Today, on the 146th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Gettysburg, we look at a monument dedicated to Cornwall Hollow native Major General John Sedgwick, who fought at Gettysburg and was later killed at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (Va).
Gen. Sedgwick, nicknamed “Uncle John” by his troops, is honored in his hometown with a monument at the intersection of Cornwall Hollow Road (Route 43) and Hautboy Hill Road.
The monument features a large granite slab that bears a bronze plaque depicting Sedgwick on the front (south) face. The dedication reads “This memorial, including ordnance used in the Mexican and Civil Wars and given by the government of the United States, in honour of Major General John Sedgwick, Commander of the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, who gave his life for the preservation of the Union.”
Beneath this dedication, the monument is inscribed with additional text: “A skilled soldier, a brave leader, a beloved commander and a loyal gentleman” and ‘The fittest place where man can die is where man dies for man.”
The north face lists some of Sedgwick’s battles in the Mexican-American War (Vera Cruz, Cerra Gordo, Puerla, Cherribusco, Molino Del Ray) and the Civil War (Fair Oaks, Antietam, Fredericksburg, The Wilderness and Spotsylvania)
An 1839 cannon stands on a granite base with a bronze eagle on its south face and wreaths on the east and west faces. The monument’s base has six pyramids of concrete cannonballs. The monument’s original cannonballs were removed in a World War II scrap drive (a common fate for cannonballs used in Civil War monuments).
The Sedgwick monument was originally dedicated in 1900. The monument was vandalized in 1976 and the 1980s, and most of the bronze ornamentation was stolen. Replicas were cast, based on the photos of the originals, and the monument was rededicated in 1994.
Sedgwick, born in 1813, graduated from West Point in 1837 and served in the artillery during the Mexican-American War. During the Civil War, he served in the infantry and commanded the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
Sedgwick was killed by a Confederate sniper on May 9, 1864, while directing artillery placement at Spotsylvania Court House. Sedgwick, attempting to rally his troops, said snipers (about 1,000 yards from Union troops) “couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance” just before being shot just below his left eye.
Sedgwick is buried in the Cornwall Hollow Cemetery on the other side of the road. His grave, a tall obelisk, features the Sixth Corps emblem and the dates and location of his birth and death.
A small marker in the ground immediately north of the Sedgwick monument indicates local schoolchildren planted a tree at the site in 1950. The tree has been removed, but portions of its stump are visible in the ground.
Sedgwick also honored with a statues at Gettysburg and West Point (often touched by students for luck with their exams) as well as a monument at the Spotsylvania battlefield.