Volume 27, No. 2 – February 2014
Volume 27, No. 2
Thank you for your positive and enthusiastic response for the Daniel Sickles Program that Bill McEachern and I did at the January meeting. The idea for our program came from a conversation that we had just before one of the Round Table meetings. If you have any thoughts on a program or would like to present one, please contact me or talk to me before the meeting.
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Dues unpaid as of March 1, 2014 will no longer receive the Newsletter.
Elections were held in January and this is the list of current officers. President, Gerridine LaRovere (e-mail email@example.com or 561 967-8911) Vice President, Dr. George Nimberg Secretary and Newsletter Editor, Stephen Seftenberg (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 561 689-7785) Treasurer, Robert Krasner Director, Monroe Ackerman, Morris Ball, and Janell Bloodworth
Coffee and... The Round Table supplies the coffee and each member is asked to bring a refreshment one time during the year to a meeting. The list will be passed around at the February meeting. Please sign up for the month you would like to bring a refreshment.
On Wednesday, February 11th, our own Robert Krasner is going to present a talk on "Lincoln and the Railroads" at 1:00 PM, in the Palm Beach County Main Library, 3650 Summit Boulevard, West Palm Beach, Florida. Call 233-2600 for details. Robert is known for presenting well-organized, interesting talks.
February 12, Program
Lawrence Hewitt, who has been a professor of history and has published many books and articles on the Civil War, will present a talk entitled, Civil War Myths and Mythmakers, exposing blatant fabrications, tall tales and shameless self-promotion by generals, newsmen and photographers. Sounds interesting.
January 8, 2014 Program
The New York Times - Palm Beach Bureau
All the news that fits we print
January 8, 2014
Daniel Sickles: Lawyer, Soldier, Politician, Diplomat, and ‘Ladies Man’ Visits West Palm Beach to "Reposition" Himself
West Palm Beach, Florida
This is an exclusive interview with the late Daniel Edgar Sickles (October 20, 1819 - May 3, 1914). My questions will be in plain type and Sickles’ answers will be in italics. Why are you calling this a "repositioning visit?"
I was buried in Arlington National Cemetery but think, as the hero who won the Battle of Gettysburg, was awarded the Medal of Honor and who lost a leg to a cannon ball, I should be buried near the New York monument in Gettysburg National Cemetery. That is why I have come back.
Before we get into that, there seems to be discrepancies with respect to your birth date and name. You now claim it was October 20, 1819, but George Taylor Strong says you were born before your parents married. Also, the name on your birth certificate was ‘van Sickelns." Care to explain?
Slander, pure and simple.
You were born to wealthy parents. Your mother was a 6th generation "Knickerbocker." However, you had an "uneven" childhood, dropping out of school and running away from the family farm to work in Princeton, New Jersey as a printer, a job you lost when you were accused of stealing $100.
I did not take the money. In 1837, my parents sent me to live with Professor Lorenzo DaPonte (whose father had been librettist for three of Mozart’s operas). Lorenzo recognized my intellectual qualities. His daughter, Maria, was then married, but we fell in love. The result was a child, Teresa. When Lorenzo died, I almost went mad with grief. I eventually recovered and took up law. I studied law under two powerful New York attorneys, Benjamin Franklin Butler and James Buchanan. I soon opened my own firm and with Butler’s help became a member of Tammany Hall, a powerful political machine.
I understand that you tried a case before you were admitted to the bar in 1846.
A mere technicality. I was perfectly capable of trying and winning the case! With Butler’s help, I was introduced to Tammany Hall.
While you earned good money, the money never seemed to stick to your hands and you were often in debt. Can you explain?
I admit that I was never careful with money. I loved the "sporting life – women, gambling, good cigars, wine and whiskey."
Several people alleged that you embezzled trust funds, pledged a deed to property you did not own as collateral for a loan and diverted funds raised for a political campaign to your personal use.
Please notice that I was never disbarred nor prosecuted in these cases.
That may be true, but in one case when you were brought before the grand jury on criminal charges, "strong political influence" was brought to bear to clear you. I note, moreover, that after you were elected to the New York State Assembly in 1847, you were censured for bringing your "good friend," Fanny White, who operated a house of ill-repute, onto the floor of the floor of the Assembly.
Those straight-laced Whigs were behind the times!
It was even rumored that you traded Fanny’s sexual favors for political favors.
In 1848 you supported Franklin Pierce, who was nominated and won the Presidency, even though your mentor and good friend, James Buchanan was also running for the same office.
That’s politics. Notice that in 1853, when President Pierce appointed Jimmy as Ambassador to England, he appointed me as Jimmy’s assistant, even though my salary hardly paid for my wine and cigars.
