Valor Friday

| January 27, 2023

Continuing on my series of US Congressmen who have received the Medal of Honor.

Philip Sidney Post

Philip Post was born in 1833 in New York. After college, he found his way to Illinois and was admitted to the Bar there in 1856. He traveled the northwest, made his home in Kansas, and practiced law while starting a newspaper.

When the Civil War started, Post enlisted with the 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Commissioned a second lieutenant, he moved up rapidly, being promoted to colonel by 1862.

The 59th Illinois were assigned to the 3rd Division in the Army of the Southwest. The Army was pursuing the Confederate Missouri State Guard into Arkansas. Though Missouri didn’t secede from the Union, there was a strong Confederate sentiment in the state. The Missouri State Guard was led by Major General Sterling Price, a former US Army brigadier general, former US Congressman from Missouri, and former governor of the State of Missouri.

The 3rd Division of the Army of the Southwest was commanded by Union Colonel (later major general) Jefferson C. Davis. Jefferson C. Davis should not be confused with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Jefferson C. is best known for shooting and killing his commanding officer in 1862 after the man had insulted his combat capabilities. Due to a lack of experienced officers, he avoided a court martial and retained both his commission and his command.

About 10,000 Union troops of the Army of the Southwest had pushed the Confederates out of Missouri, and pursued them to the area of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Here on 7 March 1862 the two sides engaged in a pitched battle.

The Union men faced off against about 16,000 Confederates, one of the few times during the war that the Rebels had such numerical superiority. Over the course of a two day battle the Confederates were repulsed and eventually driven off. It was a Union victory, but for Philip Post, he was one of the roughly 1,200 Union casualties.

Severely wounded, Post made his way to St Louis. He recovered from his wounds for two months and then rejoined his men in Mississippi. From May 1862 he was with his men at the front of the war until the waning days of the conflict.

He commanded a brigade in the Army of the Cumberland. He saw victory at the Battle of Stones River, where he was again under the command of Jefferson C. Davis. He next moved to Thomas Wood’s division in the Atlanta Campaign.

Post was wounded by grapeshot in the hip at the Battle of Nashville in mid-December 1864. He took what was thought to be a mortal wound while leading a charge on Overton Hill. He led the charge through heavy enemy fire, only being struck himself as he came upon the enemy’s breastworks.

For his gallantry in action at Nashville, President Lincoln brevet promoted Post to brigadier general of volunteers. In 1893 he received the Medal of Honor for it as well. Major General George Henry Thomas, who commanded the Army of the Cumberland at Nashville, received the Thanks of Congress (one of the highest civil honors of the US Government’s legislative branch) for the battle as well. The Thanks was extended to Thomas “and the officers and soldiers under his command for their skill and dauntless courage, by which the rebel army under General Hood was signally defeated and driven from the state of Tennessee.”

After the South’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Post took command of the western district of Texas. In early 1866 he was enthusiastically recommended by General Thomas (and others) for a permanent colonel’s commission in the regular Army, but Post didn’t want to become a career soldier.

After the war, in 1866, Post was a US consul to the Austrian capital of Vienna (which in 1867 became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). He was promoted to consul-general in 1874 and remained in that post until 1879.

Post then ran for Congress, being elected first in 1886 as a Republican from his home state of Illinois. He was elected four more times, dying in office on 6 January 1895.

Amos Jay Cummings

From Conklin, New York, Amos Cummings had been apprenticing in the printing trade from the age of 12. Twenty years old when the Civil War started, he enlisted into the Union Army at Irvington, New Jersey in September 1862. He served with the 26th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

They mustered into federal service on 18 September 1862, and marched to Washington, D.C. a week later. Joining the Army of the Potomac, they first saw action at Fredericksburg. They were engaged at Chancellorsville, Marye’s Heights, and Banks’ Ford. They were mustered out on 27 June 1863. They lost one officer and 14 men killed in action or died of wounds and 21 enlisted men to disease in their nine months of federal service. That’s an impressive record since they were involved in the two largest battles of the war.

On 3 May, Cummings was a sergeant major. After the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, the Union occupied Marye’s Heights in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Union Major General John Sedgwick’s VI Corps, numbering some 23,000 men (including the 26th New Jersey) marched towards General Joseph Hooker’s force at Chancellorsville. Before they could get that far, a brigade under Confederate General Jubal Early halted their advance. They were halted at Salem Church.

From the late afternoon of the 3rd and into the 4th, the Confederates were reinforced, ultimately numbering about 10,000 men. The Union forces were forced to retreat, crossing two pontoon bridges in the early morning hours of the 4th at Banks’ Ford. This battle is known as the Battle of Salem Church or the Battle of Banks Ford.

During the pitched battle, Sergeant Major Cummings “[r]endered great assistance in the heat of the action in rescuing a part of the field batteries from an extremely dangerous and exposed position.” So says his Medal of Honor citation, which he received in 1894, three decades after the event.

