowed to remain there. I was informed that it was not the intention to remove the whole of the cavalry, and that a portion of it would be returned. It did not return, however.

My outposts became engaged, and were being driven back from their supports. I determined to wait no longer the absence of orders, and proceeded to make my dispositions on the advanced line, as it is called. I took up that position, which is described in the report of General Halleck as a line from half to three-quarters of a mile in advance, as he says, and which, in his report, he very pointedly disapproves of, and which he further says I took up through a misinterpretation of orders. It was not through any misinterpretation of orders. It was either a good line or a bad one, and, whichever it was, I took it on my own responsibility, except so far as I have already stated, that it was approved of in general terms by General Hunt, of General Meade's staff, who accompanied me in the examination of it. I took up that line because it enabled me to hold commanding ground, which, if the enemy had been allowed to take — as they would have taken it if I had not occupied it in force — would have rendered our position on the left untenable; and, in my judgment, would have turned the fortunes of the day hopelessly against us. I think that any general who would look at the topography of the country there would naturally come to the same conclusion.

While I was making my dispositions on this line I received communication from headquarters to attend a consultation of corps commanders. I sent word verbally by the officer who brought me the communication, begging, if possible, to be excused, stating that the enemy were in great force in my front, and intimating that I would very soon be engaged, and that I was making my dispositions to meet the attack. I hastened forward the movements of my troops as rapidly as possible, and had got my batteries in position, when I received another and peremptory order to report at once in person at headquarters, to meet the corps commanders. I turned over the command temporarily to General Birney in my absence, feeling assured that before I could return the engagement would open. I hastened to headquarters with all speed, but before I got there the sound of the cannon announced that the battle had opened. However, I was quite near headquarters at the time and pushed on, but found that the consultation had been broken up by the opening of the battle. General Meade met me just outside of his headquarters and excused me from dismounting. He remarked that he observed, from the sound of the cannon, that my troops were engaged with the enemy. He said that I should return at once, and that he would follow me very soon.


On my way I found that the enemy were moving up to the attack in great force, in two lines of battle, supported by three columns. Fortunately, my left had succeeded in getting into position on Round Top and along the commanding ridge to which I have referred; and those positions were firmly held by the 3d corps. General Meade soon afterwards arrived on the field and made a rapid examination of the dispositions which I had made, and of the situation. He remarked to me that my line was too extended, and expressed his doubts as to my being able to hold so extended a line, in which I coincided in the main — that is to say, I replied that I could not, with one corps, hold so extended a line against the rebel army; but that, if supported, the line could be held; and, in my judgment, it was a strong line, and the best one. I stated, however, that if he disapproved of it it was not yet too late to take any position he might indicate. He said “No;” that it would be better to hold that line, and he would send up the 5th corps to support me. I expressed my belief in my ability to hold that line until supports could arrive. He said he would send up the 5th corps on my left, and that on my right I could look to General Hancock for support of my right flank. I added that I should want considerable artillery; that the enemy were developing a strong force of artillery. He authorized me to send to General Hunt, who commanded the reserve of the artillery, for as much artillery as I wanted. I then assured him of my entire confidence in my ability to hold the position; which I did. The 5th corps came up, somewhat tardily, to be sure. It was three-quarters of an hour, or an hour, I suppose, before it got into position. My request to General Hancock for supports was promptly met; and I feel myself under obligations principally to General Hancock and the troops of his command for the effective support which enabled me, in connection with my own corps and the artillery which I received from the reserve, to hold the position during that very desperate encounter of Thursday, where the principal operations of Thursday occurred. The position was held, and the attacks of the enemy, which were made in great force and with great obstinacy and determination, were successfully repulsed, with terrific loss to them and a very heavy loss on our side, until I was wounded and carried from the field. The command of the 3d corps then devolved on Major General Birney, and, of course, I only know about the subsequent operations from the perusal of his report.
That is an amazing account. What do you make of it? So he believes by sacrificing his men out of position he disrupted the entire confederate attack. Interesting.
 

Aussie Billy Sherman

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"Weird and funny"??? I'm crushed!! That's Matt Atkinson -- one of my favourite ranger/presenters!! :wink:
I was thinking I went a bit far with that description. And I meant in a positive way. He's enjoyable to listen to and has a good sense of humor. Maybe should've gone with unique and funny. Better than a more dry presentation that I've seen from others
 

Bee

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It was a great video (and I happen to like weird and funny :smile:

As I mentioned early on: I put Sickles right up there on the shelf with Jubal Early: two of a kind as far as Spinmasters go!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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It is so difficult to ' like ' Sickle's account, please know it was a thank you to Eric for providing it. Maddening to read, isn't it? The quality of the men he vilified post war tells you Sickles knew somewhere in his little, dank heart he knew ' truth ' when it bit him. I think that's what is most maddening and revealing. Sickles went after the men who were in actuality what he claimed to be, tore them down and stood in their place, or tried to. Little tough with one leg. ( Sorry, he deserves that, only Civil War veteran you do not mind being a little mean about- he only left a leg behind July 2nd, all those men never left Gettysburg at all because Dan Sickles was at war with the Union army's decision not to crown him King )

Anyone read the account where Sickles achieves his move forward that day? It's worth looking up. We all know what the situation was. The entire Union army V. the entire Confederate, pretty much, two battered, bloody armies. When Sickles picked a ' better spot ', did he somehow use an unobtrusive means, just order them forward, pick the position and get them there? No. It was as noisy, obvious, parade-ground worthy and ridiculous as anyone had seen- in the middle of what was already one of the most horrific battles that war had seen.

