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Her nurse, Jane Morris, had no doubt that the woman was insane. Attorney Phillip Barton Key, son of Star-Spangled poet Francis Scott Key.* * * n 1857, Daniel Sickles was a promising young New York congressman with a reputation for playing fast and loose with politics, business and women. Often spotted around town riding his grey horse, Lucifer, young Key was hard to miss.
“He ruined both myself and my child.” * * * aniel Sickles’s murder trial began April 4, 1859.Fair followed Crittenden around the country to shack up, always on his promise that divorce was just around the corner – as soon as he could financially provide for his family’s security through one investment scheme or another.Crittenden once threatened to kill himself should Fair reveal the truth to his wife Clara; and Fair, for her part, allegedly once fired “warning shots” into a stairway after her lover.He threw parties at his mansion, attracting the cream of the D. He was tall, handsome, recently widowed, and he had caught the eye of Sickles’s wife.Lonely and effectively abandoned by her husband’s devotion to career and prostitution – he was known to travel regularly to Baltimore for assignations in the city’s hotels – Sickles’s young wife Teresa acted on her crush one night after a posh costume ball, when she and Key climbed tipsily into her carriage.When he caught up with Key, they were not far from the White House. The gun misfired, and the onlookers stopped him from firing another shot.
“You have dishonored my bed,” shouted Sickles, according to his biographer W. Bystanders carried Key into a nearby house, hoping to save his life, and Sickles was heard growling: “Is the damned scoundrel dead yet? Born in 1837 in Mississippi, she married at 16 to a reportedly wealthy older man.
Friends assured him that any reasonable jury would understand his motive, but the press – and Sickles’s legal team – thought otherwise.
He had, after all, shot the man in Lafayette Square, in full view of the White House and a crowd of horrified onlookers.
He turned out to be neither wealthy nor sober, drinking himself to death within two years and leaving her with nothing.
Her second husband was a violent drunk who would occasionally practice pistol shooting on the headboard of their bed.
In 1863, then, Laura Fair was once divorced and twice widowed, a great beauty, bold in business, and armed with a world more experience than her 26 years of age would suggest.