South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Monday, January 31, 2011

South Mountain Battlefield to be on National Register

Last night, I received an email from the park manager of Greenbrier State Park, which administers South Mountain State Battlefield, with news that the battlefield will be included on the National Register of Historic Places effective January 12, 2011. Since I came in after the paper work was filed, I'd like to say: Congratulations to those past employees who have worked at the battlefield and those currently who had a hand in making this possible.

There are to be two historic districts:

Crampton's Gap Historic District: consisting of Route 17, Gapland Road, Mountain Church Road, Brownsville Pass Road, Townsend Road, and areas in the vicinity of Burkittsville, Maryland.

Turner's and Fox's Gap Historic  District: consisting of Alternate Route 40 (Old National Pike), Reno Monument Road, Dalghren Road, Frostown Road, Mount Tabor Road, Moser Road, and areas near Middletown, Maryland.

As you can tell, these two historic districts will encompass quite a large area. Again I say congrats to those who helped make this possible and I believe the future of the battlefield on South Mountain looks bright.

Here is a link to the announcement, they will be listed under Maryland, Frederick County:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fighting Colonels: The Mountain Spur

Located between the Frostown Gap and Turner Gap is a very prominant mountain spur. It was along this northern face of this mountain spur that General John Hatch's Union division attacked practically unopposed, the only Confederate resistance coming from a determined artilleries battery under the command of Captains George Patterson and Hugh Ross. Only the timely arrival of Confederate brigades under the command of James Kemper and Richard Garnett kept Hatch's men from sweeping over the mountain.

Colonel Eppa Hunton, commanding 8th Virginia Infantry: As part of Brigadier General Richard Garnett's brigade, Eppa Hunton's 8th Virginia was encamped near Hagerstown on the morning of September 14. Enduring a forced 18 mile march from their encampment, Hunton's Virginians arrived at the mountain in the late afternoon, clearly hearing the rattle of musketry off to their left. For the next hour, the regiment was pointlessly marched around the mountainside obeying conflicting orders that marched them from one point to the other and back again. Once the regiment did get into position, it fell in behind a fenceline on the extreme right of Garnett's brigade. As it was going into line of battle, a Union battleline appeared and quickly unleashed a devastating volley on the Virginians. Hunton managed to get is regiment organized and in line of battle under this "galling fire of musketry" and his men eagerly began returning fire. Their initial volley's were so devastating the Union advance was first halted, then thrown back. Hunton kept his small regiment, he reported only 34 men in the ranks at the start of the fight, in position holding their hard fought ground until it was realized that the rest of the brigade had fallen back, leaving them exposed and unsupported. Hunton ordered the regiment to fall back to a new position where it was maintained until it was ordered to retreat off the mountain that night. Hunton reported a loss of 11 men killed and wounded, a 32% casualty rate.

Major William H. DeBevoise, commanding 84th New York Infantry/14th Brooklyn: Part of the First Brigade of John Hatch's division, Major DeBevoise lead his regiment in the attack on the mountain spur that could have cut off and surrounded the Confederates under Robert Rodes and flanked the position of Alfred Colquitt at Turner's Gap. The Brooklyn men attacked the Confederate skirmish line, located in a thick woodlot and cornfield and quickly drove it back. The main Confederate line held its fire, apparently out of fear of striking their own men. Unfortunately for the Confederates, Debevoise's men falled the enemy skirmishers so closely, they quickly punched a hole in the Confederate line and managed to gain a foothold on the crest of the mountain. They placed themselves within a hornet's nest, with the Confederates repeatedly and savagely attacking the New Yorkers in an attempt to drive them off. Each attack was beaten back and by nightfall, with their ammunition nearly exhausted, reinforcements arrived allowing the regiment to fall back for some rest. The next morning, the regiment was ordered to pursue the Confederates, crossing over the battlefield of the day before and seeing the carnage wrought. The regiment went into the fight without 130 men and suffered 9 killed and 22 wounded, a casualty rate of about 24%.


1. Official Records of the War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 , Pages 898 - 899. (Hunton's official report)

2.Eppa Hunton. Officers page from Antietam on the Web by Brian Downey. (Hunton's photo)

3. William DeBevoise. Officers page from Antietam on the Web by Brian Downey (DeBevoise photo)

4. 14th Brooklyn. Living History website by Frank Ruiz and Co. E, 14th N.Y.S.M. living history association. (Adjutant General report from September 1862).

