John Sedgwick "Uncle John" September 13, 1813 - May 9, 1864
Affectionately known as "Uncle John" to his troops, Union Gen. John Sedgwick was one of the Army of the Potomac's best-loved corps commanders and was known to be a solid and dependable leader. A Connecticut native, he graduated from the 1837 West Point class along with Union Gen. Joseph Hooker and Confederate generals Braxton Bragg and Jubal A. Early.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sedgwick was a major with 24 years of experience, a veteran of the Seminole and Mexican Wars and of six years of fighting Indians in the West. Appointed brigadier general on August 31, 1861, he led a division in the fighting around Richmond, performing creditably in the battles of Fair Oaks, Savage's Station, White Oak Swamp, and Malvern Hill. Promoted to major general, Sedgwick led his division in the Battle of Sharpsburg, where he was badly wounded and lost half his men.
He recovered and commanded a corps at the Battle of Chancellorsville, where he held the line at Fredricksburg until ordered to come to Gen. Joseph E. Hooker's aid. He stormed and captured Marye's Heights, the Rebel position that had proved impregnable during the December Battle of Fredricksburg, and rushed to join Hooker, only to be stopped on May 4, 1863, by the savage fighting of Gen. Robert E. Lee's force at Salem Church. That night Sedgwick crossed his command over the Rappahannock River, escaping the trap Lee was about to spring on him.
Sedgwick took no part in the fighting at Gettysburg but scored the only major Union success in the Bristoe campaign when he captured most of a Confederate division with its guns at Rappahannock Station. On the last day of the Battle of the Wilderness, Sedgwick's corps was almost routed by a Confederate surprise attack, but they managed to hold out until darkness stopped the fighting.
Fascinating Fact: The Rebels "couldn't hit an elephant at this distance", Sedgwick assured some men who were seeking cover from sharpshooters during the Battle of Spotsylvania. The next second, a sniper's bullet struck under his left eye, killing him instantly.
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