Daniel Sickles Biography

(Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York (1893-95, 1857-61))

Birthday: October 20, 1819 (Libra)

Born In: New York, New York, United States

Daniel Sickles was an American diplomat, politician, and soldier, best known for his exploits in the American Civil War. He was born into an affluent family in New York, to a lawyer father. Daniel graduated from the ‘University of the City of New York’ before passing the bar exam. However, by then, he was starting to develop an interest in national politics. After working briefly as the corporation counsel of New York City, he moved to London to work as the secretary of the U.S. legation, under James Buchanan. In 1855, upon his return from London, he was elected to the ‘New York City State Senate.’ Daniel faced a serious criminal charge early in his political career, when he murdered his wife’s lover in 1859. He was acquitted when he proved that he had been temporarily insane. The Civil War broke out in 1861, and despite his lack of experience in military matters, he commanded many troops throughout the war. In 1863, he had to have his leg amputated. He later won a ‘Medal of Honor’ for his bravery. He also served as a U.S. minister to Spain.
Quick Facts

Nick Name: Devil Dan

Also Known As: Daniel Edgar Sickles

Died At Age: 94


Spouse/Ex-: Carmina Creagh (m. 1871), Teresa Bagioli Sickles (m. 1852–1867)

Born Country: United States

Soldiers Diplomats

Died on: May 3, 1914

place of death: New York, New York, United States

Cause of Death: Cerebral Hemorrhage

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: New York University

awards: Medal of Honor

Childhood & Early Career
Daniel Edgar Sickles was born on October 20, 1819, to George Garrett Sickles and Susan Marsh Sickles. However, the year of his birth is still debated by many. He claimed that he was born in 1825. Interestingly, people claim that he had mentioned an incorrect year of birth to hide his real age and marry his lover, who was much younger than him.
Daniel grew up in a middle-class family in New York City. His father worked as a patent lawyer and politician. Daniel had always idolized his father, and he eventually followed in his footsteps.
Before attending the ‘University of the City of New York,’ Daniel trained to be a printer. However, his ultimate goal was to study law and become a lawyer. Following his graduation from the university, he began working under a prominent lawyer named Benjamin Butler and joined bar in 1846.
In 1847, he began working as a member of the ‘New York State Assembly.’ Later, in 1853, he began working as a corporation counsel of New York City. His job was to defend the city from civil claims. He thus worked on the settlement of cases on behalf of the city.
However, he did not like his job too much. He resigned a few months later, to work as the secretary of James Buchanan, who headed the U.S. legation in London. He was appointed by U.S. president Franklin Pierce.
Daniel returned to the U.S.A. in 1855. The following year, he was appointed as a member of the ‘New York State Senate.’ After a year, in 1857, he was re-elected.
In addition, around this time, he was elected to the ‘U.S. Congress’ as a ‘Democrat’ and held his office for two terms between 1857 and 1861. In 1861, the Civil War broke out in America, and Daniel played a major role in the war.
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The Civil War
He had always been known as an eccentric man. He had received a commission in the New York military’s ‘12th Regiment’ and was appointed a major in the 1950s. He wore his military uniform at public events. Even when he worked in London, he insisted on wearing the uniform at many events. He received a lot of criticism for this.
However, when the Civil War broke out in 1861, he tried his best to justify his rank as a major. He roamed around New York City and raised volunteer units to fight for the ‘Union’ army. He managed to gather four regiments. Despite his lack of experience in the military, he was given the command of the units and was promoted to the rank of colonel.
In the ‘Union Army’ camp in Northern Virginia, he received many runaway slaves who had eloped from the ‘Confederate’ states. Daniel abused his power and employed many of them as his servants, putting them on federal payroll. He also trained the healthy, young black males to fight in the ‘Union Army,’ for which he also received appreciation.
In March 1862, the ‘Congress’ did not confirm his commission. Daniel’s military ranks were thus in danger. However, Daniel used his political influence and contacts to earn his commission back and rejoined the army as a commanding officer in May 1862, just before the Peninsula Campaign.
Despite his lack of experience in military strategies, he did a decent job commanding his units at the Battle of Seven Pines and the Seven Day Battles. However, he was absent from the ranks during the battles of Antietam and Bull Run. He had used his political influence to take leaves during these important battles, stating that he wanted to go back to New York City to employ more volunteers for his unit.
In March 1863, he was promoted to the rank of major general by President Abraham Lincoln. He was the only commander who had not received a ‘West Point’ military education.
In July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg exposed him as an incompetent leader. He received an order from Major General George G. Meade, but he did not accept the order, and his ‘Third Corps’ ended up in a bad shape. They were overrun by the ‘Confederate’ army and were forced to flee. A cannonball hit Daniel’s right leg, and the leg was later amputated.
Despite disrespecting a superior’s order, he was honored with a ‘Medal of Honor’ for his bravery at Gettysburg. The war was eventually won by the ‘Union’ forces.
Life After the War
Daniel was appreciated for donating his amputated leg to the ‘Army Medical Museum’ in Washington, D.C.
President Abraham Lincoln, during the era of “reconstruction” after the war, sent Daniel to the southern states. There, he was assigned to assess the traumatic impact of the war on the African–Americans who lived there and guide them to reconstruct their lives.
Daniel tried to take a huge chunk of the credit for the ‘Union’ victory after criticizing the actions of his superiors such as George Meade.
He was later appointed as a U.S. minister to Spain.
He also contested in elections to be re-elected to the ‘Congress,’ where he played a role in the passing of the legislation that preserved the ‘Gettysburg Battlefield.’
Family, Personal Life & Death
Daniel Sickles married Teresa Bagioli in 1852. Daniel was 32 and Teresa was barely 18 back then. Interestingly, both their families had opposed the marriage. They had a daughter named Laura.
Daniel found out that Teresa had been having an affair with Philip Barton Key II. In February 1859, he shot and killed Philip. He claimed during the trial that he had been “temporarily insane.” He was thus acquitted. Teresa decided to continue to stay with him. She died of tuberculosis in 1967.
Following Teresa’s death, he married a Spanish woman named Carmina Creagh in 1871 and remained married to her until his death in 1914. They had two children together.
Daniel died on May 3, 1914. He was 94 years old at the time of his death.
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