Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s legacy lives on in Kansas

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Many say he was destined to join the military, and although he died in war, his legacy lives on in Sedgwick County.

Major General John Sedgwick’s grandfather was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Revolutionary War and was a close friend of General George Washington.

It’s said after he worked as a teacher, and on the family farm as a young man, he longed for more.

The Major General went on to serve in the military for nearly three decades.

“I know you write often, and this is consolation, that we’ve had much excitement in the last three days,” Matt Mattox said.

Sedgwick wrote two or three letters a day to his loved ones, detailing what life was like on the battlefield.

“There are story after story how he had helped his troops,” Mattox said.

Mattox knows a lot of stories and facts about Major General John Sedgwick.

“Many times you’d just see him in civilian clothes,” Mattox said.

Mattox is a veteran himself and started digging into history because he was curious if he had relatives who also served in the military.

He also wanted this daughter to know more about their family history.

“One thing and another leads to all these different people,” Mattox said.

He quickly figured out he was a cousin to Sedgwick.

“He was an enlisted man’s man,” Mattox said.

The Union men, who settled in Kansas years after the war, insisted Sedgwick County be named after the many, they fondly called ‘Uncle John.’

“He was never heard to say a harsh word, or yell at a troop, ever,” Mattox said.

He said he was known to have a real connection with his men.

“He did so much for his troops and thought so much of his troops, they understand and they realize that, “Mattox said.

He said Sedgwick was never about the pomp and circumstance.

“He was a field soldier, he didn’t want a house for his headquarters, he wanted a tent,” Mattox said.

He said his soldiers loved him so much, they bought him an elaborate sword and even a horse.

“Somewhere, I read where he had a horse shot out from under him, too,” Mattox said.

After many narrow escapes, Sedgwick was shot three times at the Battle of Antietam, but in no time, he returned to the fight.

“They didn’t really expect him to be back so soon, but he just had to get back with his troops,” Mattox said.

He said the day Sedgwick met his fate, he and his troops were dodging sniper bullets.

“He said, ‘they couldn’t have hit an elephant from this distance anyway,’ and then he said that another time, and the second time he said it, was when he was shot underneath the left eye,” Mattox said.

Sedgwick died instantly.

“Several of the generals, when they heard the news, they wept,” Mattox said.

When general Ulysses S. Grant, a close friend of Sedgwick’s got the news.

“He said losing him is like losing an entire division,” Mattox said.

He is proud of this proclamation, made by Sedgwick County leaders, in honor of the Major General.

He hopes some day the history of Sedgwick will be brought to life, in bronze.

“Being the namesake, I would think one would have a statue of that person in the community,” Mattox said.

He said the efforts are so that future generations will know about our past and the heroes who are part of it.

“He signed, your affectionate son, J. Sedgwick,” Mattox said.

The troops, who served under him, honored him with a special tribute.

“They really loved him, and they put up a marker for him, where he was actually shot and died,” Mattox said.

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