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Hell is empty.."

The following is a reminiscence from Private Frederick Foard  of the 20th North Carolina Infantry. The 20th was engaged in the heavy fighting on the morning of the 14th at Fox's Gap as part of Garland's Brigade. We will pick up with Foard returning to his regiment after recuperating from a wound he recieved during the Seven Days as he describes the aftermath of the Second Battle of Manassas/Bull Run. Warning: parts of this post are rather graphic.

After six weeks furlough on account of my wound, I returned to my regiment, arriving the day before Hill's and McLaws divisions started on the march to the Patomic. We arrived on the field of the second Manassas battle two days after the battle had been fought. There had been no time to bury the enemies dead but they had been ordered collected conveniently for burial when men could be spared for the work. To that end, along the road upon which we marched so that without extravagence one could have walked a mile and a half stepping from one dead body to another without touching the ground. It was a horrible spectacle. Under the hot sultry August weather, they were in an advanced state of decomposition. Every single body had been demuded of its outer garments by negros and camp followeres and among them all I only saw one foot that was shod and that belonged to a poor wretch whose leg had been nearly severed above the knee by a cannon ball remaining attached to the body only by a small shred of flesh. The cavalry boot that was on it could not be taken off without taking the leg with it.

General D.H. Hill in his report of the battle of South Mountain stated his force to be 5,500 men under arms and to cover the front necessary to have some protection for his flanks his lines were extended into one rank with intervals from 150 yards to a quarter of a mile between his regiments. Our line of battle was formed on the summits that overlooked an extensive country and we could see the enemy's columns arrive and form line beyond musket shot, division after division.

It was a wonderful and impressive situation. With the exception of artillery firing the battle did not commence until about 10 o'clock in the morning. We could see the storm gathering that was soon to burst upon us. It was certain that for many of us it was the last day of life. The most . . . and ribald and profane among us could be heard groaning and praying aloud.

At last the enemy charged us three lines of battle deep. We resisted stubbornly retarding their progress in our front but being unopposed in the intervals between the regiments, they advanced more rapidly and got around both of our flanks and were about to completely surround us which compelled a hasty and precipate retreat with the sure alternative of death or capture.

As I pulled my trigger with careful aim, throwing a musket ball and three buck shot into them at no more than twenty yards distant, I could see dimly through the dense sulphurus battle smoke and the line from Shakespeare's Tempest flited across my brain:
                     "Hell is empty and all the devils are here."

Before I could reload, our line broke on both sides of me and it was a sharp run until we had extracted ourselves from the flanking columns.

Just as our line broke Jimmie Gibson from Concord, one of General Hill's old Davidson students was shot down. Texas Dan Coleman so called to distinguish him from another Dan Coleman, who on account of his courage and great strength had been detailed to the ambulance corps, and Jimmie were great friends. Jimmie exclaimed, "Great god, Dan don't leave me." Dan ran back in face of the enemy's fire, took Jimmie on his shoulder the enemy's line being not 10 yards distant and ran out with him.

Coleman lost a leg at Geteysburg, fell into the hands of the enemy and died in a hospital in Washington.

My bayonet was fixed for hand to hand work and in running through the laurel bushes my bayonet cought in the bushes above my head, threw the butt of my gun between my feet and I fell sprawling. Just then the man next to me was shot through the head and fell across me. I had to roll his dead body off of me before I could get up.

The 20th quickly rallied after extracting itself from the cul de sac and bore its part in the battle until the end of the day. General Garland was killed early in the action and was succeeded in command of the brigade by Colonal Duncan K. McRae.

The Chaplain of one of our regimetns was conspicuous for a pair of bear skins leggings probably the only pair of their kind in either army, which he continuely wore in camp and on the march. The parson with a prescience born of more than mortal wisdom quickly discerned it was impossible for us to with stand the enemy's onslaught, insured his own saftely by flight. Those bear skin leggens could be seen bounding over the tops of the laural bushes like a kangaroo. McRae who was always fictetious exclamed in a voice that could be heard above the din of battle "Parson..Parson..God damn it, come back here. You have been praying all you life to get to heaven and now that you have a short cut you are running away from it".

Foard would survive the fighting at Fox's Gap and the war.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Our boys acted nobly. . ."

