John Fulton Reynolds
1820 - 1863
John Fulton Reynolds, Union Civil War general killed in action, died July 1, 1863. He was 42.
Reynolds was born September 21, 1820 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. An 1841 graduate of West Point, he served in artillery during the Mexican War in which he won two honorary promotions. Becoming a career soldier, he also had a tour of duty as instructor and commandant at West Point.
When the Civil War began, he was commissioned a colonel in command of the 14th Infantry. Promoted to brigadier general in August 1861, Reynolds was put in command of 1st Brigade of the Army of the Potomac.
His brigade saw action at Seven Days and Gaines Mills. At the latter battle, Reynolds fell asleep after being cut off from his command. He was captured but quickly released in a prisoner exchange.
When Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland to set the stage for the bloody Antietam battle, Reynolds was ordered to ready the Pennsylvania militia for action against Lee if the rebel army continued its invasion of the North. Lee was forced to retreat after Antietam and the immediate threat of a full-scale invasion was over.
Now a major general, Reynolds believed he was being groomed to take over as commander in chief of Union forces. In a meeting with President Lincoln in early 1863 he told Lincoln he would assume command if he could have complete control without Washington’s interference. Lincoln said no and appointed George Meade to command the Army of the Potomac.
Reynolds became Meade’s III Corps commander, and was with Meade when Union forces caught up with Lee’s army at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.
As Reynolds was bringing up a regiment of infantry to reinforce General John Buford’s men, he was killed either by a stray bullet or a rebel marksman. He died instantly.