8. “They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant at This Distâ¦“
At the Battle of Antietam, General John Sedgwick was sent on a poorly planned charge, and his division was shot to pieces, losing 2200 men, while he took three bullets. When he recovered and returned to duty, he was promoted to command a corps. He won early success with his Sixth Corps during the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, but the battle ended in defeat. During the Overland Campaign in 1864, Sedgwick led his corps in the Battle of the Wilderness. On May 9th, 1864, at the start of the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, he was positioning his artillery when his troops came under sniper fire and grew jittery.
Chiding his men for their timidity under single bullets, Sedgwick wondered how they would react when they confronted massed Confederates on the firing line, and faced full volleys. The men were ashamed, but continued to flinch. So Uncle John Sedgwick continued: “Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dista…“. At that point, his pep speech was interrupted by a sniper bullet hitting his face beneath his left eye, that killed him instantly. His was the highest-ranking Union battlefield death of the Civil War.