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Major General John Futon Reynolds

Reynolds, John Futon, Major General, was born in Lancaster, Pa., on the 21st of September, 1820. He was educated in the schools of his native city, and in 1837 was appointed a Cadet at West Point. He graduated from the Military Academy in 1841; in July of the same year he was appointed brevet Second lieutenant in the Third Artillery, and was ordered to Fort McHenry, Baltimore; three months later he was promoted to a Second lieutenancy; early in 1843, he was ordered to St. Augustine, and at the close of the year was transferred to Fort Moultrie. In 1845 he was sent to Corpus Christi, and afterwards to Fort Brown. In June, 1840, he was promoted to first lieu-tenant, and marched with his battery, accompanying General Taylor's army into Mexico; was engaged at the battle of Monterey, and two days thereafter was brevetted captain for gallant conduct. On the 21st of February 1847, he was in the battle of Buena Vista, and received the brevet of major for meritorious services. At the close of the Mexican War he was sent to the forts on the coast of New England, where he remained four years, when he was appointed a staff officer to General Twiggs, and in 1853 went to New Orleans, but the following year returned to the east and was stationed at Fort Lafayette, until he was attached to an expedition which was sent across the plains to Utah. He reached Salt Lake City in August, 1854; in March, 1855, he was promoted to a captaincy, and sent across the mountains to California. During the year he remained on the Pacific coast he engaged in expeditions against the Indians, commanded posts, and at one time was on a board to examine candidates for admission into the army from civil life. In December 1854, he arrived at Fortress Monroe, and in the summer of 1858 was placed in command of battery C, of the Third regiment, and was ordered to cross the plains with his command, to Utah. The battery was one of the most efficient in the service, and hence Secretary Floyd sought to destroy it by mounting it and sending it across the Rocky Mountains. The company, however, arrived in safety at Fort VanCouver in December 1859.

In September 1860, Major Reynolds was appointed commander of cadets at West Point; in May 1861, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Fourteenth infantry, and sent to New London, Connecticut, to recruit his regiment to its maximum strength. In August he was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers, and was ordered to command Fort Hatteras; but, at the request of Governor Curtin, General Reynolds was assigned to the command of the First brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. He marched and fought with his brigade on the peninsula, and in Pope's campaign. General Pope says in his report:

"Brigadier-General John F. Reynolds, commanding the Pennsylvania Reserves, merits the highest commendation at my hands. Prompt, active and energetic, he commanded his division with distinguished ability throughout the operations, and performed his duties in all situations with zeal and fidelity."

After the retreat of Gen, Pope to the defenses around Washington, it became apparent that the enemy contemplated an invasion of Maryland and probably of Pennsylvania. Governor Curtin, therefore, on the 4th of September, 1862, issued a proclamation calling out 75,000 of the State militia, and on the 12th Gen. Reynolds was relieved from the command of the Reserve Corps, and ordered to proceed to Harrisburg, at the request of the Governor, to organize and command these forces. He received the men who were pouring in incessant streams to the Capital, organized them into brigades, and marched them up Cumberland Valley to protect the borders of the State. After the battle of Antietam the militia was disbanded, and General Reynolds rejoined the Army of the Potomac, and assumed command of the First corps; he rendered distinguished service at the battle of Fredericksburg, and carried the enemy's Works on the left. He was appointed military governor of that city, and his administration of affairs so was vigorous and equitable that the loyal citizens rejoiced in the establishment of the authority of the United States in their midst. His troops were present, but were not called into action at the battle of Chancellorsville.1 When General Meade moved the army from Frederick into Pennsylvania, expecting each hour to encounter the rebel force, he selected General Reynolds, his bosom friend, and the man of all others in whom he reposed the most implicit confidence, to lead the advance wing, composed of three corps, the First, Third and Eleventh. Morning and evening, frequently during the day, and in the still hours of night, these two distinguished soldiers. Pennsylvania's noblest contributions to the army, could be seen in close consultation and earnest discussion. The commanding general communicated fully all his plans and intended movements to his companion, and heard with deep interest the comments of the great soldier. Reynolds in turn, with the whole ardor of his noble nature, entered into the work assigned him; he led forth his troops, marching at the head of the great army as a patriot going out to battle for the honor of his country and the liberty of his race.

