John Sedgwick: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Sedgwick
September 13, 1813(1813-09-13) ‚Äď May 9, 1864 (aged 50)
John Sedgwick.png
Major General John Sedgwick
Nickname Uncle John
Place of birth Cornwall, Connecticut
Place of death Spotsylvania County, Virginia
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1837 ‚Äď 1864
Rank Major General
Commands held VI Corps
Battles/wars Seminole Wars
Mexican-American War
Utah War
Indian Wars
American Civil War
Other work Teacher

John Sedgwick (September 13, 1813 ‚Äď May 9, 1864) was a teacher, a career military officer, and a Union Army general in the American Civil War. His death at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House is often considered a well known tale of irony.


Early life

Sedgwick was born in the Litchfield Hills town of Cornwall, Connecticut. He was named for his grandfather, John Sedgwick (brother of Theodore Sedgwick), an American Revolutionary War general who served with George Washington. After teaching for two years, he attended the United States Military Academy, graduated in 1837 ranked 24th of 50, and was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Army's artillery branch. He fought in the Seminole Wars and received two brevet promotions in the Mexican-American War, to captain for Contreras and Churubusco, and to major for Chapultepec. After returning from Mexico he transferred to the cavalry and served in Kansas, in the Utah War, and in the Indian Wars, participating in 1857 in a punitive expedition against the Cheyenne.[1][2].

In the summer and fall of 1860 Sedgwick commanded an expedition to establish a new fort on the Platte River in what is now Colorado. He was greatly handicapped with the non-delivery of expected supplies which were to be forwarded by wagon-train from the nearest fort in Kansas but managed to erect comfortable quarters for his men before cold weather set in. These buildings were constructed largely of stone with timber for roofs and doors. It is difficult to realize the remoteness of this post but there were no railroads west of the Mississippi River and communication with St. Louis and Kansas City was by river boat and west of that by wagon train or horseback.[3]

Civil War

At the start of the Civil War, Sedgwick served as a colonel and Assistant Inspector General of the Military Department of Washington. He missed the early action of the war at the First Battle of Bull Run, recovering from cholera. Promoted to brigadier general on August 31, 1861, he commanded the 2nd brigade of Maj. Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman's division in the Army of the Potomac, then his own division, which was designated the 2nd division of the II Corps for the Peninsula Campaign. In Virginia, he fought at Yorktown and Seven Pines and was wounded in the arm and leg at the Battle of Glendale. He was promoted to major general on July 4, 1862.

General Sedgwick (seated right) with Colonels Albert V. Colburn and Delos B. Sackett in Harrison's Landing, Virginia, during the Peninsula Campaign, 1862.

In the Battle of Antietam, II Corps commander Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner impulsively sent Sedgwick's division in a mass assault without proper reconnaissance. His division was engaged by Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson from three sides, resulting in 2,200 casualties. Sedgwick himself was hit by three bullets, in the wrist, leg, and shoulder, and was out of action until after the Battle of Fredericksburg.

From December 26, 1862, he briefly led the II Corps and the IX Corps, and then finally the VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac, which he commanded until his death in 1864. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, his corps faced Fredericksburg in an initial holding action while Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's other four corps maneuvered against Robert E. Lee's left flank. He was slow to take action, but eventually crossed the Rappahannock River and assaulted Maj. Gen. Jubal Early's small force on Marye's Heights. Moving west slowly to join forces with Hooker and trap Lee between the halves of the army, he was stopped by elements of Lee's Second Corps (under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, following the wounding of Jackson) at the Battle of Salem Church, forcing his eventual retreat back over the Rappahannock.

Horse artillery headquarters in Brandy Station, Virginia, February 1864. Sedgwick stands at the far right between Generals George G. Meade and Robert O. Tyler, along with staff officers.

At the Battle of Gettysburg, his corps arrived late on July 2 and as a result only few units were able to take part in the final Union counterattacks in the Wheatfield. In the 1864 Overland Campaign, the VI Corps was on the Union right at the Battle of the Wilderness and defended against assaults by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell's Second Corps.


In a rather ironic turn of events, Sedgwick fell at the beginning of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, on May 9, 1864. His corps was probing skirmish lines ahead of the left flank of Confederate defenses and he was directing artillery placements. Confederate sharpshooters were about 1,000 yards (910 m) away and their shots caused members of his staff and artillerymen to duck for cover. Sedgwick strode around in the open and was quoted as saying, "What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Although ashamed, his men continued to flinch and he repeated, "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."[4] Just seconds later he fell forward with a bullet hole below his left eye.[5][6]

Sedgwick was the highest ranking Union casualty in the Civil War. Although James B. McPherson was in command of an army at the time of his death and Sedgwick of a corps, Sedgwick had the most senior rank by date of all major generals killed. Upon hearing of his death, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant repeatedly asked, "Is he really dead?"[6]


Sedgwick's reputation was that of a solid, dependable, but relatively unaggressive general. He was well-liked by his soldiers, who referred to him affectionately as "Uncle John". His death was met by universal sorrow; even Robert E. Lee expressed his sadness over the fate of an old friend. George G. Meade wept at the news. Ulysses S. Grant characterized Sedgwick as one who "was never at fault when serious work was to be done" and he told his staff that the loss for him was worse than that of an entire division.

