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No individual who fought at Gettysburg was more controversial, both personally and professionally, than Major General Daniel E. Sickles. By 1863, Sickles was notorious as a disgraced former Congressman who murdered his wife's lover on the streets of Washington and used America's first temporary insanity defense to escape justice. With his political career in ruins, Sickles used his connections with President Lincoln to obtain a prominent command in the Army of the Potomac's Third Corps-despite having no military experience. At Gettysburg, he openly disobeyed orders in one of the most controversial decisions in military history.
No single action dictated the battlefield strategies of George Meade and Robert E. Lee more than Sickles' unauthorized advance to the Peach Orchard, and the mythic defense of Little Round Top might have occurred quite differently were it not for General Sickles. Fighting heroically, Sickles lost his leg on the field and thereafter worked to remove General Meade from command of the army. Sickles spent the remainder of his checkered life declaring himself the true hero of Gettysburg.
Although he nearly lost the battle, Sickles was one of the earliest guardians of the battlefield when he returned to Congress, created Gettysburg National Military Park, and helped preserve the field for future generations. But Dan Sickles was never far from scandal. He was eventually removed from the New York Monument Commission and nearly went to jail for misappropriation of funds.
Hessler's critically acclaimed biography is a balanced and entertaining account of Sickles' colorful life. Civil War enthusiasts who want to understand General Sickles' scandalous life, Gettysburg's battlefield strategies, the in-fighting within the Army of the Potomac, and the development of today's National Park will find Sickles at Gettysburg a must-read.
REVIEWS: "The few other Sickles biographies available will now take a back seat to Hessler's powerful and evocative study of the man, the general, and the legacy of the Gettysburg battlefield that old Dan left America. I highly recommend this book." J. David Petruzzi, co-author of Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg (2006) and with Steve Stanley The Complete Gettysburg Guide (2009)
"This book is a breath of fresh air-it is an objective, thorough, and readable examination of the controversial general. Hessler avoids getting bogged down in extreme reactions typically seen in others who write on this subject." Sue Boardman, Licensed Battlefield Guide, GNMP; Leadership Program Coordinator, Gettysburg Foundation; and author of The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama: A History and Guide
About the Author: James A. Hessler works in the financial services industry and is a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park. He has taught Sickles and Gettysburg-related courses for Harrisburg Area Community College and the Gettysburg Foundation. In addition to writing articles for publication, Hessler speaks regularly at Civil War Round Tables. A native of Buffalo, NY, he resides in Gettysburg with his wife and children.