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Steve Courtney <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 11 Feb 2006 21:49:59 -0500
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Good for Mark Coburn for pointing out some of the details of the
extraordinary life of Dan Sickles -- he is a major character in Joe
Twichell's Civil War letters. (And thanks to Hal Bush for his typically
thoughtful appreciation of Twichell, and of Pete Messent's and my edition of
the letters.)

Pete and I had noticed the musical bridge of the 18th and 20th centuries
between Sickles' youthful association with Lorenzo da Ponte and his later
acquaintance with Charles Ives though Twichell. In fact, Sickles and Ives
almost certainly met at the 1913 reunion at Gettysburg when the Iveses
accompanied Twichell to Sickles' last hurrah there -- at 93, the general had
outlived his many enemies, but had won more, too. The Swanberg biography, as
Mark says, is terrific, and I would argue the recent one is too -- it's by
the Australian author Thomas Kenneally, of Schindler's List fame, and is
called American Scoundrel.

Twichell, as you'll see in his letters, was doubtful about serving as
chaplain in a regiment commanded by the famed killer of Philip Barton Key,
and once turned down an offer to ride in a carriage that contained the
adulteress Teresa Bagioli Sickles. But he gradually came to admire Sickles,
who was clearly as brave as a lion as well as a shameless self-advertiser.
Sickles incurred his superiors' displeasure by ordering slave hunters out of
the regimental camp in Maryland in 1862, an event Twichell witnessed

At Gettysburg, before losing his leg (the shattered bones of which can be
seen in the National Museum of Health and Medicine at the Walter Reed Army
Medical Center in Washington) Sickles either nearly lost or helped win the
battle by an unauthorized move of his corps forward from the position it had
been assigned. Which it was -- nearly lost or won by Sickles -- is endlessly
debated by Civil War buffs today.

Hal mentioned that Twichell regaled his friend Mark with Civil War tales --
If you look at Chapter 23 of A Tramp Abroad, you'll see a very deft
reconstruction of some of their pedestrian conversation, subject suggesting
subject, leading to a Twichell tale of dentistry in the army camp as an
opener for Clemens' own tale of Nicodemus Dodge and the skeleton.

Steve Courtney
Terryville, CT 06786