Some Interesting Characters from American History

American history is full of interesting characters. However, a few fascinating Americans stand out.

These characters’ lives are both interesting and entertaining. A few fascinating characters from American History include:

The Vice Presidential Traitor and Killer Aaron Burr

Today, Aaron Burr is best remembered for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel. However, Burr’s life was far more controversial and colorful.

Burr was a Revolutionary War Hero turned politician whose colorful career was an unending controversy. Burr’s incredible career is full of astounding incidents include:

In 1800, Burr almost became President of the United States by receiving the same number of Electoral College votes as Thomas Jefferson. Instead, the U.S. House of Representatives chose Jefferson President and Burr Vice President.

By Illustrator not identified. From a painting by J. Mund. – Lord, John, LL.D. (1902). Beacon Lights of History. Vol. XI, “American Founders.” (London: James Clarke and Co Ltd. Republished as a Project Gutenberg eBook, 2004-01-08. eBbook no. 10644., Public Domain,

Burr had a long-standing feud with Alexander Hamilton. To clarify, Burr blamed Hamilton for sabotaging his two runs for governor of New York. In addition, Burr thought Hamilton manipulated the Representatives into electing Jefferson president.

The feud ended with a duel in Newark, New Jersey, on 11 July 1804. In the duel, Burr a crack shot easily killed Hamilton. Incredibly, Burr never faced trial because he stayed in Washington D.C. where dueling was legal.

In 1807, the US government charged Burr with treason. To explain, the government charged Burr with organizing a military conspiracy to seize Spanish and American territory. In detail, prosecutors claimed Burr wanted to organize his own country and make himself dictator.

Ultimately, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall acquitted Burr. Conversely, the scandal ruined Burr’s political career.

After his trial, Burr left the country and travelled around Europe for four years. After failing to get support for a scheme to invade and seize Mexico. Burr returned to New York and became a successful lawyer. Strangely, Burr died in 1836 in Staten Island.

Daniel Sickles Politician, Killer, War Hero, General, & Ambassador

Few Americans were more controversial than Major General Daniel E. Sickles. In his lifetime, Sickles was a corrupt politician, a killer, a Major General in the Union Army, a war hero at Gettysburg, and a diplomat.

Strangely, we do not what year Sickles was born in it. Some accounts say Sickles was born in 1819, others claim he was born in 1825. Sickles became an early leader of New York City’s notorious Tammany Hall Democratic political machine.

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Through Tammany, Sickles became one of the most powerful men in New York City. For example, Sickles served as corporation counsel of New York City and as a U.S. Representative. Thus, Sickles became Tammany’s man in Washington.

In 1859, Sickles became the first American to beat a murder charge with the “insanity defense.” To explain, on 25 February 1859, shot and killed his wife’s lover in broad daylight. Oddly, the lover was was Philip Burton Key, the son of Star-Spangled Banner writer Francis Scott Key.

A court charged Sickles with murder, but the Congressman escaped by claiming temporary insanity. That was the first time a lawyer used that in an American court. Bizarrely, Sickles’ lawyer, was U.S. Senator Edwin Stanton (R-Ohio). Stanton later served as U.S. Secretary of War in Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War Cabinet.

Sickles became a social pariah. However, Sickles redeemed himself with an illustrious Civil War record. Sickles rose to the rank of Major General and commanded a division at the battle of Fredericksburg. Sickles later served as commander of the Third Corps at Chancellorsville.

At Gettysburg, Sickles lost his right leg in battle but won the Medal of Honor. However, witnesses claim Sickles led his men into disaster by disobeying orders from his commander, Major General George G. Meade. After the battle, Sickles donated his amputated leg to the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. The leg is still on display there.

After the War, Sickles served as U.S. Minister (Ambassador) to Spain, Chairman of the New York State Civil Service Commission, a Congressman, and ironically Sheriff of New York County. Late in life, officials removed Sickles from his post as Chairman of the New York Monuments Commission for corruption allegations.

Sickles was a leader in establishing the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park. Sickles died in New York City in May 1914, just a few months before the outbreak of World War I.

Moe Berg the Major League Assassin and Super Spy

No American had a more colorful World War II than Morris or “Moe” Berg. Berg was an oddball, from the start.

For instance, Berg was one of the few Jews to play Major League Baseball as a catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Washington Senators, and Boston Red Sox. In addition, Berg was also one of the few Ivy League graduates (Princeton 1923) to play Major League Baseball.

By Goudey –, Public Domain,

If that wasn’t enough, Berg earned a law degree and supposedly spoke 12 languages. Yet he also played 16 seasons of Major League Baseball.

Nobody knows when Berg’s espionage career began, but in 1934 the catcher used his baseball career to spy in Japan. To explain, Berg took movies of Tokyo while playing exhibition baseball in that city. Berg also supposedly wandered around Tokyo gathering secrets while dressed in a black kimono. In 1942, General Jimmy Doolittle and his men supposedly examined Berg’s home movies before launching the first American air Raid on Tokyo.

To explain, before World War II, America had no official intelligence service. However, a number of Americans, including Berg, engaged in secret espionage for the government between the two world wars. Notably, the intelligence Berg gathered in Japan found its way into U.S. military hands.

In 1943, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan recruited Berg into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS was the covert paramilitary organization that became the CIA.

One of Berg’s first missions was to parachute behind German lines in Yugoslavia to assess the military capabilities of rival partisan groups. Berg’s reports induced the US to back Communist partisans led by Marshal Tito who later conquered Yugoslavia.

Later on Berg was ordered to assassinate famous German physicist Werner Heisenberg, possibly by General Leslie R. Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project. Groves feared Heisenberg was heading a Nazi project to develop an atomic bomb.

Groves supposedly ordered Berg to shoot Heisenberg and kill himself with cyanide if he thought the German could build an Atomic Bomb. Instead, Berg met Heisenberg for dinner in Switzerland, and correctly deduced the Germans were far from developing a bomb. Both Heisenberg and Berg survived the war.

Later on, Berg helped the OSS track down German atomic secrets in Europe after the war as part of the Alsos Mission. Berg also interviewed Italian physicists after Italy switched sides and joined the Allies in 1943 to learn if that country was building an atomic bomb or involved in a Nazi nuclear program.

After the war Berg worked for the CIA and a had a failed business career. Berg refused to cash in on his colorful life by writing an autobiography because a would-be ghost writer confused him with Moe of the Three Stooges.

Berg died broke at his sister’s house in New Jersey in 1972. Berg died broke because he played Major League Baseball long before unionization led to big money contracts for professional ballplayers.

These are just a few of the odd characters to appear in American history.