There's a thread elsewhere on a ' theory ' in some book, how supposedly poor Reynolds was really the victim of a Union bullet, and revenge by his own troops. If Sickles wasn't shot ( and around a hundred times ) by his own men, it stands to reason no general stood in danger anywhere at Gettysburg.
 

alexjack

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"Weird and funny"??? I'm crushed!! That's Matt Atkinson -- one of my favourite ranger/presenters!! :wink:
I watched Matt Atkinson on YouTube recently doing a presentation on Devils Den. He had me smiling from the very start when he said in his Southern accent, " Good morning ladies and gentlemen," a pause then, " Yankees 'n all."
 
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Having no fondness for Dan myself, nevertheless I've often pondered what effect Hazel Grove had on Sickles' thinking at Gettysburg. Should we not agree that his instincts were correct at Chancellorsville? Whatever his motivation in pushing for Hazel Grove, he surely knew after the fact that he'd given up an excellent artillery position that (arguably) lost the battle. And what was his concern at Gettyburg? To take advanced ground that he thought offered high and good artillery ground to the rebels. Once bitten, twice shy?
 

Eric Wittenberg

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That is an amazing account. What do you make of it? So he believes by sacrificing his men out of position he disrupted the entire confederate attack. Interesting.
Sickles stood by this version of events for the rest of his life. He had to, because if he didn't, it meant that he was insubordinate and incompetent.

My opinion? So full of bovine fecal matter that his eyes were brown. :smile:
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Having no fondness for Dan myself, nevertheless I've often pondered what effect Hazel Grove had on Sickles' thinking at Gettysburg. Should we not agree that his instincts were correct at Chancellorsville? Whatever his motivation in pushing for Hazel Grove, he surely knew after the fact that he'd given up an excellent artillery position that (arguably) lost the battle. And what was his concern at Gettyburg? To take advanced ground that he thought offered high and good artillery ground to the rebels. Once bitten, twice shy?
I think that there is probably some real merit to the theory, and I think it's reasonable. He wasn't a trained or professional soldier, so his entire frame of reference is his personal experience, and his personal experience was the debacle at Hazel Grove and Fairview. I set forth this theory in the introduction to my current book manuscript.
 

War Horse

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It is so difficult to ' like ' Sickle's account, please know it was a thank you to Eric for providing it. Maddening to read, isn't it? The quality of the men he vilified post war tells you Sickles knew somewhere in his little, dank heart he knew ' truth ' when it bit him. I think that's what is most maddening and revealing. Sickles went after the men who were in actuality what he claimed to be, tore them down and stood in their place, or tried to. Little tough with one leg. ( Sorry, he deserves that, only Civil War veteran you do not mind being a little mean about- he only left a leg behind July 2nd, all those men never left Gettysburg at all because Dan Sickles was at war with the Union army's decision not to crown him King )

Anyone read the account where Sickles achieves his move forward that day? It's worth looking up. We all know what the situation was. The entire Union army V. the entire Confederate, pretty much, two battered, bloody armies. When Sickles picked a ' better spot ', did he somehow use an unobtrusive means, just order them forward, pick the position and get them there? No. It was as noisy, obvious, parade-ground worthy and ridiculous as anyone had seen- in the middle of what was already one of the most horrific battles that war had seen.

There's a thread elsewhere on a ' theory ' in some book, how supposedly poor Reynolds was really the victim of a Union bullet, and revenge by his own troops. If Sickles wasn't shot ( and around a hundred times ) by his own men, it stands to reason no general stood in danger anywhere at Gettysburg.
That's a very good point JPK
 
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I admit that I'm probably biased as far as Sickles is concerned because of Longstreet holding him in high esteem after the war. And Sickle's preface to Helen Dortch Longstreet's book is just wonderful.
I know many ridicule him and of course he had his (big) flaws, like we all have. But I always had the impression that there was more in him than being half a madman and the laughing stock of generations to come.
Here is the link to that foreword in the book from where I copied the paragraph that follows further down in this post:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/44459/44459-h/44459-h.htm

I always love to read the story of the two elderly men, after having had some drinks went home, but obviously were not able to part ... first Longstreet delivered Sickles at his hotel, then Sickles decided to bring Longstreet home and so on ad on...
Enjoy Dan Sickles account of the evening:

As the hour was late, and we had enjoyed quite a number of potations of hot Irish whiskey punch, we decided to go to our lodgings long before the end of the revel, which appeared likely to last until daybreak. When we descended to the street we were unable to find a carriage, but Longstreet proposed to be my guide; and, although the streets were dark and the walk a long one, we reached my hotel in fairly good form. Not wishing to be outdone in courtesy, I said,—

“Longstreet, the streets of Atlanta are very dark and it is very late, and you are somewhat deaf and rather infirm; now I must escort you to your head-quarters.”

