Friday marks 200th birthday of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick
The Wichita Eagle
Friday marks Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s 200th birthday, whose last words remain some of the most famous from the Civil War.
The death of the man for whom Sedgwick County is named came quickly on May 9, 1864, as he was leading his troops at Spottsylvania Court House, Va. The Wichita Beacon on Oct. 7, 1928, described Sedgwick’s death as told by Gen. Horace Porter in this manner:
“The gallant commander of the Sixth Corps (Sedgwick) seemed particularly cheerful and hopeful that morning. Sedgwick started with his staff to move further to the front. A little later General Grant sent me back to Sedgwick to discuss a question with him … While following the road I had seen him take, I heard musketry firing ahead and soon saw the body of an officer borne from the field.
“Such a sight was so common that ordinarily, it would attract no attention, but my apprehensions were aroused by seeing several of Sedgwick’s staff , beside the body… Sedgwick was dead … his lifeless form was carried … a smile still remained on his lips.”
Sedgwick, 50, had been instantly killed by a bullet that entered his left cheek.
In the book, “The Civil War,” by Geoffrey C. Ward with Ric Burns and Ken Burns, it says that Sedgwick — who had survived Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg — said moments before his death about Confederate snipers:
“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”
Civil War veterans who served in the Kansas Legislature when Sedgwick County was first established on Feb. 26, 1867, proposed naming the new county after Sedgwick. The county government was eventually formed and in April 1870, the first county officials elected.
Long before the Civil War began, Sedgwick had connections in Kansas. He served at Fort Leavenworth during the state’s territorial border wars with Missouri.
Sedgwick was born Sept. 13, 1813, in northwest Connecticut. According to the Civil War Trust website, www.civilwar.org, Sedgwick was an 1837 graduate of West Point whose fellow classmates included Braxton Bragg, John C. Pemberton and Joseph Hooker.
Jami Frazier Tracy at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum said there are no official plans to celebrate Sedgwick’s birthday on Friday. However, next year, on the 150 anniversary of his death, the museum is planning an observance.
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