The fighting in the afternoon at Fox's Gap was quite possibly the most severe and desperate fighting to occur during the Maryland Campaign. In a timespan of no more than two hours, a Confederate brigade was wiped off the face of the earth and nearly 1,000 men fell. This is that view of Lieutenant William Fleming from Company F, 50th Georgia Infantry on how he saw the fighting that day.

Now for my opinion of the battles that were fought in Maryland. I was in both battles- the battle of Boonsborough, on the 14th [and Sharpsburg on the 17th]. They were both hard fought battles, and never, I believe, was it more true that the ground was disputed inch by inch. Our brigade was marched from Hagerstown, a distance of 10 or 12 miles, to the scene of conflict, and were soon in the hottest of the fight. We were taken at once to a point to charge a batter of the enemy. While forming in line of battle, so as to be in position to make the assault, we were exposed to a most dreadful rifle and musket fire from the enemy. The 50th Georgia, who were on the extreme left towards the enemy, and the last to form on the right by file into line, were under the hottest fire. Our position was in a narrow road between an embankment eight feet in front as we were faced, and a stonewall on an embankment abot 4 feet high in the rear. The embankment in front of us gradually declined on the left, until it gave us no protection at all from the balls of the enemy.

Our company was the last that could takes its position in line, and this took some of our men entirely from under cover. It was painful to see our men shot down while takingtheir positions. O. Traqick, near me on the right of the company, was shot down when about to file into his place. He was shot in reach of me. The ball passed through his thigh breaking the bone. I mention him, as he was the first one of our company shot. Many others soon shared the same fate.

The enemy were posted behind a fence and trees, not over sixty or seventry yards from us, pouring their deadly volleys into us in comparitive security. Some of the bolder of the enemy would come out into the road and fire down it. Our boys acted nobly, loading and firing as fast as they could; but I am afraid, though they aimed when the enemy were concealed- very few of the bullets struck a Yankee. We had been exposed to this fire about twenty minutes, when a Yankee regiment made its appearance suddenly in our rear about 80 yardsdistance. (This would be the 17th Michigan Regiment). The command was given them to charge, and they came towards us at the charge bayonet about 20 or 30 yards and stopped. I directed my men to fire at them, which the few that were left did, with some effect, I know. About this time there was a general move out of the lane, and we followed. I carried into the action with me 38 men, and brought out 10. Nineteen we can count killed and wounded, the rest have never been heard from, and it is reasonable to suppose that they were killed or wounded. While we were standing this murderous fire, I asked Colonel Manning, who was not far from me, why we were left in such a place- that I thought we should either advance on the enemy or return; he said he could not understand it. This took place on the right. On the left a severe fight took place also. The enemy, by his overwhelming numbers, compelling us to fall back on the whole line a little. The battle ceased about 8 o'clock at night.

Lieutenant Fleming would survive the fight at Fox's Gap, as well as the fight at Antietam. He would send this "report" to the Savannah Republican newspaper which would publish it in October 1862. A copy of this can be found in the M.J. Solomon Scrapbook at Duke University as well as at the South Mountain State battlefield office.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A 6th Wisconsin man writes home..

In this letter, a soldier of the 6th Wisconsin writes home about the battle that occured below Turner's Gap and other happenings in the month following the battle.

Centreville, Md.
Oct. 8th, 1862

Dear Mother,

Your welcome letter of the 27th reached here yesterday. The note I wrote on the battlefield was wrote in great haste as a citizen from Hagerstown happened along the lines during the afternoon and offered to carry letters to the office. I judged by his appearance (wrongly it seems) tht the letters are as apt to go into Secepia as Wis. We are camped on the banks of the Potomac nine miles from Harper's Ferry. Have moved twice since the 17th for Sanitary reasons. Are yet in the immediate vicinity of the battlefield. Nothing of any special interest has occured since I wrote you last. We were reviewed last week by the President and Generals Halleck and McClellan and the Corps Division and Brigade commanders. Abraham looked wll and took especial interest in the Iron Brigade which was pointed out to him by Gen. Reynolds our corps commander. According to a recent field report there is at the time in this Army Corps thiry thousand men drawing pay. Of this number seven thousand only are reported for duty, this will give you a pretty good idea of the waste of war of these twenty-three thousand. A great many are slightly wounded and will return to duty in a short time. Others in two or three monthes. A large number of sick, or imagine they are, others feign sickness. And it is perfectly astonishing the war our surgeons allow themselves to be guilled by these hospital soldiers.

