John Sedgwick

John Sedgwick, one of the most beloved soldiers in the Army of the Potomac, was born September 13, 1813, at Cornwall Hollow in the Connecticut Berkshires. He obtained his early education in the local school, spent a few months in the Sharon Academy, and for two winters taught school himself. Shortly before his twentieth birthday he entered West Point and was graduated in 1837 along with Braxton Bragg, Jubal Early, John C. Pemberton, and Joseph Hooker. During the next decade he served against the Seminoles, in moving the Cherokees from Georgia to Oklahoma, and at various garrison points. He served under both Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott in the Mexican War and won the brevets of captain and major. Upon the expansion of the army in 1855, Sedgwick, an artillerist by profession, became major of the newly authorized 1st Cavalry, whose colonel and lieutenant colonel in 1861 were Robert E. Lee and William J. Hardee. Upon their defection to the Confederacy, Sedgwick become the regiment's colonel and was commissioned brigadier general of volunteers to rank from August 31, 1861. In George B. McClellan's campaign on the Virginia Peninsula, Sedgwick directed a division of Sumner's II Corps until he was wounded and disabled at the battle of Glendale or Frayser's Farm on June 30, 1862. He was promoted to major general on July 25 to rank from July 4. At Sharpsburg he was again distinguished for gallantry and was wounded three times, finally being carried unconscious from the field. Within ninety days he reported for duty and, after a short tour in command of the IX Corps, was put in command of the VI Corps. In the Chancellorsville campaign Sedgwick was directed by Hooker to cross the Rappahannock, storm Early's position on Marye's Heights, and then advance upriver to a junction with the rest of the army—a movement impossible of execution after the collapse of Hooker's right wing under Oliver O. Howard. After the sharp fight at Salem Church, Sedgwick prudently got his command back to the left bank in good order. At Gettysburg the VI Corps was used as a reserve and sustained comparatively few casualties. At the battle of Rappahannock Bridge in November, he commanded the V and VI Corps in an operation which gained the Union 1,700 prisoners, eight flags, and four pieces of artillery. In U. S. Grant's Richmond campaign the following spring, General Sedgwick commanded his corps with his customary skill at the Wilderness. At Spotsylvania a few days later, on May 9, 1864, his aides cautioned him about exposing himself unnecessarily while delineating his line and indicating where he wished his batteries placed. His reply, "they couldn't hit an elephant at this distance," was soon followed by the whistle and thump of a sharpshooter's bullet which struck him below the left eye and killed him almost instantly. General Sedgwick was buried in his native village of Cornwall Hollow.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.