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 John Sedgwick

John Sedgwick

Birth
Cornwall Hollow, Litchfield County, Connecticut, USA
Death 9 May 1864 (aged 50)
Spotsylvania, Spotsylvania County, Virginia, USA
Burial Cornwall Hollow, Litchfield County, Connecticut, USA
Memorial ID 6475 · View Source
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Civil War Union Army Major General. He was one of the most well-liked Generals in the Union Army, and was called by the men under his command “Uncle John”. Born in Cornwall Hollow, Connecticut, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1837, placing twenty-fourth (his class included seven future Civil War Confederate generals, including Braxton Bragg, Jubal Early and John C. Pemberton, and ten future Union generals including Israel Vogdes, William H. French, and Joseph Hooker). Posted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd United States Artillery regiment, he fought in the 2nd Seminole War in Florida, took part in the removal of the Cherokee Nation from Georgia to Oklahoma, and performed garrison duty in Virginia, New York and Rhode Island. When the Mexican War began in 1846, he served in the army commanded by Major General Winfield Scott that marched from Vera Cruz, Mexico to the capture of Mexico City, taking part in the battles of Cerro Gordo, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and Chapultepec. For his services in the war he was brevetted Major. He returned to garrison duty until the mid-1850s, when her was promoted to Major of the 1st United States Cavalry regiment, and posted to Kansas as part of the government’s efforts to quell the “Bleeding Kansas” sectional strife. He later served on the American Western Frontier, and in the 1858 expedition against the Mormons in the Utah Territory. Just prior to the Civil War he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd United States Cavalry, then after the war started to full Colonel of the 1st Cavalry. Recalled to Washington, DC, he was commissioned as a Brigadier General, US Volunteers on August 31, 1861, and assigned to brigade command. In February 1862 he was advanced to division command, which he led in the Army of the Potomac’s II Corps in the subsequent Spring 1862 Peninsular Campaign under Major General George B. McClellan. At the June 30, 1862 Battle of Glendale he was shot in the leg and arm. On July 25, 1862 he was promoted to Major General, US Volunteers. He led his command during the September 1862 Antietam Campaign, and at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 he led his division into the West Woods area, where it was caught by a Confederate flank attack and cut to pieces, suffering 2,200 casualties in under twenty minutes. General Sedgwick was wounded three times and brought off the field unconscious. He returned to duty just after the December 1862 Fredericksburg Campaign, and was placed in command of the VI Corps in February 1863. At the May 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville, he was in command of the Army of the Potomac’s left flank, and directed the capture of the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia and the successful storming of Marye’s Heights there (both of which the Union Army, facing far more Confederate troops, failed to do so with great casualties the previous December). His advance to Chancellorsville was eventually stopped at Salem Church, Virginia, and he received criticism for his slow, cautious movements which allow Confederates to take up formidable defensive positions. He led his men through the June-July Gettysburg Campaign, where at the Battle of Gettysburg the VI Corps was mostly in a reserve position around the Weikert Hill area, and were in a position to stop any breech in the Union lines. The day after the battle his men were the first Union troops to begin the pursuit of the defeated Army of Northern Virginia. In the Fall 1863 Mine Run Campaign, he commanded the V and VI Corps at the Battle of Rappahannock in November, a successful engagement that netted seventeen hundred Confederate prisoners. When Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant assumed command of all Union Armies, the Army of the Potomac’s corps were consolidated, and Major General Sedgwick retained command of an augmented VI Corps. He led his men in the thick of the fighting at the May 1864 Battle of the Wilderness. On May 9, 1864, he was walking through the frontline trenches to assure and calm his men when a Confederate bullet killed him instantly with a shot under his left eye. His death caused great shock and sorrow amongst the Army, with General Grant repeatedly asking if it was certain he was dead. Transported to Connecticut, his remains were laid to rest in the small cemetery in the town of his birth. Several monuments were erected to honor him after the war – one just south of Gettysburg on Sedgwick Avenue in the Gettysburg National Military Park, one marking where he fell in the Spotsylvania National Battlefield at the corner of Brock Road and Grant Drive, one at 410 Connecticut State Road 43 and the corner of Hautboy Hill Road in Cornwall Hollow, Connecticut across the street from where he is buried, and one at “The Plain”, the parade field at the United States Military Academy at West Point. His death at Spotsylvania was witnessed by Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Julian A. Scott who later in life became an accomplished artist. Scott would create the acclaimed painting “The Death of General Sedgwick” in 1887, which today is on display at the Drake House Museum in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Bio by: Russ Dodge


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 27 Sep 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6475
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for John Sedgwick (13 Sep 1813–9 May 1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6475, citing Cornwall Hollow Cemetery, Cornwall Hollow, Litchfield County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .