Positioned nearly a kilometre away from Confederate defences at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 9, 1864, he strode around in the open as his fellow soldiers ran for cover.
“Why are you dodging like this?” he said. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Moments later he took a bullet under the eye and was mortally wounded.
The weapon used to kill Sedgwick (the highest-ranking Union officer to die in the civil war) was the Whitworth percussion volunteer musket.
Invented by the Stockport engineer Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803-87) in 1854, they quickly became known as ‘sharpshooters’ due to their accuracy over distance. Apparently in 1860, Queen Victoria fired a shot from a Whitworth rifle and struck the bullseye at 400 yards.
As the best weapon of its time (it was more accurate than the Enfield although significantly more expensive and prone to fouling), a Whitworth rifle is an essential component in any collection of Victorian guns.
The example offered by Hanson-Holloways Ross (25% buyer’s premium) in Banbury on April 2 was dated 1858 and engraved Joseph Whitworth Patent.
In decent condition, it was guided at £1200-1800 and sold at £3600.