General for whom Sedgwick County is named died 150 years ago this week

05/08/2014 8:23 AM

05/08/2014 8:23 AM

Friday marks the 150th anniversary of when Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick uttered his last words, which became one of the most famous quotes from the Civil War.

The death of the man for whom Sedgwick County is named came on May 9, 1864, as he was leading his troops at Spotsylvania Court House, Va.

According to the book “The Civil War” by Geoffrey C. Ward, Sedgwick – who had survived battles at Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg – reportedly said moments before his death from Confederate snipers: “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

Sedgwick, 50, was killed instantly by a bullet that entered his left cheek.

The Wichita Beacon on Oct. 7, 1928, described Sedgwick’s death as told by Gen. Horace Porter: “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.”

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 were elected.

Of the 105 counties in Kansas, 40 are named after Civil War soldiers.

Editor's Choice Videos

Join the discussion

is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service