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American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles Paperback – May 13, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
But the most successful biographies of controversial or notorious figures in history are those that provide the most perceptive insights into the motivations and emotions of the subject and in this task Keneally falls short. Without question Daniel Sickles was one of those occasional personalities who manage to glide through life under a lucky star and, according to Keneally, without an iota of shame. Keneally also makes it abundantly clear that that the morality of the era and the political situation in New York and the young United States facilitated Sickles' rise to prominence and notoriety. After reading passage after passage describing Sickles' exploits,however, one comes away with little real understanding of the man or his motivations. Given some of Sickles'seemingly contradictory actions, it is difficult to simply accept corruption or misplaced loyalty to Tammany Hall politics as the principle motivators of this man.
Several examples of the contradictory nature of the man appear throughout the book. Sickles' introduction of his prostitute-mistress to Queen Victoria of England is described as one of Sickles'early yet typical controversies. After reading of this gross breach of diplomatic protocol and good manners, the reader is almost forced to stop and ask "What on earth could have caused Sickles to do such a thing?" Even in this rambunctious period of US diplomacy, there might well have been serious ramifications to such an escapade.Read more ›
Despite the fact that Sickles is best known as a Civil War general, this is not a book for Civil War buffs. Keneally's writing on the war is superficial at best, and sometimes nakedly erroneous. (He states more than once that Gen. Stonewall Jackson was shot dead at the Battle of Chancellosville, when of course, even a casual student of the war knows that the general only received a wound in the battle and lingered on for some time, dying of pneumonia while recovering from his wound.)
The intended audience of this book, which is reflected in the writing style as well as content, instead appears to be those who loved following the O.J. Simpson trial in the tabloids. The bulk of the book is devoted to Dan's amorous affairs, his young wife's affair, and his murder of his wife's lover and subsequent trail and acquittal. He writes extensively and floridly on these subjects, without managing much real illumination. I must admit that I was only able to make it through the endless trial material by resorting to skimming the text. However, if you are captivated by tabloids coverage of celebrity trials, this book may suit your tastes.
There were germs of interesting facts in this book.Read more ›
I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book, particularly the material on political life in New York City and the trial, but found the Civil War material poorly done. It seemed to me, from the cursory job Keneally did with the last fifty years of Sickles' life, that he tired of his subject, and failed to give us much insight into this complex character.
Being most famous for being the first man to plead "Temporary Insanity" after killing Philip Barton Key and then going on to become a moderately successful Civil War General, wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg at the height of his career and fame!
He then used that fame to cash-in throughout the rest of his life.
The title is accurate when it describes him as an American Scoundrel! I expected This book to be very entertaining as I any number of things he did should have placed him into obscurity, but he rebounded every time and even elevated himself.
I did not like the book and found it agonizing to get through, finally... The author spent a LOT of time rehashing the same event for pages on end. He glorified the subject beyond what you would expect an author to do. I expected some rehabilitating of the General, but the constant love-fest was too much.
Very little (in comparison) is spent on his war years and post-Civil War years. The author barely covers Sickles' overseas trips and quickly moves past these major events of his life to return and concentrate on his personal history with his (first) wife way too much.
There are few books written about Sickles and I chose this because it was the most recent. It takes a lot for me to dislike any book on the Civil War, but this author really turned me off, so much so that I don't want to even keep the book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I do a lot of reading, especially history, and the subject of Dan Sickles should be fascinating. Nevertheless, I just can't read this thing. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Ron Braithwaite
well written overview of an aggressive, talented, well-connected, arrogant 19th-century political general, who was nonetheless, an American scoundrelPublished 12 months ago by Mark L. Gade
I am very excited to read this book and plan on sharing it with my Civil War Round Table enthusiasts.Published on October 18, 2013 by lza
Fascinating story of a real character in history. Not just good character description, but gives one a real sense of the political scene in Washington at the time. Read morePublished on August 13, 2013 by Joyce C Bradley
After finding this book in a rare book shop I devoured it and ordered two more from Amazon for gifts. Read morePublished on April 19, 2013 by Edward R. Flanagan
Well written. Some factual mistakes........but then, don't they all have them? This is the Forest Gump of the 19th century. He's everywhere.Published on March 30, 2013 by Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass