In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

78CIVIL WAR HISTORY The Congressman Who Got Away with Murder. By Nat Brandt. (Syracuse : Syracuse University Press, 1991. Pp. 211. $24.95.) In this account of Representative Daniel Sickles's slaying in 1859 of Philip Barton Key and his subsequent acquittal, Nat Brandt has a good story to tell and tells it well. He begins by sketching the backgrounds of the three principals: Sickles, his much younger wife, Teresa Bagioli Sickles, and the wife's lover, son of Francis Scott Key of Star Spangled Banner fame and known by his middle name of Barton. Both Sickles and Key were lawyers, well-connected politically, and had deserved reputations as womanizers. By the late 185Os, Key was a widower often called upon to escort Teresa Sickles during her husband's frequent outof -town trips where he conducted both business and extramarital relationships . Soon Teresa and Barton were lovers who carried on their affair with much less discretion than Daniel did his. When Sickles learned of the relationship through anonymous letters, he had a friend verify the allegations and extracted a confession from Teresa that was lurid by the standards of the 185Os. When his suspicions were confirmed, he demonstrated extraordinary grief and rage, armed himself thoroughly, found Key in the street, and shot him twice. Two other trigger pulls resulted in misfires. At his trial for murder, Sickles was represented by no fewer than eight attorneys, including New York's redoubtable James T. Brady, who made a specialty of getting those so charged acquitted, and Edwin M. Stanton. With the judge's acquiescence, Sickles's legal team turned the trial into one for adultery rather than homicide. More than forty witnesses testified to Barton and Teresa's not-so-clandestine trysts, although no evidence was presented on Dan's infidelities, a textbook example of the double standard at work. One defense argument demonstrated the appalling position of women in nineteenth-century law: a married woman's body was her husband's property and any violation of that property right merited extreme measures. Moreover, the trial judge allowed Brady and the other defense attorneys to advance a new legal argument of temporary insanity or irresistible impulse. Sickles supposedly was so overcome by knowledge of his wife's infidelity that he lost all control and for at least as long as it took to shoot her lover was irrational and therefore not responsible for his actions. After being sequestered for the three weeks of the trial, the jury took less than two hours to reach a verdict of not guilty. Most public and press reaction supported the verdict. Sickles, however, soon forfeited this support by publicly forgiving his wife, although they rarely spent any time together. As a fallen woman, Teresa Sickles was considered beyond redemption and social respectability. She died at the early age of thirtyone in 1867. BOOK REVIEWS79 Meanwhile, Daniel Sickles went on to command a corps and lose a leg at Gettysburg. Military historians still debate whether his decision to move his troops forward almost lost the battle or saved it for the Union army. He lived until 1914, a controversial figure to the end. Brandt presents these developments in straightforward fashion. He has made good use of the trial record, other documents, and newspaper accounts. The focus is on narration rather than analysis, but in its modest way the book offers useful insights on the social and legal position of women in Victorian America. James F. Richardson University of Akron Sykes' Regular Infantry Division, 1861-1864: A History ofRegular United States Infantry Operations in the Civil War's Eastern Theater. By Timothy J. Reese. (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, 1990. Pp. 466. $45.00.) Among the many studies concerning military aspects of the Civil War, comparatively little has been written about the prewar army units that were engaged in combat. Most of the research has dealt with the Union armies or those parts of them made up of volunteers or conscripts. Timothy J. Reese sets out to rectify this with his book on those from the "old army" who went into battle. George Sykes graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842. He remained in the service...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 78-79
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.