In 1853, as corporate counsel to the City of New York, you were instrumental in creating Central Park and the Central Park Zoo, but even then you sought to enrich yourself and the other members of a syndicate by buying up land around the proposed park before going public with the park proposal.
I see nothing wrong with seeking to profit while doing good. Note, please, that the syndicate failed and I made nothing.
In 1852, you married a 16-year old girl named Teresa Bagioli, who soon had a daughter, Laura. Laura was too young to accompany you to England, so you left your wife and daughter behind and took Fanny White with you instead. You introduced Fanny to Queen Victoria as "Julia Bennett," a mocking reference to his hated enemy, Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald.
I enjoyed doing that.
In 1854, you created a cause célèbre at a Fourth of July dinner for 150 Americans and Englishmen, hosted by George Peabody that threatened to upset U.S. - England relations.
I am a patriot and I was incensed by various slights such as putting a tiny picture of George Washington between life-sized portraits of the Queen and the Prince Consort, hanging a small portrait of President Pierce in a remote corner and deleting lines from the Star Spangled Banner that might embarrass the British. I stayed seated for the toast to Queen Victoria and then left the dinner Fortunately, by this time my wife, Teresa, who spoke five languages, had joined me in England and smoothed Buchanan’s feathers.
Explain your role in the Ostend Manifesto.
Jimmy took me along to a meeting in Ostend, Belgium of the American ministers to England, France and Spain to consider the "Cuban Problem." I helped draft the Ostend Manifesto which stated that the U.S. should acquire Cuba, preferably by diplomacy or dollars, but if necessary, by force. Cuba could then join the Union as two slave states, balancing the free states being admitted.
The manifesto stirred up a storm of protest from other nations and angered many Northerners, who saw it as an effort to perpetuate Southern and Democratic control of Congress, the President and the Supreme Court. Care to explain?
You have stated my purpose quite clearly.
Back in the United States in 1855, you were named as chairman of Tammany Hall’s executive committee, a truly powerful position. You won consecutive terms in the New York state senate in 1856 and 1857 and then entered national politics, serving from 1857 to 1861 as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1856 you helped James Buchanan win the Presidency. In Washing-ton, you rented the Stockton Mansion for $3,000 a year. Rumor had it that a New York steamship company underwrote your lease.
Now we come to Phillip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key and nephew of Chief Justice Taney.
Teresa and I met Mr. Key, known as Barton, then the District Attorney of the District of Columbia, at President Buchanan’s Inaugural Ball. He was a very handsome widower who moved in the highest circles in Washington. It made sense to cultivate him. We soon were very socially active, with Teresa hosting receptions every Tuesday and dinners every Thursday. The only downside was that I had to travel a lot. While I was unavailable, Barton was glad to escort Teresa to plays, symphonies, horseback rides and parties.
Care to explain your frequent trips to Baltimore to the Barnum Hotel, where you entertained different ladies in your room? Was this fair to your wife?
In my time, the rules for men and women were different. Husbands could enjoy the sporting life while the “weaker sex” was expected to stay home and take care of domestic and social duties. Fairness doesn’t enter into it, it’s just the way the world was then.
Now comes a traumatic moment in your life. What does the number 383 mean to you?
Oh 383, that evil foul number. That was the street address of the house that Barton rented and in which he seduced my innocent wife.
You get an anonymous letter implying that your wife and Barton are having an affair. What did you do?
I asked my friend, George Wooldridge, to investigate. While Barton denied everything, his neighbors said that my wife was seen entering his house on numerous occasions. In addition, Barton would stand in front of my house while I was away and wave a white handkerchief. If the coast was clear, he would enter my house and consort with my wife. The very next day, February 25, 1859, I got Teresa to confess in writing, to her adultery.
Then, while I was conferring with Wooldridge and another friend, Sam
Butterworth, I saw Barton outside waving his damned handkerchief. I got
two derringers and went outside to
confront the scoundrel. I remember
saying, “Key, you scoundrel, you have dishonored my home–you must die!”
We scuffled and he went into his pocket for something. I immediately
fired my derringer striking him in the groin. I then fired point blank
into his chest. I tried to shoot him in the head but the derringer
misfired. I remember asking, “Is the scoundrel
I understand you hired a "dream team" of lawyers, led by Edward Stanton.
Yes. My eight lawyers put forth many theories in my defense, including the unique theory of "temporary insanity," This was the first time this defense was raised and it must have been effective, because the jury took only 70 minutes to find me Not Guilty. I went home and took all of Teresa’s jewelry, including her wedding ring and told her she was no longer my wife. I didn’t divorce her because that would have hindered my political plans. Some time later I reconciled with Teresa. Where I had been hailed for defending my marriage, I was now ostracized for taking an erring wife back. Mary Chesnut, in her diary, wrote that I had contracted "social smallpox." I did not run for reelection as I could not have won.