After his military service, Cummings returned to New York. He became a popular editorialist and travel writer. In 1886 he ran for Congress, being elected to the House as a Democrat. He served for two years before declining the nomination, but several months after leaving office was again elected to the House, filling a mid-term vacancy from the death of a fellow Democrat Congressman. Re-elected twice, he again resigned from the House in 1894.

Again, Cummings only lasted about a year out of office before he stood for election again. For the second time, he was elected to fill a mid-term vacancy due to the death of Republican Andrew Campbell, who died before taking office.

Interestingly, Campbell had run against Daniel Sickles. Sickles, the Democrat incumbent for the district, was a Union general who also earned the Medal of Honor for actions in the Civil War. This means that Cummings took the seat immediately after Sickles. This is the only time that a Medal of Honor recipient replaced another Medal of Honor recipient in the US Congress.

Cummings was re-elected thrice more, until his death in 1902 at the age of 60. In total, he spent just under 14 years as a Congressman.

Daniel Edgar Sickles

Since I mentioned Daniel Sickles in the previous segment, let’s take a look at him. It’s quite the story. One involving prostitutes, infidelity, murder, insanity, and bravery. Sickles is the only Congressman or Senator to have served in Congress prior to the actions for which they received the Medal of Honor.

Sickles was born in New York City in 1819. His father was a patent lawyer and politician, but like Cummings, Sickles also apprenticed in the printing trade. Attending college, he studied law, and was admitted to the Bar in 1846. He entered politics and was elected to the New York State Assembly the following year as a Democrat. He became part of the powerful Tammany Hall political apparatus.

In 1852, Sickles (32 years old) married Teresa Bagioli. Bagioli at the time was either 15 or 16. The marriage was against the wishes of both families. For her part, Teresa was fluent in five languages and said to be mature for her age. Marrying at such a young age wasn’t unheard of, and is still legal in several US states.

He served for a time as corporate counsel for the City of New York, was a secretary in the US legation in London, and then in 1856 he was elected to the New York State Senate and soon thereafter the US House. He served two terms in Congress from 1857 to 1860.

While a sitting state legislator, Sickles began to cavort with known prostitute Fanny White. The two had met sometime before 1847. Ms. White by then was running a brothel at which she’d previously worked. Her staff knew that Sickles was her “man”, which is to say a customer they’ve developed a relationship with.

Sickles was censured by the state Assembly for bringing Fanny into the chambers. He was said to have brought the hooker to England with him when he was part of the US diplomatic mission, at a time when his wife was home and pregnant. Sickles is even alleged to have presented his paid concubine to Queen Victoria. White ran multiple successful brothels in New York and died unexpectedly, and with some accusations of foul play, in 1860 at age 37.

On 27 February 1859, Sickles was in Washington D.C. at home in Lafayette Square, in front of the White House. Sickles saw Philip Barton Key II outside his house. Key was the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and the son of Francis Scott Key. Sickles had learned that his wife and Key were having an affair. His wife had already confessed and Key was outside signaling to her.

Sickles stormed out of the house, and with pistol in hand said, “Key, you scoundrel, you have dishonored my home; you must die.” Sickles, a sitting congressman you’ll recall, shot and killed Key. Sickles immediately walked to the home of fellow Democrat Jeremiah Black, who was then the Attorney General of the United States (and would soon become the Secretary of State), and confessed to the murder. Authorities were contacted and he was arrested.

Despite gunning a man down in cold blood, Sickles’ position as a well-connected politician afforded him some luxuries in his confinement. He was allowed to retain his personal weapon, and he had so many visitors that he was granted the use of the head jailer’s apartment to receive them.

Sickles was charged with murder. His defense was led by noted Tammany Hall-affiliated lawyer James T. Brady and featured Edwin Stanton (soon to be Secretary of War during the Civil War).

As you’d imagine, the trial was quite the sensation in D.C. and nationally. Stanton argued that Sickles was driven insane by his wife’s infidelity. Soon papers were championing Sickles as brave for “saving all the ladies of Washington from this rogue named Key.”

The jury acquitted Sickles, after he leaked to the press a graphic confession from his wife, by reason of temporary insanity. This was the first time in US history that such a defense was successful.

Sickles publicly forgave his wife and, for a short time, retreated from public life. He never resigned from Congress though. The public was apparently more upset about his forgiveness and reconciliation with his wife than they were that a congressman killed a US Attorney in cold blood.

In the 1850s, Sickles had secured a commission in the New York Militia’s 12th Regiment. He was ranked a major at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Attempting to rebuild his tarnished image, he raised volunteer infantry units in New York for the Union Army.

Having raised four regiments, Sickles was made a colonel over those formations as part of the 70th New York Infantry. He was made a brigadier general of volunteers in September 1861. He missed his brigade’s action at Williamsburg (because the Senate refused to ratify his commission for a few months), but rejoined them in time for the Battles of Seven Pines and Seven Days. As a combat commander, he was competent.

Sickles was absent from his unit’s Second Battle of the Bull Run, because he’d taken leave to raise more men in New York. He also missed the Battle of Antietam, since he was assigned to guard the capitol.

Sickles became a close ally and friend to Major General Joseph Hooker. Both men were renowned political climbers and ladies men. It was said that their headquarters was more like a rowdy bar or a bordello. It’s even claimed in some circles that the reason prostitutes are called “hookers” is in connection to General Hooker’s notorious behavior, but the term actually predates Hooker’s celebrity.

Sickles’ division was held in reserve at Fredericksburg, but in the beginning of 1863 Sickles was promoted to major general and given a corps command in Hooker’s Army of the Potomac. This was a controversial decision since he was the only corps commander who hadn’t graduated West Point.

At Chancellorsville, Sickles performed admirably despite Hooker’s overall poor tactical decisions which led to a decisive Confederate victory. Two months later, in July 1863, Sickles would be at his final and most pivotal battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 1-3 July 1863.

Sickles’ corps was placed on the western edge of the battle line and they faced off against Confederate General Longstreet’s men. Sickles had moved his men from his assigned hill, which threw off the Confederate’s plans. While the III Corps was risked by the movement, it blunted the Rebel plan to attack there and break the Union lines. Sickles believed his actions were instrumental in the resounding victory for the Union at Gettysburg.

During the height of the battle, Sickles was hit by an enemy cannonball, mangling his right leg. His soldiers carried him off the battlefield, applied a tourniquet, and he passed command of the corps off. As he was then moved to the corps’ hospital, Sickles tried to keep his men’s spirits up. He grinned and puffed on a cigar despite the grievous wound.

Sickles’ leg was amputated that afternoon. He insisted on being evacuated to D.C. for his convalescence, where President Lincoln and his son Tad visited him. Arriving on 4 July, Sickles brought some of the earliest news of the Union’s victory the day prior. A well experienced politician, he used the news to defend his own actions during the fight.

In 1897 Sickles was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg. Immediately after his leg amputation, Sickles donated the severed limb and the cannonball that had caused it to the Army Surgeon General. They were collecting specimens of “morbid anatomy” to learn from them. His leg is preserved and is displayed to this day at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, right alongside the type of cannonball that took it off. His leg even has its own Wikipedia page.

Despite being a leg shorter, Sickles remained in the Army until the end of the war, but he was not given another combat command, much to his consternation. He was given brevet promotions to brigadier general for Fredericksburg and major general for Gettysburg, both in the regular Army (he held the substantive rank of major general of volunteers at the time).

Post-war Sickles held positions in the reconstruction government, outlawing discrimination against blacks. He was the Minister to Spain from 1869-1874, nearly causing a war with the country.

In the Spanish Court, Sickles maintained his reputation with the ladies. It’s rumored that he had a fling with the deposed Queen Isabella II. Returning to the states in the 1880s, he took up the charge of honoring the Battle of Gettysburg. As a member of the New York Monuments Commission he helped secure funding for what became the Gettysburg National Monument.

Sickles appeared frequently at events, and usually used his pulpit to disparage General Meade (the commander of Union forces at Gettysburg), even after Meade’s death. Sickles positioned himself as the true architect of the Union’s best known victory of the war.

Starting in 1893 he served two more terms in the US House as a Democrat from New York. From this position he helped secure funding and helped purchase property for the Gettysburg Battlefield Monument. Of the principal generals involved in the battle, Sickles is the only one without a statue. When asked why, Sickles replied, “The entire battlefield is a memorial to Sickles.”

Sickles was forced out of the New York Monuments Commission in 1912 after it was discovered that $27,000 had been embezzled. Sickles died at age 94 in 1914.

Tune back in next week as I (hopefully) wrap up this little series.

Category: Army, Historical, Medal of Honor, Valor, Veterans in politics, We Remember

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There it is!


Great job, Mason. I’m glad you covered Sickles so well, he was quite a character. It is said that he would go visit his leg from time to time.


Thank You, again, Mason, for researching and giving us these Valor stories of our Unsung Heroes.


Never Forget.




Interesting mix today, Mason. Some true Warriors and some true political scumbags, that used politics to advance their “War Heroness”. Price and Hood both did more to defeat themselves and destroy their forces than did the forces they faced. The mention of Jefferson C. Davis brings to mind what Davis did to the contrabands that were following his Army at Ebeneezer Creek during Sherman’s March thru GA. And Sickles….phhtt *spit*. I’ll give him kudos for using his political pull to preserve the Gettysburg Field but little else. A competent battlefield commander because he had competent officers serving under him. Tammany Hall, the epitome of the early Deep State. Ex-PH2 touched on that crowd in some of her posts. Hooker and Sickles were worse whores than the “Ladies of Ill Repute” were. YMMV

As always, Good Sir, another fine job on bringing us these stories. It is muchly appreciated.


Mason… Thanks for the story on Philip Post. I grew up in Monmouth, Illinois (birthplace of Wyatt Earp) and have driven by nearby Hope Cemetery in Galesburg (birthplace of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., inventor of the Ferris Wheel), many times without knowing his history or final resting place.


Nice stash on that Cummings guy but I think the top is a rug.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

While he was serving time for murder, did he get Sickle Cell?
I’ll see myself out now.