Union General Daniel E. Sickles Responds to Birthday Greetings from One of Hundreds of Well-Wishers
“The Nation can never repay them for their services and sacrifices.”
DANIEL E. SICKLES, Printed Letter Signed, to J. S. Garber, October 24, 1911, New York. 1 p., 7.5ʺ x 10.75ʺ. Expected folds; some toning; minor edge tears; reinforced on verso at top; strong, dark signature.
Because Sickles received so many messages from Civil War soldiers formerly under his command and others, he had this response printed to acknowledge their greetings, dated four days after his “eighty-sixth” birthday. He was a controversial figure throughout his life, and even his birthday is suspect. He was born in 1819, making this birthday his ninety-second, but he claimed his year of birth was 1825, perhaps to appear younger when he married a woman half his age in 1852.
23 Fifth Avenue, New York
Oct. 24, 1911
I have received your kind greeting on my eighty-sixth birthday. Such testimonials of regard are, indeed, touching proofs of the fraternity which pervades all ranks of those who shared in the struggle for the preservation of the Union. More than sixteen hundred of these affectionate congratulations have already reached me. The cry is: “Still they come!”
If a dozen or more newspapers, besides the “National Tribune,” had announced the date of my birthday, I suppose sixteen thousand comrades would have honored me by their generous felicitations. I am glad to know that I enjoy the esteem of soldiers who offered their lives for the suppression of the great Rebellion. The Nation can never repay them for their services and sacrifices.
Their good wishes are heartily reciprocated. Their friends are my friends, and their enemies are mine.
May God bless them, is the fervent prayer of
D. E. Sickles
Major General U.S. Army, Retired.
To/ J. S. Garber, Esq.
Daniel E. Sickles (1819-1914) was born in New York City, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1846. In 1852, he married Teresa Bagioli (1836-1867), who was only fifteen or sixteen. He served in the New York Senate from 1856 to 1857, and represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1857 to 1861. The New York State Assembly censured Sickles for bringing a known prostitute into its chambers, and he reportedly took her to England, while leaving his pregnant wife at home. In February 1859, Sickles shot and killed his wife’s lover, Philip Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key of “Star Spangled Banner” fame. In the trial that followed, Sickles successfully employed the temporary insanity defense to gain an acquittal. During the Civil War, Sickles became one of the most prominent political generals. He recruited the New York regiments that became the Excelsior Brigade and rose through the command ranks in the Army of the Potomac. In the Battle of Gettysburg, his Third Corps was virtually destroyed after he placed them in an untenable position in advance of the main Union line, though the maneuver blunted a Confederate attack. During the battle, Sickles was wounded and later had his leg amputated. After the battle while recovering, he claimed much credit for the victory and belittled his commander General George G. Meade. Sickles served in non-combat roles in New York City for the remainder of the war. From 1865 to 1867, he commanded military departments in the South and served as minister to Spain from 1869 to 1874. He again represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1893 to 1895. In 1897, he received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg thirty-four years earlier. He served as chairman of the New York Monuments Commission and played an important role in the preservation of the Gettysburg battlefield.
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