Let’s turn to the Civil War. Prior to secession, you had voted with the Southern bloc even against the economic interests of your district, but when the Southern states left the Union, you became a "War Democrat." Why?
I saw the war as an opportunity to rehabilitate my reputation and personal glory. I got the Republican governor of New York to authorize me to raise a brigade of five regiments but within a month 29,000 men had volunteered! I named the brigade the "Excelsior Brigade," which infuriated up-state Republicans. Thanks to the generosity of my friend August Belmont, I took my men to the Belmont Race Track and used its infield as a training camp. When the governor ordered me to disband my brigade, I got Edward Stanton, then Secretary of War, to federalize my regiment. I was offended when I was not appointed general, as was the custom when people raised brigades they paid for.
Then fate intervened. It appeared that Mrs. Lincoln had leaked one of Mr. Lincoln’s speeches to a reporter who put it in his newspaper. The resulting scandal threatened to wound the Lincolns. I found a way out by inducing a White House gardener to say he had memorized the speech and repeated it to the reporter. A grateful President promptly appointed me as a general!
Tell us about your Civil War exploits.
I led my men in the Battle of Seven Pines and the Seven Days Battle and I performed creditably. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, however, I obeyed Joe Hooker’s order moving me off good defensive ground even though I vigorously opposed doing so. At the Battle of Gettysburg, I did just the opposite, disobeying George Meade’s orders to stay in line and instead moved my men one mile forward to what I believed to be a better defensive position. When Meade came to my headquarters and ordered me to return to my original position, which I was prepared to obey when the rebels attacked. My men and I fought valiantly and, aided by reinforcements sent by Meade, held the field.
Some historians say your move risked disaster to Meade’s plan of battle, while others say it blunted the Confederate attack and that your unwise move may have unwittingly foiled Lee’s hopes.
To this day, I think my action was proper, that it even saved the day and that I was the "Hero of Gettysburg." I was even given the Medal of Honor!
Thirty-four years later. Any chance that you would be court-martialed ended when a rebel cannon ball took off your left leg? You were put on a stretcher, lit a cigar and told your men that "I would be back." You insisted on being taken to Washington, where you promptly spread your version of the battle and attacked Meade then and after the war as a coward who wanted to retreat after the first day. President Lincoln and his son Tad even visited you.
I’ll let history decide.
Tell us what happened to your amputated leg.
I knew that the Surgeon General had been ordered to collect "specimens of morbid anatomy," for the Army Medical Museum, so I ordered the bones of my leg to be shipped to the museum.
It has been reported that you visited your leg on July 2 for many years thereafter.
That is so.
One small incident: you met a woman in 1863 who gave birth to a baby girl she called "Our little Julia."
OK. Let’s switch back to your domestic life. You and your wife and daughter lived in separate homes in New York. You even vacationed in the Adirondacks without them.
Let’s get on with this.
In the fall of 1863 a ball was held in your honor and you stated, "The army will prove that they who are fearless in conflict are generous in victory." Many people took this as an opening move to run for the Presidency.
Nonsense! I was simply following Mr. Lincoln’s ideas for postwar policy.
In 1865 you were sent to Columbia on a secret mission to obtain continued assurance it would allow Union troops to cross the Isthmus of Panama.
I am fluent in Spanish and a friend of President Murillo, who had been the Columbian minister in Washington before the war.
Your mission was a success when you heard about Lincoln’s assassination and the attack on Stanton. You returned to Washington, bringing with you some exotic animals for the Central Park Zoo. The war was over. In 1867, your wife, Teresa, died. Your friend President Grant appointed you as the Commander of the Department of South Carolina.
This was an almost impossible assignment. Some freed slaves confused freedom with never having to work again, allowing the fields to lie fallow. I avoided mass starvation by having tons of army rations sent to South Carolina. I was faced with a white population who feared that giving the blacks the right to vote meant the blacks would treat the whites the same way the whites had treated the blacks. The only good thing about this assignment was that my daughter came to live with me. No one, white or black had any money, so a flood of foreclosures ensued: 60,000 homes in 1865 and 1866, making up two-thirds of the homes in the state as I issued General Order No. 10, freezing all foreclosures for a year. My action was popular among the citizens but not the banks who got a Federal judge to say my order was "improper." The banks took it to a Federal judge who said my order was "improper."
