Colonel Alan Cate Discusses Daniel Sickles

Alive until his mid-90s, Daniel Sickles performed as a Major General for the Union during the American Civil War. Born in 1819, Sickles had a political and military career marked by flamboyance and outrageousness. Starting his professional life an attorney for Tammany Hall, he was elected to the United States Congress twice despite his predilection for alcohol and gambling. During his second term, he killed a man he found sleeping with his wife, was acquitted due to temporary insanity, and remained in office.

When the American Civil War began, New York’s then-governor enlisted Daniel Sickles to form five regiments of volunteers. He did so and received the title of Brigadier General of his “Excelsior Brigade.” First fighting during the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1862, Sickles played important roles during the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of Gettysburg and lost one of his legs at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Following the war, Daniel Sickles received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his accomplishments. Moreover, he performed as U.S. Minister to Spain under President Ulysses S. Grant, spent another term in Congress, and chaired the New York State Monuments Commission.

About the Author:

The Chair of University School’s History Department, Colonel Alan Cate has dedicated much of his career to learning about American history. A U.S. Army veteran who served in South Korea, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Balkans, Colonel Cate contributed an article on Daniel Sickles to Charles R. Shrader’s Reference Guide to United States Military History 1815-1865.


A Primer on Advanced Placement Courses

By Alan Cate

A respected teacher, Alan Cate teaches Advanced Placement classes on American government, politics, and history at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio. In the following, Alan Cate offers an overview of Advanced Placement classes.

The competition for college admissions and scholarships can prove fierce, with students determined to win a coveted spot at the best private or public schools. They apply for scholarships so that the cost of tuition will prove less of a financial hardship for themselves and their families. High school students who wish to attend a particular college or university and hope to win scholarships need to take classes geared toward enhancing their transcripts, utilizing their writing skills, and providing with them an enhanced curriculum.

Many students take Advanced Placement courses throughout high school. The courses, which are sponsored in the United States by the College Board, offer a more in-depth syllabus and course of study than do regular classes. The College Board designed these courses, which are similar from high school to high school, to be relatively equivalent to college undergraduate classes. Each May, students on the Advanced Placement track take tests. A qualifying score will allow them to earn college credits that enable them to skip some of the more basic freshman and sometimes sophomore level courses.

Although students do not have to take Advanced Placement classes in order to qualify to take these tests, most academic advisors recommend that students do so because the classwork gives them all of the tools they need to do well on the tests. The Advanced Placement course catalogue published by the College Board in Advanced Placement incorporates a wide range of available tests, although not every high school will offer every possible AP class. Most school districts and private schools present at least basic options such as Advanced Placement courses in math, history, and English.

Advanced Placement courses focus on teaching the way that most college professors do. Rather than simply reading your textbook or toiling through workbooks, students take notes on lectures and engage in active discussions meant to stimulate reasoned and inspired thought processes. Writing plays a major role in Advanced Placement courses because college professors expect students to be able to present clear, persuasive arguments backed by pertinent and interesting facts. Teachers who work with students in Advanced Placement classes also emphasize problem-solving, time management, and discipline.

Studies show that students who take Advanced Placement classes are more likely to graduate from college in a timely manner. In addition, many colleges consider Advanced Placement classes in their decision to award scholarships.