John Sedgwick is buried near his birthplace of Cornwall Hollow, Connecticut. An equestrian statue honors him and the VI Corps at Gettysburg National Military Park.

There is a monument of John Sedgwick at West Point. Academy legend has it that a Cadet who spins the spurs of the statue at midnight while wearing full dress uniform will have good luck on their final exam.

Sedgwick County, Colorado, Sedgwick County, Kansas (Wichita), John Sedgwick Junior High School, (Port Orchard, Washington), Sedgwick, Kansas and Sedgwick, Arkansas, were named in his memory.

Presumably the fictional Fort Sedgwick John Dunbar was assigned to command in the movie Dances with Wolves was named after General Sedgwick. This may have been inspired by the fort General Sedgwick built in Kansas in 1860.

See also


  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Red River to Appomattox, Random House, 1974, ISBN 0-394-74913-8.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern May 7‚Äď12, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8071-2136-3.


  1. ^ Pages 133 to 140, The Southern Cheyenne, Donald J. Bertbrong, University of Oklahoma Press (1963), hardcover, 448 pages
  2. ^ Pages 111 to 121, The Fighting Cheyenne, George Bird Grinnell, University of Oklahoma Press (1956 original copyright 1915 Charles Scribner's Sons), hardcover, 454 pages ISBN 0-87928-075-1
  3. ^ Sedgwick genealogy site
  4. ^ Foote, p. 203.
  5. ^ According to Rhea, the preeminent historian of the Overland Campaign, pp. 93-96, there is no record of the identity or location of the sharpshooter. Union troops from the 6th Vermont claim to have shot an unidentified sharpshooter as they crossed the fields seeking revenge. Ben Powell of the 12th South Carolina claimed credit, although his account has been discounted because the general he shot at with a Whitworth rifled musket was mounted, probably Brig Gen. William H. Morris. Thomas Burgess of the 15th South Carolina has also been cited by some veterans.
  6. ^ a b Crocker III, H. W. (2006). Don't Tread on Me. New York: Crown Forum. pp. 219. ISBN 9781400053636.  

Further reading

  • Jurgen, Robert J., & Keller, Allan, Major General John Sedgwick, U.S. Volunteers, 1813-1864, published by the Connecticut Civil War Centennial Committee, Hartford 1963, 35 S.
  • Sifakis, Stewart, Who Was Who In The Civil War, New York 1988/1989, 2. Bde, ISBN 0-8160-2202-X
  • Winslow, Richard Elliott, General John Sedgwick: The Story of a Union Corps Commander, Presidio Press 1982 (Diss. University of Pennsylvania, 1970)

External links

Preceded by
Darius N. Couch
Commander of the II Corps
December 26, 1862 - January 26, 1863
Succeeded by
Oliver O. Howard


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

General John Sedgwick (September 13, 1813 ‚Äď May 9, 1864) was a teacher, a career military officer, and a Union Army general in the American Civil War, killed by a Confederate sharp-shooter at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.


  • What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance.
  • Allegedly these were among General John Sedgwick's final words. He was serving as a Union commander in the American Civil War, and was hit by sniper fire a few minutes after saying them, at the battle of Spotsylvania to his men who where ducking for cover, on May 9, 1864. The words have often been portrayed as if they were absolutely his last statement, with the sentence being presented as if he did not even finish it, and altered into the form: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..." . Though it may be a slightly more striking version of events, it is unlikely to be true.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHN SEDGWICK (1813-1864), American general, was born at Cornwall, Connecticut, on the 13th of September 1813, and graduated at West Point in 1837. Amongst his classmates were Joseph Hooker, Braxton Bragg and J. A. Early. He saw active service against the Seminoles in Florida, and took part as an artillery officer in the Mexican War, winning the brevets of captain and major for his conduct at Contreras-Churubusco and Chapultepec. In command first of a brigade and later of a division in the Army of the Potomac, he took part in the Seven Days' and Maryland campaigns. At the battle of Antietam he was twice wounded, but remained on the field. Soon afterwards he was given command of the VI. corps, in which position he took an important part in the battle of Chancellorsville, capturing the famous lines of Fredericksburg and fighting the severe battle of Bank's Ford. The VI. corps bore a share in the battle of Gettysburg, having made a fine forced march to the field. Sedgwick had been offered the chief command of the army upon Hooker's resignation; but he declined, and retained his command of the VI. corps during the Virginian campaign of the autumn of 1863, being on several occasions placed by Meade in charge of a wing of the army. He was also given the command of the whole army in Meade's absence. At the action of Rappahannock station Sedgwick by a brilliant night attack destroyed two brigades of Early's division (November 7th). When Grant became commanding-general and the Army of the Potomac was reorganized in three corps, the VI. was one of these, and Sedgwick thus led his old corps, now greatly augmented, at the battle of the Wilderness. At the opening of the battle of Spottsylvania Court House, Sedgwick was killed (9th of May 1864) by a shot from a Confederate skirmisher. A monument to his memory, cast from the guns taken in action by the VI. corps, was erected at West Point in 1868.

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