Friday, December 2, 2011

New addition to the library

Sickles at Gettysburg: The Controversial Civil War General Who Committed Murder, Abandoned Little Round Top, and Decided Himself the Hero of Gettysburg, by James A. Hessler.

Right now I'm freshening up my knowledge on the Battle of Gettysburg.  Based on everything I've read so far, U.S. Army Major General Daniel E. Sickles was not only a terrible commander but was one of the most contemptible personalities on either side of the Civil War (and that's saying something, considering the slave-trading background Nathan Bedford Forrest). 

Even by the low standards of the Union generalship that gave the military history such sterling figures as George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, John Pope, George Wagner, Oliver Otis Howard and Thomas Wood, Dan Sickles was extraordinarily bad, yet another example of a political general with no formal military training and very little battlefield experience.  As corps commander in the Union Army of the Potomac Sickles was specifically ordered to deploy his corps on Little Round Top by army commander General George Gordon Meade.  Yet Sickles decided instead to occupy a low hill between Cemetery Ridge and Seminary Ridge well in front of his assigned position.  Meade angrily ordered him back, but it was too late; the Confederate assault had already begun.  Compounding his error, Sickles then tried to steal units from the neighboring Union corps to try to save his faltering line.  His corps was smashed.  His incompetence almost cost the Union the Battle of Gettysburg.

Afterwards, Sickles should have been court-martialed, but since he was wounded at Gettysburg, they let him off.  No matter. He then tried to get Meade removed from command and, failing that, viciously slandered Meade and painted himself as the hero of Gettysburg.

At least, that's my impression of him so far.  Supposedly, Sickles at Gettysburg will at least try to give Sickles' side of the story.  Let's see how well it does.

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