John Reynolds (see Plate E2) was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on 20 September 1820. After attending Lancaster County Academy he was graduated from West Point in 1841. He served as an artillery officer on the Atlantic coast and in Texas before the Mexican War, in which he was breveted a captain and major for gallant and meritorious conduct. After years of garrison duty, he became Commandant of Cadets at West Point in September 1860, leaving the Academy to become lieutenant-colonel of the 14th US Infantry on 14 May 1861, and a brigadier-general of volunteers on 26 August.
Reynolds commanded the 1st Brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves, raised from excess volunteers from that state, which was assigned to the Army of the Potomac. The men of his brigade had a chance to appreciate Reynolds' coolness in the field during their first experience at the front. Major Evan Woodward, 2nd Reserves, recalled in his history of the Reserves published in 1865: "When we first commenced our retrograde movement many surmises that soon assumed the shape of rumors were set afloat, and as we at that time were incapable of judging of military
OPPOSITE The Pennsylvania general John F.Reynolds, as illustrated in the 18 July 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly two weeks after his death at Gettysburg. Staff officer Frank Haskell described him at Fredericksburg the previous December as "the very beau ideal of the gallant general. Mounted upon a superb black horse, with his head thrown back and his great black eyes flashing fire, he was every where upon the field, seeing all things and giving commands in person."
movements, they received much credence. An orderly came dashing down the road in search of General Reynolds and almost breathlessly informed him, there were 'forty thousand rebels coming down upon us'. 'Forty thousand old fools', replied the General, 'go back to where you came from'."
Reynolds' brigade was assigned to V Corps in the Peninsula campaign where lie, along with his adjutant, was surprised and captured on the night of 27 June 1862. Exchanged on 8 August, he was given command of the 3rd Division of Pennsylvania Reserves in the Second Bull Run (Manassas) campaign. During the Antietam campaign he commanded Pennsylvania militia, and he received command of I Corps of the Army of the Potomac before Fredericksburg (December 1862), at which battle lie distinguished himself by his energy and courage.
On 29 November 1862 he was named a major-general of volunteers. Declining to accept command of the Army of the Potomac to replace Hooker, he was appointed by the army's new commander, George Meade, to command the first three corps on the field at Gettysburg. Charles Wainwright noted in his diary: "General Reynolds told me today that the command of this army was offered to him when he was summoned up to Washington a month ago; but he refused it, because, to use his own expression, 'he was unwilling to take Burnside and Hooker's leavings'."
While bringing up the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry to help hold the line at Gettysburg, Reynolds was shot and killed instantly by a Confederate infantryman in a barn on the edge of nearby woodland. He was buried in the main burial plot at Lancaster, only 50 miles away from Gettysburg. He had fallen without receiving a presentation sword, with a blade of the finest Damascus steel, a black onyx grip set with the initials "J.F.R." in diamonds, and a scabbard of pure gold, which had been acquired earlier without a chance for a formal presentation ceremony. The scabbard was engraved, "Presented to Major-general John F. Reynolds, by the enlisted men of the First, Second, Fifth and Eighth regiments of the First Brigade of Pennsylvania, in testimony of their love and admiration. Mechanicsville, June 26th, 1862." The sword was finally presented to Reynolds' sister.
OPPOSITE Two locals point to the spot on the Gettysburg field where John Reynolds was mortally wounded on 1 July 1863. Union skirmishers were posted along the cornfield in the background; when Reynolds rode in that direction to reconnoiter, he was shot by a Confederate marksman from the edge of the woods.
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