General Sickles of the United States Army reconnoitres in the Potomac River during the first year of the American Civil War, 1861. Original full page from the Illustrated London News, dated 1861. Engraving entitled: “The Civil War in America: “My reconnaissance with General Sickles in the Potomac.” Rear page has a long report headed, “The Civil War in America.” Page also contains an engraving of Hartebeeste antelopes.
The American Civil War was fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865. The result of a long-standing controversy over slavery and states’ rights, war broke out in April 1861, when Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, shortly after Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. The nationalists of the Union proclaimed loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States of America, who advocated for states’ rights to perpetual slavery and its expansion in the Americas.
Daniel Edgar Sickles (October 20, 1819 – May 3, 1914) was an American politician, soldier, and diplomat. Born to a wealthy family in New York City, Sickles was involved in a number of public scandals, most notably the killing of his wife’s lover, Philip Barton Key II, son of Francis Scott Key. He was acquitted after using temporary insanity as a legal defense for the first time in United States history. This became a defense associated with ‘crimes of passion’ (crime passionnel in French). Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Sickles became one of the war’s most prominent political generals, recruiting the New York regiments that became known as the Excelsior Brigade in the Army of the Potomac. Despite his lack of military experience, he served as a brigade, division, and corps commander in some of the early Eastern campaigns. His military career ended at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, after he moved his III Corps (without orders) to an untenable position where it was virtually destroyed. He was wounded by cannon fire and had to have his leg amputated. He was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.