When I refused to comply with this order, President Johnson removed me from office, just as he was removing Edward Stanton from the office of Secretary of War. I returned to Washington. The Radical Republicans were in a life-and-death struggle with President Johnson which ended in impeachment proceedings. I sided with Edward Stanton. I heard that Senator Edmund Ross of Kansas was the swing vote and that he was going to vote against impeachment, which would mean acquittal but was blocked from seeing him by a young woman. Ross went on to vote for acquittal. The vote was 37 for impeachment and 19 against. Since two-thirds vote was required, President Johnson escaped impeachment. My friend Ben Butler later held hearings that indicated that many acquittal votes had been bought.
the war ended you retired from the Army and you friend President Grant
appointed you as Minister to Spain. As usual, you got into trouble by
engaging in a torrid love affair with Queen
I had known Isabella from before the war. We were soul mates in that she had given birth to five babies by five different men. My long standing goal remained acquiring Cuba. I met with revolutionaries in my house.
Wasn’t this illegal?
A mere technicality. To continue, Isabella was in Paris and I went to Paris. My goal was to make her son, Alfonso XII, king. All my efforts at king-making failed, but in 1871, I did meet and marry a beautiful young French woman, Caroline de Creagh. I resigned as Minister in 1874 and lived in Paris where Caroline gave me two children, Eda Sickles and George Stanton Sickles.
In 1870, James McHenry retained you to oust Jay Gould and James Fisk from control of the Erie Railroad Company
McHenry was a shareholder in the Railroad, which had been gutted by Gould and Fisk. Even abroad I continued to work against Gould and by 1873 I had persuaded 11 of the 17 directors of the company to support McHenry’s slate of directors and officers to oust Gould. The source of Gould’s power was Boss Tweed. Just as my new wife and I arrived back in the United States, Boss Tweed was arrested. I found a new ally in O. H. P. Archer, vice president of the railroad, who called a meeting of the board at the railroad’s headquarters in the Grand Opera Hotel. I brought with me court injunctions, a brigade of police and a band of hired toughs. Gould had his own "army" but was greatly outnumbered. Ultimately Gould barricaded himself in some inner offices. I managed to talk to Gould through the door and told him that if Gould resigned, the stock of the railroad would go up by 15 points, which would be worth millions to him. Out numbered and out maneuvered, Gould resigned. I was wrong about the effect on the stock. It went up by 20 points! Naturally I also profited from this outcome.
You left your family in 1879 and did not see them again for 17 years. May I say that you like being married but are unable to deal with day-to-day family life?
Say whatever you want, young lady.
By 1879, you had finally found financial security and purchased a spacious home at Fifth Avenue and 9th Street, decorated with military and political memorabilia and animal heads and hides, but nothing related to your family life. In 1880, you supported Grant for another term as President, but after 36 ballots a "dark horse," James Garfield, won the nomination and the election.
Yes, both Grant and I were left hanging out to dry. But don’t feel sorry for me. My father died in 1881 and left me $5 million.
In 1883, at a Gettysburg reunion, you met James Longstreet. You two became fast friends and each held that the other had acted well on July 2, 1863. Longstreet even wrote you a letter in which he said that you had blunted Lee’s attack and thereby won the battle.
I have the letter with me. Would you like to see it?
Just when things looked good, you suffered reversals. Your daughter Laura died in 1891 destroyed by drink and drugs. In 1889, you lost $4 million in the stock market and reconciled with your wife, Caroline, and your son, Stanton, but that effort foundered on your inability to stop squandering money on young actresses.
You served as President of the State Board of Civil Service Commission (1888-89), as Sheriff of New York (1890). You also served for many years as Chairman of the New York Monuments Commission, but you were forced out when $28,000 was embezzled.
I did not steal the money but I took full responsibility for the loss and made up the loss with help from friends and from my own pocket, even though this required my wife to sell her jewelry.
In 1893, you ran for Congress again on a platform that Democrats as well as Republicans had won the Battle of Gettysburg. Your stump speech became famous, reciting that the right wing was led by General Slocum, a Democrat; the left wing was led by General Reynolds, a Democrat; and in the Devil’s Den was a man named Sickles. You won and were able to have legislation passed establishing the Gettysburg National Military Park. General, virtually every other General on both sides of this battle has a monument erected in his honor, but not you. Why?
I don’t need a marble statue, the whole battlefield is a monument to me.
In 1908, you almost lost your house to the Sheriff but were able to talk him out of seizing it. You were buried in an avalanche of creditors’ suits and your health began to fail. You died May 3, 1914 at the age of 94 (or was it 97 or 91?). Your funeral rivaled that of a President’s funeral and you were buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Yes, and I have come back to life to get my bones moved to Gettysburg!
Last changed: 01/23/14