Welcome to the Dan Sickles Civil War Round Table, founded during the Civil War
sesquicentennial by history-enthusiasts Michael Bennett and Dan Weinfeld.
Guest-presenters have included renowned historians, best-selling authors, battlefield guides, educators, representatives of the National Park Service, West Point instructors, and even an actor, a musician, and a psychic. To properly study the Civil War, we must study as many facets of 1860s life as possible - from the personalities and topography of the battlefield, to the political struggles of the day, and the music, art and spirituality embraced by those who lived during that time.
But why Sickles?
Dan Sickles was chosen as the namesake of the Round Table for a number of reasons. First of all, and perhaps now only as an aside, the Round Table began and still is headquartered in New York. And no other Civil War personality held a more visible connection to the Empire State, or would consider himself more of a real New Yorker than old Dan Sickles. I'm not sure anyone is fighting us for that claim, but Daniel Edgar Sickles is ours. Excelsior!
Further, Daniel Edgar Sickles represents all of us. He's far from perfect, he's made his share of mistakes, and you can find plenty of examples (both in his time and today) of people who love him and people who can't stand him. Is there anyone reading this who does not also find that description to fit them, or someone they love, as well? True, few of us have accumulated the body of work that Dan Sickles did in his lifetime. But few of us will have all of our weaknesses and failings displayed on the front page of the newspaper, in scores of history books, and in the personal memoires of so many other notable individuals either. Dan Sickles is simultaneously, somehow, both every-man and no-man. He gets no respect at all, and yet few discussions of the Battle of Gettysburg can take place without his name being raised. He loved the limelight, and seemed almost not to care whether it was for accomplishment or scandal - hero or rogue, savior or scoundrel.
Better to be thought of harshly, than to not be thought of at all.
Dan is an interesting person to study, whether we can ever really get to know and fully understand him or not. I probably would not shoot my wife's lover - but I might be able to understand the emotions that could bring about that outcome. I likely wouldn't bring a renowned madam with me to meet the Queen of England - but then again, I don't know any renowned madams. As a student of military history, I can see the problems that resulted from moving his Third Corps forward towards the Emmitsburg Road at Gettysburg - and I wouldn't presume to defend that decision without considerable discussion. But as someone who has also learned of the many other circumstances that led to that action, I can certainly understand his concerns over the position, his uncertainty about what lay before him, and the resulting rationale. I've never been a lawyer, or a Congressman, or a Foreign Minister - and I've also never had occasion to create a national battlefield park, to donate my amputated leg to a medical museum, to purchase a lion cub as a gift for a Princess, or to court the Queen of Spain. We may not agree with or understand every decision or action he made - we likely would not. But if I were alive in the 19th or early 20th century, I think I would like to meet him, and to know him. And I am quite certain that if Old Dan were to learn that a Civil War Round Table were named for him, he'd be pleased, yet thoroughly nonplussed, noting that this all seems quite appropriate.
Michael S. Bennett