John Sedgwick
[[Image:200px|center|200px|border]]Major General John Sedgwick
Personal Information
Born: September 13, 1813(1813-09-13)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: May 9, 1864 (aged 50)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Nickname: Uncle John
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Union
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: United States Army
Union Army
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Major General
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Unit: {{{unit}}}
Commands: VI Corps
Battles: Seminole Wars
Mexican-American War
Utah War
Indian Wars
American Civil War
Awards: {{{awards}}}
Relations: {{{relations}}}
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}


John Sedgwick (September 13, 1813 – 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[edit | edit source]

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 second 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]

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.[2]

Civil War[edit | edit source]

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.

File:Colburn-Sacket-Sedgwick.jpg

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.

File:Meade-Sedgwick-Tyler.jpg

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.

Death[edit | edit source]

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."[3] Just seconds later he fell forward with a bullet hole below his left eye.[4]

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, flabbergasted by the news, repeatedly asked, "Is he really dead?"[5]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

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 General 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. It may have been inspired by the fort Sedgwick built in Kansas in 1860.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Berthrong, pp. 133-40; Grinnell, pp. 111-21.
  2. Sedgwick genealogy site
  3. Foote, p. 203.
  4. 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.
  5. Rhea, p. 95.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Berthrong, Donald J. The Southern Cheyenne. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979. OCLC 254915143
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative. vol. 3, Red River to Appomattox. New York: Random House, 1974. ISBN 0-394-74913-8.
  • Grinnell, George Bird. The Fighting Cheyennes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956. OCLC 419857. First published 1915 by Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Rhea, Gordon C. The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern May 7–12, 1864. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8071-2136-3.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Jurgen, Robert J., and Allan Keller. Major General John Sedgwick, U.S. Volunteers, 1813-1864. Hartford: Connecticut Civil War Centennial Committee, 1963.
  • Sifakis, Stewart. Who Was Who In The Civil War. New York: Facts on File, 1988. ISBN 0-8160-1055-2.
  • Winslow, Richard Elliott. General John Sedgwick: The Story of a Union Corps Commander. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1982. ISBN 0-89141-030-9.

External links[edit | edit source]

Template:Start box |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Darius N. Couch |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Commander of the II Corps
December 26, 1862 - January 26, 1863 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Oliver O. Howard |- |}

da:John Sedgwick de:John Sedgwick es:John Sedgwick he:ג'ון סדג'וויק ja:ジョン・セジウィック ro:John Sedgwick ru:Седжвик, Джон sl:John Sedgwick fi:John Sedgwick

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.