MAJOR GENERAL JOHN SEDGWICK

Excerpt from the book
"A Sedgwick Genealogy: Descendants of Deacon Benjamin Sedgwick"
Compiled by Hubert M. Sedgwick
Published by the New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1961
Copies available from the Society at 114 Whitney Ave New Haven CT 06510

John Sedgwick, 2d child of Benjamin Sedgwick (B29) and Olive (Collins) Sedgwick, was born September 13,1813, at Cornwall Hollow, Conn., and was killed by a sharpshooter near Spotsylvania, Va., May 9, 1864. He was appointed a cadet at the military academy at West Point July 1, 1833,and graduated July 1 183. He was at once appointed Second Lieutenant of the Second U.S. Artillery and First Lieutenant on April 19,1839. He saw service in the Seminole Indian War in Florida and served with distinction in the war with Mexico. He was breveted Captain August 20, 1847, for gallant and meritorious conduct in the Battle of Churubusco, Mexico, and Brevet Major on September 13,1847, in the Battle of Chapultepec, Mexico.

He was appointed Captain of the Second Artillery January 26,1849,and Major of the First Cavalry March 8,1855. After the Mexican War he saw much service on the great plains against the Indians. In the summer and fall of 1860 he was in command of 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.

Early in 1861, because of the impending Civil War, Major Sedgwick was ordered to report to the War Department in Washington, D.C., where on March 16,1861, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Cavalry and on April 25, Colonel of the First Cavalry and again on August 3, Colonel of the Fourth Cavalry. On August 31, he was made Brigadier General of U.S. Volunteers and July 4,1862, Major General U.S. Volunteers.

Major General Sedgwick saw continuous service in the Army of the Potomac, except for about three weeks when he was allowed to go home to recuperate from three wounds received at the battle of Antietam, until his death May 9,1864. He was in command of several different Army Corps but principally the Sixth and Second. He as been credited by some authorities with turning the tide of battle by his prompt arrival at Gettysburg after a forced march of 35 miles during the night.

General Sedgwick declined the command of the Army of the Potomac just before it was given to General Meade but several times held it temporarily during that General's absence. He was very fond of horses and owned several exceptionally fine. While in command of the Second Army Corps, the men and officers of his division presented him with a horse reputedly the finest in the Army. The horse and its equipment cost seventeen hundred dollars. The sword accompanying it was ordered from France and cost a thousand dollars. The gift indicated the affection and esteem felt by those under his command.

Several monuments have been erected to the memory of Major General Sedgwick. One at the West Point Military Academy was dedicated October 21,1868, when the orator of the day said in part: "Officers and Soldiers of the Sixth Corps, for the last time you stand here together and before parting, never as a corps to meet again-here upon the spot he knew so well, in tender memory of him and in bond of faithful union among yourselves, raise this statue to the brave and gentle Sedgwick. It is wrought of cannon that, with his eye watching you and his heart trusting you, you captured in the blazing fury of battle. It is a monument of your valor as well as his devotion. His modesty would have refused it for himself but his affection would have accepted it from you."

On Memorial Day, 1900, a monument was dedicated on a triangle of ground opposite the cemetery at Cornwall Hollow, where the General was buried. On it is inscribed a list of the principle battles in which he was engaged. In his honor a full size statue has been placed over the entrance to the State Capital at Hartford, Conn., and there are statues at Spotsylvania near where he fell and on the battleground at Gettysburg.

"Handsome Joe," the horse presented to him by his Army companions, was the model for the horse on which the General is shown seated. This was dedicated on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle.

General Sedgwick has been commemorated also by several towns and counties named in his honor. The county and town of Sedgwick in Colorado on the Platte River were named for "the first commander of the fort in that locality."

In Kansas the town and County of Sedgwick were named for him at the suggestion of former soldiers of his command.

After his tragic death his remains were borne to his home at Cornwall Hollow and a public funeral, offered by the legislature, was declined by his family. No military salute was fired above his grave but as his body was lowered to its last resting place, a peal of thunder like the roar of distant artillery reverberated along the heavens, sounding his requiem and the tired soldier rested.

The U.S. Government through General Flagler, Chief of the Ordnance Department, presented the Town of Cornwall with an eight inch howitzer and 140 shells to be placed near the grave of Major General Sedgwick as a part of his monument.

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