George Sykes is one of two Union Corps commanders without… an equestrian memorial at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Dan Sickles declined one in his honor, claiming “the whole damned battlefield is my monument. The exclusion of Sykes is misunderstood and often erroneously remembered by historians and students of the battle.
John Sedgwick missed over a third of the battle… and Henry Slocum’s inaction on July 1 bordered on insubordination- yet both these Generals have mounted statues on the battlefield. These monuments were constructed by their states in conjunction with the Gettysburg Memorial Association between 1867-96. The US War Department took no part in the construction of monuments at Gettysburg. So why was Sykes overlooked?
Many assume Sykes was not memorialized because of poor performance… in and after the Battle of Gettysburg. His nicknames of “Slow Trot” and “Tardy George” have become historical cans tied to his record trail. Neither assumption is holds water- the truth is more complicated:
- Sykes’ promotion to Corps command on June 28, 1863 upset some of his fellow officers- especially those who ranked him. Sykes was given the V Corps at the direction of Meade.
- Sykes did not have a good rapport with volunteer troops, who in many cases, led the later efforts to erect monuments- Sykes spent most of the War commanding Regular Army troops.
- He did not have a long career following the war, dying at a dusty Texas outpost in 1880.
- Following the War, Delaware was in no position to contribute funds to a monument depicting someone who permanently left the state as a teenager.
- Reynolds and Sedgwick were popular leaders with volunteer troops; while Howard and Slocum had long public careers following the War.**
**Thanks to Scott Hartwig for the pointers.