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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1837

Vol. I

(Born Ct.)

John Sedgwick

(Ap'd Ct.)


Born Sep. 13, 1813, Cornwall Hollow, CT.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1833, to July 1, 1837, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Second Lieut., 2d Artillery, July 1, 1837.

Served: in the Florida War against the Seminole Indians, 1837‑38, being engaged in the Skirmish near Ft. Clinch, May 20, 1838; in the Cherokee Nation, 1838, while transferring the Indians to the West; on Recruiting service, 1838‑39; on Northern Frontier during Canada Border

(First Lieut., 2d Artillery, Apr. 19, 1839)

Disturbances, at Buffalo, N. Y., 1839, — Ft. Niagara, N. Y., 1839, — and Buffalo, N. Y., 1839‑41; in garrison at Ft. Monroe, Va., 1841‑42, — Ft. Hamilton, N. Y., 1842‑43, — Ft. Columbus, N. Y., 1843‑45, — and Ft. Adams, R. I., 1845‑46; in the War with Mexico, being engaged in the Siege of Vera Cruz, Mar. 9‑29, 1847, — Battle of Cerro Gordo, Apr. 17‑18, 1847, — Skirmish of Amazoque, May 14, 1847, — Capture of San Antonio, Aug. 20, 1847, — Battle of Churubusco, Aug. 20, 1847, — Battle of Molino del Rey, Sep. 8, 1847, — Battle of Chapultepec,

(Bvt. Capt., Aug. 20, 1847, for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct
in the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco, Mex.)

Sep. 12‑13, 1847, — and Assault and Capture of the City of Mexico,

(Bvt. Major, Sep. 13, 1847,
for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Chapultepec, Mex.)

Sep. 13‑14, 1847; in garrison at Ft. Columbus, N. Y., 1848, — Ft. Monroe, Va., 1848‑49, — Ft. McHenry, Md., 1849‑51, — Ft. Monroe, Va.,

(Captain, 2d Artillery, Jan. 26, 1849)

1851, 1851‑52, — Ft. McHenry, Md., 1852‑55; and on frontier duty

(Major, 1st Cavalry, Mar. 8, 1855)

at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., 1855, — quelling Kansas Border Disturbances, 1855‑56, — Cheyenne Expedition, 1847, being engaged in the Action on Solomon's Fork of the Kansas, July 29, 1857, and Skirmish near Grand Saline, Aug. 6, 1857, — Utah Expedition, 1857‑58, — Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., 1858, — Ft. Riley, Kan., 1858‑59, 1859‑60, — in command of Kiowa and Comanche Expedition, 1860, — and at Ft. Wise, Col., 1860‑61.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑64: in the

(Lieut.‑Colonel, 2d Cavalry, Mar. 16, 1861)

(Colonel, 1st Cavalry, Apr. 25, 1861: 4th Cavalry, Aug. 3, 1861)

defenses of Washington, D. C., June to Aug. 3, 1861; as Acting Inspector-General of the Department of Washington, Aug. 3‑12, 1861; in command of brigade in the defenses of Washington, D. C., Aug. 12, 1861, to

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Aug. 31, 1861)

Feb. 20, 1862; in command of division guarding the Potomac, about Poolesville, Md., Feb.‑Mar., 1862; in command of division (Army of the Potomac) in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign, Mar.‑Aug., 1862, being  p681 engaged in the Siege of Yorktown, Apr. 5-May 4, 1862, — Battle of Fair Oaks, May 31-June 1, 1862, — Action of Peach Orchard, June 29, 1862, — Battle of Savage Station, June 29, 1862, — and Battle of Glendale, June 30, 1862, where he was wounded; in the Northern Virginia Campaign,

(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, July 4, 1862)

on the Retreat from Bull Run to Washington, D. C., Sep. 1‑2, 1862; in the Maryland Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Sep., 1862, being engaged in the Battle of Antietam, Sep. 17, 1862, where he was severely wounded; on sick leave of absence, disabled by wound, Sep. 18 to Dec. 22, 1862; in the Rappahannock Campaign, in command of the 9th Corps, Dec. 22, 1862, and of the 6th Corps, Feb. 5, 1863 (Army of the Potomac), being engaged in command at the Storming of Marye Heights, May 3, 1863, — and Battle of Salem, May 3‑4, 1863; in the Pennsylvania Campaign, commanding 6th Corps (Army of the Potomac), June‑July, 1863, being engaged (after a forced march) in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2‑3, 1863, — and pursuit of the enemy to Warrenton, Va., July, 1863; in the Rapidan Campaign, Sep.‑Dec., 1863, being in command of the right wing (5th and 6th Corps) of the Army of the Potomac, in the Combat of Rappahannock Station, Nov. 7, 1863, — and Operations at Mine Run, Nov. 26 to Dec. 3, 1863; in the Richmond Campaign, in command of the 6th Corps (Army of the Potomac), May 4‑9, 1864, being engaged in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 5‑6, 1864, — and while making a personal reconnoissance, and directing the placing of some artillery for the Battle of Spottsylvania, was, by a sharpshooter,

Killed, May 9, 1864: Aged 50.

Buried, Cornwall Hollow Cemetery, Cornwall Hollow, CT.

Biographical Sketch.

Major-General John Sedgwick was born, Sep. 13, 1813, at Cornwall, Conn. He was descended from that sturdy old Roundhead, Major-General Robert Sedgwick, who was sent by Oliver Cromwell as Commissioner to Jamaica, in the conquest of which he had been a prominent actor, and before his death was appointed its governor. Of his lineage and same name was a Major at Valley Forge, in the Revolutionary Army, who was the grandsire of John Sedgwick.