Founding Fighters: Benedict Arnold

by Alan Cate

In my 2006 book Founding Fighters: The Battlefield Leaders Who Made American Independence, I tell the stories of 15 founding U.S. military leaders who essentially created an American army from scratch during the Revolutionary War. One of the most interesting and controversial figures I examine in the book is Benedict Arnold. Born to a wealthy Connecticut family in 1741, a combination of bad luck, bad business dealings, and drinking problems had drained much of the Arnold family’s resources by the time he reached adulthood. Arnold apprenticed at an apothecary and his business dealings in the 1760s turned towards smuggling, in contempt of royal customs laws. A serving captain in the local militia when the War of Independence broke out, Arnold joined up with Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, taking a British garrison by surprise. Arnold secured several notable successes in the early years of the war, and planned an invasion of Canada with General Washington that never quite materialized. Despite donating his funds to the war effort and sustaining serious war injuries, Arnold was disappointed to be passed over for promotion at the Continental Congress. To add insult to injury, he was notified that he owed the Continental Army money. In 1779, Arnold entered into secret negotiations with the British, and in 1780, Arnold obtained control of West Point, intending to hand it over to the British. When the plot was discovered, Arnold was forced to flee down the Hudson River. Serving as a brigadier general in the British army from that time on, Arnold led raids on Virginia and Connecticut before the war essentially ended with the American victory in Yorktown. Arnold moved to London in 1782, and spent the remainder of his days outside of the U.S. Despite the fact that Arnold was branded a traitor to his country for joining the British, there were undeniably political machinations that slighted him unfairly. Arnold did display considerable valor on behalf of the Americans in the early part of the war, a fact that is in many ways lessened by his betrayal of the Revolutionary army.

Stanford Athletics

In 1989, Alan Cate received a Master of Arts in History from Stanford University. Well-known for its academic prowess, Stanford University also boasts the most accomplished athletic program in the country. For the last 16 years, the Stanford Cardinal has won the NACDA Director’s Cup for Division I, awarded to the most successful collegiate athletic program in the country. Since its founding in 1891, Stanford has captured 113 national championships, which ranks them second behind UCLA. Stanford also holds 39 titles in women’s sports, the most of any university in the country. Stanford women’s tennis has experienced a large measure of success in recent years, winning six national titles over the past 10 years. Stanford women’s cross-country has won four national titles since 2003, including a three-peat between 2005 and 2007. More recently, Stanford gymnastics won a national championship in 2009 and men’s volleyball captured the title in 2010. The football program, the most visible of all sports at Stanford, has undergone mixed results in recent years. After earning a trip to the Rose Bowl under coach Tyrone Willingham in 2001, the Cardinal would not have another winning season until 2009. Under coaches Buddy Teevens and Walt Harris, the Cardinal posted a combined 16-40 record, including a 1-11 season in 2006 that resulted in the firing of Harris. In 2007, University of San Diego head coach Jim Harbaugh joined the Cardinal and sparked a dramatic turnaround. After a 4-8 campaign in 1007 that included wins over top-ranked USC and rival Cal, Harbaugh steadily began to revitalize the program. In 2009, running back Toby Gerhart led the Cardinal to an 8-5 season and a trip to the Sun Bowl to face perennial powerhouse Oklahoma. In 2010, under the guidance of top NFL quarterback prospect Andrew Luck, the Cardinal boasted a 7-1 record heading into a pivotal game against the Arizona Wildcats in early November.

Stanford University

After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Alan Cate earned a Master of Arts in American History from Stanford University in northern California. Founded in 1885, Stanford University is Leland and Jane Stanford’s memorial for their son, who died shortly before his 16th birthday. Determined to establish a Harvard of the West, the Stanfords laid the cornerstone for the university in 1887 and accepted its first 559 students in 1891. When Leland Stanford passed away in 1893, the school entered a state of financial crisis due in part to a lawsuit against the Stanford estate and the economic Panic of 1893. Although the Board of Trustees advised that the school be temporarily closed, Jane Stanford refused to cease operations and took the university’s affairs into her own hands. For the next few years, she paid salaries with her personal resources. Due to her dedication to the institution, Stanford remained open. Today, Stanford is one of the largest research universities in the western United States. The school has received international attention for its excellent programs and renowned faculty. At present, Stanford claims 16 Nobel Prize laureates among its faculty, as well as 4 Pulitzer Prize winners, 19 National Medal of Science recipients, and 23 MacArthur Fellows. Stanford graduates are responsible for some of the country’s largest companies, including Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P., NVIDIA Corporation, Nike, Gap Inc., Sun Microsystems, Google, and VMware, Inc. President Herbert Hoover was among the university’s first graduates and his subsequent contributions to the school are honored by Hoover Tower, an archive and campus landmark.