Portrait of Daniel Sickles

On April 26, 1859, a jury found Daniel Sickles not guilty of murder, marking the first successful use of the plea of temporary insanity to escape a murder charge in U.S. legal history. [Wikimedia Commons]

Daniel Edgar Sickles - Facts

October 20, 1819 - May 3, 1914

Key facts about Congressman, United States diplomat, and prominent Union general Daniel Sickles who was infamous for his disreputable lifestyle before, during, and after the Civil War.

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Full Name:

  • Daniel Edgar Sickles

Birth Date:

  • October 20, 1819

Birth Location:

  • New York City

Parents:

  • George Garrett Sickles and Susan (Marsh) Sickles

Education:

  • University of the City of New York

Occupation:

  • Lawyer
  • Politician
  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • U.S. Minister to Great Britain
  • U.S. Congressman
  • Major General (USVA)
  • Colonel (UA)
  • U.S. Minister to Spain

Spouses:

  • Teresa Da Ponte Bagioli (1852)
  • Caroline de Creagh (1871)

Nickname(s):

  • Devil Dan

Place of Death:

  • New York City, New York

Date of Death:

  • May 3, 1914

Place of Burial:

  • Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia

Significance:

  • Daniel Sickles was the only child of George Garrett Sickles and Susan (Marsh) Sickles.
  • Daniel Edgar Sickles left school at the age of sixteen to become a printer’s apprentice.
  • With the assistance of Charles Da Ponte, Daniel Sickles obtained a scholarship to the University of the City of New York where he studied law.
  • Daniel Sickles studied law with Benjamin Butler and was admitted to the New York bar in 1846.
  • After becoming a successful attorney specializing in corporate law, Daniel Sickles joined the Democratic Party and became a prominent figure in Tammany Hall, the party’s New York political machine.
  • In 1847, Daniel Sickles represented New York County for one term in the New York State Assembly.
  • Early in his adult life, Daniel Sickles also developed a reputation as a gambler, womanizer, and high-liver.
  • Daniel Sickles married visibly pregnant, seventeen-year-old Teresa Da Ponte Bagioli on September 27, 1852. Their only child, Laura Buchanan Sickles, was born seven months later.
  • In 1854 Daniel Sickles was in London serving secretary to James Buchanan, U.S. Minister to Great Britain.
  • In 1855, voters in New York’s third district elected Daniel Sickles to a term in the New York State Senate, where he served from 1856 to 1857.
  • In 1856, voters in New York’s third district elected Daniel Sickles to the first of two successive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives 35th Congress (March 4, 1857 to March 4, 1859) and 36th Congress (March 4, 1859 to March 4, 1861).
  • On February 27, 1859, Daniel Sickles murdered Philip Barton Key II, who was having an affair with Sickles’ wife.
  • On April 26, 1859, a jury found Daniel Sickles not guilty of murder, marking the first successful use of the plea of temporary insanity to escape a murder charge in U.S. legal history.
  • After the Civil War began, Daniel Sickles was instrumental in raising four regiments of troops (70th, 72nd, 73rd, and 74th New York Infantry) that were collectively known as the Excelsior Brigade.
  • June 20, 1861, Daniel Sickles was selected colonel of the 70th Regiment.
  • On December 5, 1861, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 106 promoting Daniel Sickles to the rank of brigadier general, but the Senate refused to confirm his appointment.
  • On May 13, 1862 the U.S. Senate approved Daniel Sickles’ appointment to brigadier general by a vote of 19 to 18. On June 10, 1862 the War Department issued General Orders, No. 63 announcing Sickles’ appointment, to date from March 20, 1862.
  • Commanding the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Division of the 3rd Corps of the Army of the Potomac, Daniel Sickles was engaged at the Battle of Seven Pines (May 31 – June 1, 1862) and the Seven Days Battles (June 25 – July 1, 1862) during the Peninsula Campaign.
  • During the Northern Virginia Campaign, Daniel Sickles was on recruiting duty in New York and did not see action at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862).
  • On November 29, 1862, Daniel Sickles was appointed to the rank of major general. His promotion and Senate confirmation were officially announced by the War Department ten months later (General Orders, No. 316, September 18, 1863).
  • On February 5, 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker issued General Orders, No. 6 (Army of the Potomac) reorganizing the army and naming Daniel Sickles to command the 3rd Army Corps even though the Senate had yet to confirm his appointment as a major general.
  • On April 15, 1863, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 96 announcing that President Lincoln confirmed Daniel Sickles’ appointment to command the 3rd Army Corps on a permanent basis.
  • The debauchery of Joseph Hooker and Daniel Sickles during the winter of 1863 prompted some of their fellow officers to compare the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac to “a combination of bar-room and brothel.”
  • At the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30 – May 6, 1863), Daniel Sickles launched an assault against a column of Rebel soldiers that created a gap in the Federal lines that enabled Stonewall Jackson’s forces to overrun the 11th Corps.
  • During the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – July 3, 1863), Daniel Sickles disobeyed the orders of Major General George G. Meade, exposing his corps to a Confederate assault that resulted in over 4,000 casualties among the roughly 10,000 soldiers Sickles commanded.
  • During the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – July 3, 1863), a Confederate cannonball struck Daniel Sickles’ right leg, on July 2, 1863, forcing its amputation and the evacuation of the injured general from the field.
  • Following the Battle of Gettysburg, Daniel Sickles engaged in a smear campaign against Major General George G. Meade that led to his testimony against Meade before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War in the spring of 1864.
  • In October 1863, Major General George G. Meade and Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant declined Daniel Sickles’ request to resume command of the 3rd Corps on the grounds that he was unfit for combat duty.
  • After the Civil War, Daniel Sickles remained in the army during Reconstruction.
  • In 1866, Sickles received an appointment as a colonel in the regular army with the 42nd U.S. Infantry (Veteran Reserve Corps).
  • In 1867, Daniel Sickles’ wife died.
  • On March 10, 1867, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 10 assigning Daniel Sickles to command the 2nd Military District in the South. Sickles assumed command on March 21, 1867.
  • On July 28, 1868, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 55, assigning Daniel Sickles to command the Department of the South.
  • Daniel Sickles was mustered out of volunteer service on January 1, 1868, with the rank of major general.
  • In 1869 Sickles retired from the military to accept an appointment as U.S. Minister to Spain.
  • On November 27, 1871, Daniel Sickles married Caroline de Creagh, in Madrid, Spain.
  • While living in Europe, Daniel Sickles indulged in numerous affairs, the most notorious of which was with the deposed Spanish Queen Isabella II who was in exile in Paris.
  • In 1873, Sickles was forced to abandon his ministerial role following a dispute with Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. Living in Paris for the next few years, his wife bore him a daughter and a son.
  • From 1888 to 1889, Daniel Sickles served as president of the New York State Board of Civil Service Commissioners, followed by a term as sheriff of New York in 1890.
  • In 1892, voters from New York’s 53rd Congressional district elected Daniel Sickles to a term in the House of Representatives, where he served in the 54th Congress from 1893 to 1895.
  • In 1897, Daniel Sickles’ political allies in the 55th Congress awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Gettysburg, more than thirty years after that engagement.
  • As one of the last surviving general officers of the Civil War, Daniel Sickles played a prominent role in preservation efforts at the Gettysburg battlefield site.
  • Daniel Sickles died of a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 94, in New York City on May 3, 1914.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Daniel Edgar Sickles - Facts
  • Coverage October 20, 1819 - May 3, 1914
  • Author
  • Keywords Daniel Edgar Sickles
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 1, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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