Archive for July 1st, 2010

John Reynolds

General John Fulton Reynolds could have easily become famous for a number of things. The Pennsylvanian was an 1841 West Point graduate and career military officer. He received decorations for gallantry in the Mexican-American War, completing the war at the rank of Major, and then returned to his alma mater to teach in between military deployments and even serve as Commandant of Cadets in 1860. During the early days of the Civil War, Reynolds advanced quickly, from Lieutenant Colonel to Brigadier General to Major General, even though he was briefly captured in 1862 and returned to command after a prisoner exchange. At special request of Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtain, Reynolds organized the state militia in response to Robert E. Lee’s Maryland campaign and then returned to his previous command. Most scholars believe that Reynolds was offered command of the Army of the Potomac just before the Battle of Gettysburg, but he declined because he did not wish to deal with the politics. But for all that, Reynolds is probably best known because he was the highest ranking officer to die at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Major General John Reynolds

Reynolds was not on the battlefield long. He arrived in Gettysburg on July 1 to with his First Corps to relieve John Burford’s Cavalry Division. While organizing his Corps on the battlefield, he fell with a Confederate bullet through his neck onto his native Pennsylvania soil.

Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds

Although most visitors would not realize it, the monuments to Reynolds at Gettysburg are all cenotaphs, even this one in the National Cemetery. After being removed from the field, Reynolds’ body was moved as quickly as possible to his nearby hometown of Lancaster and interred there.

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