This latter, scion of soldiers, in whose veins flowed the Puritan blood of the English Commonwealth and the American Colonies, was graduated, July 1, 1837, from the U. S. Military Academy and promoted to the artillery, in which arm he served at various posts, in the Florida War, in the Cherokee Nation, and in quelling border disturbances on the Canada frontier.

In the War against Mexico, Sedgwick accompanied Scott's army in its triumphal march from the sea to the capital, and participated in every engagement from Vera Cruz to the City of Mexico, receiving the brevets of Captain and Major "for his gallant and meritorious conduct."

After this war and a few years of garrison duty, he was appointed, Mar. 8, 1855, a Major in one of the new regiments of cavalry and, until the outbreak of the Rebellion, was chiefly engaged on expeditions against hostile Indians.

Sedgwick, commissioned Aug. 31, 1861, a Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign of 1862 commanded a division of the Army of the Potomac, and rendered gallant service in its various engagements, particularly in the Battle of Fair Oaks, where he arrived after a toilsome march and across a swollen river in time to decide the conflict. Wounded in the Battle of Glendale, June 30, he took no further part in this campaign, but was rewarded, July 4, with promotion to Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.

 p682  On recovering from his wound, Sedgwick led his command, after the retreat of the Army of Virginia from Manassas, in the Maryland Campaign, where, in the terrible fire of the Battle of Antietam, he was twice wounded, but refusing to leave his command was shot through the body and borne insensible from the bloody field. Three months later Sedgwick reported for duty, and was placed at the head of the Ninth Corps, and shortly after, Feb. 5, 1863, in command of the Sixth, with which his name and fame are indissolubly connected.

When General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hooker, in 1863, decided upon the movement at Chancellorsville, Sedgwick, with the Sixth Corps and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Gibbon's division of the Second, was ordered to cross the lower Rappahannock, turn the Confederate right, threaten its communications with Richmond, and finally to effect a junction with Hooker's main force, which was to attack the enemy in front. On the morning of May 3, Fredericksburg was occupied without serious difficulty, but the storming of Marye Heights in rear of the town was a desperate undertaking and involved very severe loss. Sedgwick then, in pursuance of his instructions, continued his march towards Chancellorsville as far as Salem Church, where he encountered, in the afternoon, the bulk of the Confederate forces which had repulsed Hooker in the morning. Hooker's inactivity enabled Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee to strengthen the force sent against Sedgwick, so that it was only by hard fighting that the latter was able to hold his ground during the day and withdraw across the Rappahannock after dark.

In the Pennsylvania campaign of 1863, Sedgwick commanded the right wing of the Army of the Potomac in the pursuit of Lee, and on the evening of June 30 encamped at Manchester, upwards of thirty-five miles from Gettysburg. The untoward events of July 1 demanded the hasty concentration of the whole Army. The Sixth Corps, by a memorable forced march, in sultry July, reached in twenty hours the bloody arena where the nation's fate was trembling in the balance. So sharp and furious was the struggle that this corps, though weary, staggering, and footsore, was at once engaged, and fought till the great victory was achieved and armed rebellion driven from the loyal States.

Following the Confederate Army into Virginia, Sedgwick, at the head of the Fifth and Sixth Corps, was ordered, Nov. 7, 1863, to force the passage of the Rappahannock, defended by strong intrenched works, at Rappahannock Station. After a long and furious cannonade, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Russell was directed by Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wright, in command of the Sixth Corps, to carry the position by an infantry assault, which he gallantly executed, through a storm of bullets and against every impending obstacle, resulting in the capture of a whole division with its guns and colors. Towards the close of the same month the Mine Run operations took place.

Resuming the direct command of the Sixth Corps in the Richmond campaign of 1864, Sedgwick was conspicuous in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 5‑6, emerging from which, May 9, the Army of the Potomac was concentrated at Spottsylvania C. H., where, while the general was watching the placing of some artillery, he was instantly killed by one of the enemy's sharpshooters. Thus fell this brave, generous, warm-hearted soldier, his face to the foe, as it had ever been turned during three wars, in which his dauntless spirit never quailed amid the fiery hail of battle. The silent, kind, and idolized leader, with a sweet smile still lighting his jovial face, was borne from the field of his glory, and, wrapped in that flag he had so steadfastly defended, was laid to his final rest under the sylvan bivouac of the beautiful Housatonic Valley, where he was born and grew to his noble manhood.

A bronze statue of Sedgwick, made of cannon captured by the Sixth Corps, was erected to his memory upon the West Point parade ground,​a and unveiled, Oct. 21, 1868, with imposing ceremonies.

 p683  Sedgwick, though not what the world would call a brilliant man, possessed that strong common sense which often insures the greater success in life. His modesty and unobtrusiveness were proverbial, but he was never backward where opportunity offered laurels to be won by an iron will and soldierly daring. Though slow in council he was quick in action, and the roar of battle seemed to sharpen all his faculties. His soldiers cheerfully endured his rigid discipline, had unbounded confidence in his judgment, and willingly followed wherever faithful "Uncle John" led. He was always a favorite in the Army, and his corps looked up to him as to a father ready to do anything for the reputation of his adopted children and the restoration of the unity of his country.

Thayer's Note:

a The statue, with freely spinning spurs on its boots, quickly became the center of a now centennial tradition: in its canonical form, "Legend holds that if a cadet is deficient in academics, the cadet should go to the monument at midnight the night before the term-end examination, in full dress, under arms, and spin the rowels on the monument's spurs. With luck, the cadet will pass the test." For several fun anecdotes on this exercise in daring, stealth and tactics, see "J. Phoenix's" page at the Association of Graduates. For a photo of the statue, see Major General John Sedgwick (at Sedgwick.Org), which links to a fair amount of information on the general and collects good photos of various statues of him and monuments in his honor.

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Page updated: 10 Mar 14