I guess this would qualify as the day’s strange news…
Have you been dying to see the amputated leg of Union Major General Dan Sickles? Well, now is your chance. The famous leg which was removed from its owner after it was struck with a cannon ball at the battle of Gettysburg is taking a little vacation to Frederick, Maryland, while the museum it normally rests in is being moved. You can read all about it here.
It does not seem like the sole reason one would want to take a trip down to Maryland for, but being that Antietam is right in the area, and Gettysburg is only about 90 minutes to the north, you might want to make a little family vacation out of it. Heck, maybe you can stop at KFC on the way and celebrate with a few legs of your own.
Dan Sickles is certainly a fascinating character. Having murdered the lover of his wife, the son of Francis Scott Key, before the Civil War (and getting away with it after pleading temporary insanity), he rose to prominence as a very colorful and competent general, in an army that was surely lacking the latter. His leg may be more famous than his battle presence, though, as when the war ended, he donated the leg to the then National Museum of Medicine, where he would regularly visit it and bring guests along. Should I get down to the area this summer, perhaps I will take a look, because I have a special connection to Mr. Sickles.
Last year, before my annual trip to Gettysburg, a friend in California, Ned Huthmacher, author of One Domingo Morning, which details the siege and battle of the Alamo, sent me a very rare three-volume set. It is apparently so rare that I have never seen an identical copy of it anywhere, not even online. It actually intrigues me so much that I kick myself for not asking James M. McPherson about it when I interviewed him several months ago. Perhaps I will send an email to James I. Robertson at Virginia Tech, asking for some help in identifying the book and to learn more. These volumes are titled Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, published by the New York Commission, which was chaired by none other than Dan Sickles. His signature appears at the beginning of the book.
Published in 1900, these books give details and pictures of every single New York monument at Gettysburg battlefield, the transcripts of speeches read at their dedications, as well as enlistment records and casualty figures for every single soldier from New York to fight on those three fateful days in July of 1863. It is probably the greatest gift I have ever received.