SICKLES, DANIEL E.
Sickles is considered by many to have been one of the most competent but, unfortunately, controversial of the Civil War generals. His uncanny ability to attract controversy, and his combative, almost hostile attitude towards superiors has undeniably detracted from his admirable military record. A prominent democrat prior to the war, Sickles served as secretary of the U.S. legation in London (1853-55), and as a U.S. Congressman (1857-61). For Sickles' service in organizing a brigade at the outbreak of the Civil War, a grateful President Lincoln appointed Sickles brigadier-general in September 1861. Sickles fought with distinction at many of the early battles of the war - the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville - and, in late 1862, was promoted to major-general. His actions at Gettysburg, however - his last battle - were the basis for one of the most bitter controversies of the war. Sickles' 3rd Corps was ordered to cover the Union left near Round Tops. During the battle, and on his own initiative, Sickles advanced his troops to an exposed position that bore the brunt of Confederate James Longstreet's assault. Sickles was severely wounded during the assault, and lost his right leg, his command, and some portion of his reputation. For the rest of his life, he loudly blamed Union general George Meade for the results of his failure and, without foundation, charged Meade with incompetence. After the war, Sickles served as military governor of the Carolinas (1865-67), U.S. Minister to Spain (1869-73) and, again, as a U.S. Congressman (1892-94). In 1897, Congress awarded Sickles the Medal of Honor for his "gallantry in action" at Gettsyburg.