When, on the morning of the 1st of July, he rose to the summit of the hills in front of Gettysburg, he saw at a glance, as his practiced eye viewed the country around him, that there, on those rocky hills, must be fought the great battle, which was to decide whether the honor of the Northern people should be preserved inviolate, or whether their cities, and country, and villages should be sacked and destroyed by the invading foe.

Arriving nearer the town, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, he found General Buford's cavalry division already skirmishing with the Confederate troops, who appeared two miles to the westward. Reynolds, with his accustomed boldness to attack, did not hesitate as to his duty, or wait for instructions; he was an accomplished soldier, and knowing that it was Meade's determination to fight the enemy on the first advantageous ground in his front, immediately advanced to the support of Buford's cavalry, and engaged the enemy. The First corps pushed forward through the town to occupy a hill on the west side, near Pennsylvania College, where it encountered Heath's division of Hill's corps of Confederate troops. The battle opened with artillery, in which the enemy at first had the advantage. Reynolds rode forward to change the position of the batteries; the rebel infantry immediately advanced, pushing forward a heavy skirmish line, and charge upon the guns, expecting to capture them. General Reynolds ordered up Wadsworth's division to resist the charge, and rode at the head of the column to direct and encourage the troops; but his gallantry made him a conspicuous mark for the deadly bullets of rebel skirmishers, and he was shot through the neck, and fell mortally wounded, dying before he could be removed from the field. The loss of their bravo leader, personally the most popular officer of his rank in the army, might well have seriously affected the behavior of the men; but the spirit with which his presence had inspired them did not perish at his death; his corps, led by the senior officer, General Doubleday, repulsed the enemy in a gallant charge, while the fighting, for a time, became a hand-to-hand struggle, during which the rebel General Archer and his whole brigade were captured and sent to the rear.

General Reynolds was charged by some military critics with rashness in prematurely bringing on the battle of Gettysburg; but it would, perhaps, be more just to say that he had but little direct agency in bringing it on; that it was unavoidable; that it was forced upon us by the rebels; that if they had not been hold in cheek that day, they would have pressed on, and obtained the impregnable position which our troops wore enabled to hold; and that, most of all, the hand of Providence, who gave us at list a signal victory, guided the arrangements of that memorable day.2

General Reynolds was one of America's greatest soldiers; the men he commanded loved him clearly; he shared with them the hardships, toil, and danger of the camp, the march, and the field; devoted to his profession, he was guided by those great principles which alone can prepare a soldier to become the defender of the liberties of a free people. He nobly laid down his life a sacrifice on his country's altar, at the head of his brave corps, that victory might crown the efforts of those who followed him to fight the great battle of the Nation. He fell, valiantly fighting for his country.

Still more, he died in the defense of the homes of his neighbors and kinsmen. No treason-breeding soil drank his blood, but all of him that was mortal is buried in the bosom of his own native State. His body was carried to Lancaster and was buried in the family enclosure in the Lancaster Cemetery, on the 4th of July, 1863.

Over his remains the family have erected a handsome and substantial marble monument, commemorative of the patriotic services of the deceased. On the south side, surmounted by the military emblem of the sword and belt, is the inscription-"John Fulton Reynolds, Colonel of the Fifth Infantry United States Army and Major General of Volunteers. Born Sept. 21, 1820. Killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, while commanding the Left Wing of the Army of the Potomac, July 1, 1863." On raised panels immediately below are the words " Chancellorsville," "Gettysburg." On the north, under the national coat-of-arms, are the words "Rogue River" and "Mechanicsville." On the west, the American flags crossed over "Gaines Mills," "Second Bull Run" and "Fredericksburg." And on the east, the military emblem of the cannon, with the Mexican battle-fields on which the deceased won promotion, "Fort Brown," "Monterey" and "Buena Vista."3

  1. Sypher's History of the Pennsylvania Reserves.
  2. Prof. Jacobs' Notes on the battle of Gettysburg.
  3. Contributed by J. M W. Gelet, Esq.

Source: An authentic history of Lancaster County, in the state of Pennsylvania; Lancaster, Pa.: J.E. Barr, 1869, 813 pgs.

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