Tag Archives: Civil War general

The Scoundrel Who Visited His Lost Leg

Sickles - use at top

If an election were ever held for the title “Bad Boy of American History,” Dan Sickles would be a serious contender.

He served in Congress; married a woman half his age; publicly murdered her lover, then beat the rap by pioneering a legal defense that’s still used today; became a Civil War general, losing a leg while nearly losing the Battle of Gettysburg at the same time; dabbled in diplomacy and fooled around with a queen; filled his pockets with money that wasn’t his; received the Congressional Medal of Honor; and lived to the ripe old age of 94.

Oh, and he did something very weird with his lost leg, too.

That’s a heap of living. So let’s meet one of the most complex, contradictory characters to ever grace the American scene. Continue reading

The Body In the Trunk: Who Killed Elsie Sigel?

How racism, a famous grandpa & Yellow Journalism created a Turn of the Century Whodunnit?


The late Victorians and Edwardians relished a good murder. Consider how our British cousins were fascinated by Jack the Ripper’s killings. The same was true on this side of the pond. When fame, notoriety and crime were rolled into one story, reported by sensational Yellow Journalists to boot, the public couldn’t get enough sordid details.

elsie drawing ofBut seldom was their fiendish appetite indulged as intensely as it was with one Big Apple homicide in the early 20th Century. Almost entirely forgotten today, it was a forerunner of the O.J. Simpson-Nicole Brown Simpson media circus that would follow 85 years later. And it carried ugly consequences for one group of people. With that introduction, let us return to the summer of 1909.

If the telegram was meant to reassure her parents, it didn’t work.

“Will be home soon, or Sunday evening,” it said. “Don’t worry.” It carried the initials EJS.

But the parents did worry, because until then, they hadn’t seen or heard from 19 year-old Elsie J. Sigel for several days. Continue reading