Please rate John Sedgwick

ewc

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
pittsburgh
**** computers, love em but loathe the soulless things!!! Just got done with a nice post here...which somehow got lost into hyperspace. No wonder aphillbilly bangs his head when confronting this foul capricious beast... Okay, here goes, again...

Sedgwick, holding the extreme right, provided his top commanders with some exciting times at the Wilderness, in this, General Grant's, first meeting on the battlefield with the legendary generalbusting Lee. The army's flank was 'in the air' the evening of 6 May, '64, as it had been at the earlier Battle of Chancellorsville, and generally a bad idea in front of a Confederate army. Which begs the question- 'Those confounded Yanks, don't they ever learn ?!?!' Previously, Stonewall Jackson had overrun the in-the-air Federal right flank at Chancellorsville. This time, it was the piledriving Jubal Early ready to serve this Union army the same. But it was not before Lee could ride over, *****s the situation, and tell Early to hop to. This was a classically Leeian assault, a winning proposal. But it was not before late afternoon (6ish PM) that the attack could get rolling, and the advancing Rebs would have dusk and dark, besides the knarled underbrush and skirmishers, to contend with.

However Uncle John Sedgwick proved that the Yankees could indeed learn. He was actively watchful on his front and flank, knowing full well of the Rebels' confounded habit of showing up just where you least wanted them. He kept his rightmost regiments on their toes and had cavalry prowling the woods. These measures proved insufficient to come to grips with the Rebel assault, but he wasn't caught with his pants down, and was quickly in the saddle and on the scene, coolly moving troops to meet the threat and inspiring the troops with his calm and reassuring presence. In short order, his lines stabilized after initial losses and order was restored.

This was not the first time Sedgwick had stood between the Army of the Potomac and disaster. He had previously diverted attention from Hooker at Chancellorsville long enough to allow Hooker to stabilize his lines and secure his rear at that place. Unlike at the previous battle where General Howard of XI Corps ignored the situation and signs before Jackson's avalanche fell on him, Sedgwick was at the ready. Though, like Howard, his flank was unanchored.

It was not just Sedgwick who maintained composure during this dangerous attack. When news reached General Meade that the Rebs were closing in and that all was lost, he replied in a cold fury: 'Nonsense! If they have broken our lines, they can do nothing more tonight.' And coolly went about the business of moving reenforcements to succor Sedgwick. Grant's reply to the assertion that Lee had them by the short hairs was that some of them (Federal officers) seemed to think Lee would turn a double somersault on a whim and land in their rear. Though it is said that later, after the trouble had been calmed, he experienced a personal moment at the close call. He gets credit though for fighting it out when the fight was on, and for sticking with it.

In the end, I would have to say that though the ANV made initial and highly threatening gains on Sedgwick's flank, he ably met the challenge and saved the day through calm and doggedness. I think part of Gary's premise is 'Did Sedgwick do enough to address the security of the Union flank, his responsibility?' That is a good question. Perhaps more could have been done given the Rebels' propensity for unpleasant surprises to unwary Union commanders. Even to wary ones... and Sedgwick is a wary one, which in the end, saves the day. If I were a Union commander needing to entrust the security of my army to a corps commander, I would want none other than George Thomas or John Sedgwick as that man.
 

hardtack61

Cadet
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
PA
LEt the men speak.

I think i will let the old boys under Sedgwick answer your question for me. They loved their "Uncle John" dearly, and when they lost him a the battle of Spottsylvania, they all shead a tear! Now that right there is enough to say that i would rate him as a 10!!!
 

elektratig

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
New York City
With all due respect, I'd rate Sedgwick less highly. His performance at Chancellorsville was mediocre to poor. I don't have Stephen Sears's "Chancellorsville" with me, but his observations about Sedgwick's inability to deal with discretionary orders are devastating.

In the Wilderness, Gordon Rhea -- a far better man than I -- sums up his performance as follows:

"Although Sedgwick had shown an avidity to fight, he had accomplished no more than Warren had. On May 5, he waged disjointed skirmishes against Ewell's northernmost brigades. The next day, he failed to attack Ewell's flank or to safeguard his own. Gordon's success was a direct consequence of Sedgwick's neglect. Grant's faith in the old warrior must have been shaken."

The Battle of the Wilderness, p. 433.

Similarly, in Rhea's next volume on Spotsylvania (p. 9), Rhea sums up Sedgwick's performance at the Wilderness as follows:

"Similar misfortune plagued . . . Sedgwick . . .. The stocky, forty-eight-year-old bachelor personified solidity, and his solicitude for his men had made him immensely popular. But something about the Wilderness had clouded Sedgwick's judgment, much as it had Hancock's. He, too, had been caught napping and was driven from his earthworks by a rebel flank attack."

Concerning events of May 8, the day before he was killed, Rhea says (p. 73):

"Sedgwick exhibited a lackadaisical mind-set typical of the Federal leaders on May 8."
 
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