Major General John F. Reynolds was the highest ranking officer killed at the Battle of Gettysburg and is one of the most senior officers to die in the Civil War. His decision to commit his infantry west of Gettysburg set the course of the fighting, but his death early in the battle was a serious blow to the Union Army.
There are three monuments to General Reynolds on the Gettysburg battlefield and his statue is on the State of Pennsylvania monument, a sign of the respect and affection he had earned.
A monument marks the site where General Reynolds was mortally wounded on South Reynolds Avenue just north of Meredith Avenue. (39.834392° N, 77.250954° W; Monument map: South Reynolds Avenue)
The earliest of the Reynolds monuments to be erected and one of the first at Gettysburg is southeast of town in the National Cemetery. (39.8213° N, 77.23033° W; Monument map: National Cemetery)
From the equestrian monument on Chambersburg Pike:
John Fulton Reynolds
United States Volunteers
Born September 21, 1820
Killed July 1, 1863
From the reverse of the equestrian monument:
Cadet U.S.M.A. July 1, 1837; Brevet Second Lieut. 3d U.S. Artillery July 1, 1841; Second Lieut. October 23, 1841; First Lieut. June 18, 1846; Captain March 3, 1855; Lieut.-Colonel 14th Infantry May 14, 1861; Colonel 5th Infantry June 1, 1863.
Brig. General U.S. Volunteers August 20, 1861;
Major General November 29, 1862. Breveted Captain U.S. Army September 23, 1846 “for gallant and meritorious conduct at Monterey, Mexico;
Major February 28, 1847 “for gallant and meritorious conduct at Buena Vista, Mexico.
The equestrian statue was sculpted by Henry Kirke Bush-Brown, who also did the Meade and Sedgwick equestrian statues and the bust of Lincoln in theLincoln Speech Memorial, It was dedicated in 1899, with Reynolds’ nephew Charles Reynolds Evans pulling the cord that unveiled the monument.
The statue weighs four and a half tons, yet is superbly balanced with only two of the horse’s feet on the ground. The monument follows the universally denied “rule” (or coincidence) that a monument’s horse with two feet off the ground indicates its rider was killed in battle.
From the front of the monument on Reynolds Avenue:
John F. Reynolds
Left Wing 1st, 3rd, & 11th Corps
Army of the Potomac
July 1st 1863
Erected by the
State of Pennsylvania
From the rear:
The statue of Reynolds in the National Cemetery was the first bronze statue at Gettysburg. Funded by the survivors of the First Corps, it was created by sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward in 1871, cast from four bronze cannon barrels, and dedicated in 1872.
From the front of the monument:
John F. Reynolds
From the rear:
To his memory by the First Army Corps.
From the right sife:
Killed at Gettysburg
From the left side:
Born at Lancaster PA.
John Fulton Reynolds was born in 1820 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a little over fifty miles away from Gettysburg. He graduated from West Point in the Class of 1841, ranking 26th out of 50 cadets, then spent the next four years in the artillery of the Atlantic coast garrisons.
He received two brevets in the Mexican War, then spent the next fourteen years in garrison duty. In 1860 he became Commandant of Cadets at West Point.
After the outbreak of the war he quickly became a brigadier general. While commanding a brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves in the Peninsula in June of 1862 he was cut off behind Confederate lines and captured.
Exchanged in August, he commanded a division at Second Bull Run. When Lee invaded Maryland Reynolds was sent at Governor Curtin’s insistance to command Pennsylvania’s militia. He returned to the army to command the 1st Corps at Fredericksburg, where one of his divisions under George Meade made the only break in the Confederate lines.
Reynolds was called to Washington after the Battle of Chancellorsville to confer with President Lincoln. It is believed that he was offered command of the army at that time but turned it down because he felt he would be continually second guessed by Washington like the commanders in the past. Instead the army was given to his former subordinate, George Meade.
At the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign Reynolds was given command of the left wing of the army: his own 1st as well as the 3rd and 11th Army Corps. He was leading the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment to the relief of Buford’s cavalry in Herbst’s Woods when he was mortally wounded by a shot to the head, exactly 22 years to the day after his West Point graduation.