SICKLESOh say can you see? As (temporarily) nuts as it may seem, this holiday is directly related to America’s national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” and to official corruption. Today is


If you have to be insane, temporary is the way to go, especially if it gets you acquitted of a murder charge.

On February 19, 1859, Congressman Daniel E. Sickles became the first person found not guilty of murder by reason of temporary insanity in the United States. He shot and killed his teenaged wife’s lover, one Philip Barton Key II, son of anthem composer Francis Scott Key. He won his trial and wound up being lionized as a (!) defender of women’s virtue.

The reality was that Daniel Sickles was a walking scandal involved with both New York’s highest and lowest society, from President Martin Van Buren, who wrote him a personal note after his arrest, to the city’s brothels, saloons and gambling dens he so loved.

The Congressman next became a politically self-appointed Civil War general who somehow got awarded the Medal of Honor for costing almost his entire regiment their lives and himself one of his legs at the Battle of Gettysburg when he disobeyed orders and pulled his troops out of position at a crucial time, very nearly costing the Union the victory in this decisive battle, and thus the entire war, coming thisclose to altering world history by being a willful screwup.

In another bizarre twist, his mangled leg was later displayed with other macabre displays at the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. Only some creative spin doctoring on his part avoided a court marshal and won him the nation’s highest battle honor.

After the war, Sickles enjoyed a lucratively corrupt career as a Reconstruction official, then became U.S. Ambassador to Spain where he had an affair with the deposed Queen Isabella and married a Spanish noblewoman, fathering 2 children with his new wife.

He is also the only Union General not to have a statue of himself at the Gettysburg battlefield since he stole the money raised for his statue. In short, a larger than life ne’er-do-well with connections who probably ruined the chances of generations of legitimate cases of temporary insanity.

•Suggested Activities: Being temporarily impressed with this blowhard.

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