Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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CHARLES FREDERICK SEDGWICK was born in Cornwall, Litchfield County, Conn., Sept. 1, 1795. His grandfather, Gen. John Sedgwick, was a major in the Revolutionary army, and a major general of the state militia. His ancestry is traced to Robert Sedgwick, one of Cromwell's generals.
He was a brother of the late Albert Sedgwick, who was for many years sheriff of Litchfield County and School Fund Commissioner of this state; and a cousin of the renowned Gen. John Sedgwick of the sixth corps of the army of the Potomac, who was killed at Spottsylvania, Va., in the late civil war.
After graduating at Williams College, 1813, he took charge of an academy in Sharon, Conn., and at the same time studied law, and was admitted to the bar, March, 1820, in Litchfield County. He immediately located in Sharon, and there continued in the practice of his profession and ended his life work. He was married to Betsey, daughter of Judge Cyrus Swan of Sharon, Oct. 15th, 1821. She and eight of their children survive him.
He was early a member of the Legislature in both of its branches, a judge of the court of probate for the district of Sharon, and for the last eighteen years of his professional activity, and until his health began to fail, State's Attorney for the county.
He inherited and manifested a special admiration for military affairs, and was appointed brigadier general of the state militia in 1829, and afterwards major general of the third military division of the state.
Physically, he was a remarkable man; large, tall, and erect, his appearance in and out of the court-room was attractive and commanding. As a lawyer not arrogant, not sarcastic, not brilliant, always courteous, a ready, fluent advocate, presenting his views of the case on trial with force and zeal, commanding the respect of the court and jury.
In the discharge of his duty as a public prosecutor, the administration of his office was characterized by the application of the principle "that ninety-nine guilty persons should escape, rather than one innocent person should suffer." His habits were exemplary; tobacco and intoxicants in all their forms were to him abhorrent.
The current events of the day were all noted by him, and he delighted in works of history, biography and genealogy. His wonderfully retentive memory, bodily vigor, and genial nature made him a delightful talker in the social circle, and eminently useful in furnishing information of and concerning persons and their affairs. If it became necessary to find a collateral or other heir to an estate, or to insert a branch in the genealogical tree of a family in western Connecticut, Gen. Sedgwick was referred to as a living compendium of the required information, and his detailed reminiscences of the peculiarities and characteristics of persons always interested his hearers and often elicited their merriment.
His centennial address and history of the town of Sharon in 1865, is a valuable depository of knowledge for the inhabitants of the town. His address at Litchfield in April, 1870, entitled " Fifty Years at the Bar," descriptive of the lawyers and judges of the courts of his time, is an acquisition to the legal literature of our state, which should be preserved in an enduring form.
The members of the bar of Litchfield County manifested their esteem for him from time to time, by soliciting his appointment to the office he so long held; and to show his appreciation thereof, I will quote the concluding remarks of his address:-
"Standing here alone, the only member of this bar who has been in practice for fifty years, I take pleasure in expressing to my brethren of more recent experience, the deepest gratitude for the pleasant and friendly relations they have permitted me to enjoy with them during the whole of our acquaintance. By their kind amenities and the favor of the judges, the rays of my evening sun have fallen upon me softer than did those of my noon-day. These precious remembrances will remain with me as long as I have consciousness; and in conclusion I say to my brethren, not as a thoughtless wish, but as an honest prayer, May God bless you, each and all."
He lived soberly, he waited for death calmly, and died in communion with the Congregational church at Sharon, March 9th, 1882, in his 87th year.