Eyewitness described death of Lancaster’s General Reynolds at Gettysburg
John Fulton Reynolds was perhaps the best known Civil War soldier from the Susquehanna Valley region. The major general commanded a wing of the Army of the Potomac, including his own First Army Corps, during the June 1863 march from Falmouth, Virginia, to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. On the morning of July 1, Reynolds arrived in the farm fields west of Gettysburg with the vanguard of his men, deployed the lead elements of his corps, and prepared to give battle on McPherson’s Ridge.
It was to be his final act on Earth.
An eyewitness later talked with a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Here is the reporter’s brief story.
“Yesterday morning the train from Westminster brought to this city the body of Maj. Gen. Jno. F. Reynolds, who was killed in the early part of the engagement on Wednesday morning. The following officers of Gen. Reynolds staff accompanies the remains: — Major Biddle, Captain Weld, Capt. Mitchell and Lieut. Rosengarten. The remains were in charge of Orderly Sergeant R. B. Clevenger, Company F, Eighty eighth Pennsylvania, but now attached to the Ambulance Department of the Second Brigade, Second Division, of the First Army Corps. Mr. H. W. Jenkins, undertaker, received the body at the Bolton depot, and conveyed it to the embalming establishment of Mr. James E. Weaver, where it was embalmed. Yesterday afternoon the remains were conveyed to Light street wharf, and placed on board one of the Ericsson line of steamboats for Philadelphia, which left at five o’clock.
“From Sergeant Clevenger we learned that the fight at Gettysburg commenced about 9 o’clock on Wednesday morning, and that about ten o’clock Gen. Reynolds was shot while cheering on his men. He was on the left wing of his forces, and the ground where he fell lies somewhat to the left of the convent [Lutheran Theological Seminary], near the boundary of the town. The ball (which was from a Minie rifle) struck him in the back part of the neck and passed into the front part of the brain. He fell from his horse, considerably bruising his face. His death was almost instantaneous. He did not speak after being shot. The body was immediately conveyed to the rear, and given in charge of Sergeant Clevenger, who will convey it to the residence of the General’s mother, which is in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, where he was born.”
John Reynolds was buried on July 4 in Lancaster Cemetery. A tall stone obelisk marks the grave site of the highest ranking soldier to perish during the battle of Gettysburg.