“All right,” said Longstreet; “come on and we’ll have another handshake over the bloody chasm.”

When we arrived at his stopping-place and were about to separate, as I supposed, he turned to me and said,—

“Sickles, the streets of Atlanta are very dark and you are lame, and a stranger here, and do not know the way back to your hotel; I must escort you home.”

“Come along, Longstreet,” was my answer.

On our way to the hotel, I said to him,—

“Old fellow, I hope you are sorry for shooting off my leg at Gettysburg. I suppose I will have to forgive you for it some day.”

“Forgive me?” Longstreet exclaimed. “You ought to thank me for leaving you one leg to stand on, after the mean way you behaved to me at Gettysburg.”

How often we performed escort duty for each other on that eventful night I have never been able to recall with precision; but I am quite sure that I shall never forget St. Patrick’s Day in 1892, at Atlanta, Georgia, when Longstreet and I enjoyed the good Irish whiskey punch at the banquet of the Knights of St. Patrick.
 

War Horse

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I admit that I'm probably biased as far as Sickles is concerned because of Longstreet holding him in high esteem after the war. And Sickle's preface to Helen Dortch Longstreet's book is just wonderful.
I know many ridicule him and of course he had his (big) flaws, like we all have. But I always had the impression that there was more in him than being half a madman and the laughing stock of generations to come.
Here is the link to that foreword in the book from where I copied the paragraph that follows further down in this post:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/44459/44459-h/44459-h.htm

I always love to read the story of the two elderly men, after having had some drinks went home, but obviously were not able to part ... first Longstreet delivered Sickles at his hotel, then Sickles decided to bring Longstreet home and so on ad on...
Enjoy Dan Sickles account of the evening:

As the hour was late, and we had enjoyed quite a number of potations of hot Irish whiskey punch, we decided to go to our lodgings long before the end of the revel, which appeared likely to last until daybreak. When we descended to the street we were unable to find a carriage, but Longstreet proposed to be my guide; and, although the streets were dark and the walk a long one, we reached my hotel in fairly good form. Not wishing to be outdone in courtesy, I said,—

“Longstreet, the streets of Atlanta are very dark and it is very late, and you are somewhat deaf and rather infirm; now I must escort you to your head-quarters.”

“All right,” said Longstreet; “come on and we’ll have another handshake over the bloody chasm.”

When we arrived at his stopping-place and were about to separate, as I supposed, he turned to me and said,—

“Sickles, the streets of Atlanta are very dark and you are lame, and a stranger here, and do not know the way back to your hotel; I must escort you home.”

“Come along, Longstreet,” was my answer.

On our way to the hotel, I said to him,—

“Old fellow, I hope you are sorry for shooting off my leg at Gettysburg. I suppose I will have to forgive you for it some day.”

“Forgive me?” Longstreet exclaimed. “You ought to thank me for leaving you one leg to stand on, after the mean way you behaved to me at Gettysburg.”

How often we performed escort duty for each other on that eventful night I have never been able to recall with precision; but I am quite sure that I shall never forget St. Patrick’s Day in 1892, at Atlanta, Georgia, when Longstreet and I enjoyed the good Irish whiskey punch at the banquet of the Knights of St. Patrick.
If I were Longstreet I'd consider him an Ally also. :smile coffee:
 
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ErnieMac

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Thomas Keneally wrote a biography of Sicles titled American Scoundrel. I found it to be an informative account of his life, but didn't provide much info about the thought processes that went into his actions. Perhaps Sickles chose not to leave much behind.

I am not aware that Edwin Stanton had much association with Tammany. He was one of the pre - eminent lawyers of the era.
 

BillO

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You are not quite correct here, Mike--or whatever source you relied upon isn't, anyway. It is not true that the temporary insanity defense was used for the first time in history in Sickles' case. In fact, it had been used successfully in England in the 1840's. So, you're wrong there. Had you said that Sickles' case was the first time this plea was used successfully in the United States, you would have been correct.

Sorry--the lawyer in me felt it necessary to correct that misstatement.
I love your posts and your writings. I try to overlook the whole lawyer thing. I support don't ask, don't tell.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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I love your posts and your writings. I try to overlook the whole lawyer thing. I support don't ask, don't tell.
LOL. Sadly, my historical work does not pay the bills, and my wife is really pretty picky about living indoors and having electricity and the like. The bills have to get paid somehow....
 


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