In regards to the inquiries sent by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence regarding William. I will just say that sometime about the first of June we marched from Fredericksburg to Catletts there expecting to take the cars to Front Royal to intercept Jackson. After waiting two days we marched for haymarket at Catletts. William was unable to march and was left there and did not rejoin the company until the beginning of August wheter he wrote during his absence from the company I am unable to say but immediately after his return he was engaged in writing letters to his parents and to his friends at Bladensburg. William often talked to me of his friends at home and frequently on the arrival of mail expressed surprise and regret that he failed to recieve letters from home. In the early part of August we again started on the march which was ever since til the battle of Sharpsburg been rapid and continuous and for weeks together under Pope's administration we were not allowed to write at all. You can tell Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence that William was to brave a boy to forget his Father and Mother.

In order that you will better understand the locality I will explain the whole affair to the best of my ability. The action was commenced in the cleared fields on either side of the turnpike, these fields were on the side of the mountain and were bordered by woods. The surface of the ground in these woods was very rocky and precipitous. The enemy having two regiments to our one soon flanked us on the right and poured and exploding fire into our ranks. We were then moved by the right flank into these woods to drive the rebels out. It was executing this maneuver that William was struck. He was in the center of the company and I was on the right and consequently knew nothing of this being hurt until after the Rebels fled. I then passed down the lines to ascertain who was hurt in Co. I when I found William. Sgt. Clarwater had helped him behind a tree and spread his blanket for him. He recognized me at once in the darkness and asked me for water which I gave him, procurred another blanket for his head and one to cover him, expressed himself satisfied but appeared advers to talking. I remained with him intending to accompany him to the hospital as soon as the stretchers which had been sent for camp up not thinking his wound was a mortal one (he died before the stretchers came, about two hours after he was struck) he told us that the shot came from a man directly in front in that case the wound would not have been a mortal one as he was struck from the right or glanced to the left after it struck his person. He was buried in the field on the very ground we contested with the enemy. There is five others of our regiment and on of the 16th Ill. Cavalry in the same grave. They lay sid by side head boards at the head of each on plainly stated the name, reg't, and co. of each of the occupants. Should his friends wish to disinter the body and in case the headboards are destroyed William lays second one from the left as you face the head of the grave, the first man on the left is the cavalryman, easily distinguishable by his short jacket. They are buried between two large boulders there is just sufficient room for the grave and one of the rocks is an inscription, Viz. Wisconsin Dead. This was made by one of out boys with a bayonet broken for the purpose. There would be no difficulty in finding the spot as it is forty rods on the right of the turnpike on the southern slope of South Mountain between Boonsborough and Middletown. Clarwater was left with a detail for this purpose and he tells me that William was buried in the best manner possible under the circumstances and I have the above details from C. as were we on the day following the fight in hot pursuit of the enemy.

The weather is spendid, the roads dry, everthing for active operations. we are constantly speculating on the cause of this inaction we are not so blood thirsty as we used to be that is we are not anxious for another fight, but want the ball kept in motion even if we have to take the brunt.

The health of the troops is excellent, mine was never better. My regards to all the friends.

My love to the Family
Yours affectionately,

Geo. D. McDill

New South Mountain book

To one and all, the newest interpretation of the Battle of South Mountain in book form is set to be released this spring. From Antietam, Park Ranger John Hoptak's effort will help shed some more light on this important battle of the Maryland Campaign. Congrats Ranger Hoptak and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Here is a link to Mr. Hoptak's announcement:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fighting Colonels: Frostown Gap

The Frostown Gap, as I've discussed in recent weeks, was strategically and tactically important because any troops in control of that gap could advance on the flank and into the rear of any military organization posted at Turner's Gap along the National Pike. While the most notable fighting occurred below Turner's Gap and around Fox's Gap, the fighting around Frostown was just as important, and just as heavy. The regiments engaged here would rely heavily on the leadership of their commanding officers.

Colonel John B. Gordon, commanding 6th Alabama Infantry: Probably the most well known regiment of Robert Rodes' brigade during the Maryland Campaign, Colonel Gordon and his men were the first to engage the Pennsylvania Reserves during the fight at Frostown Gap. Positioned on the left flank of the brigade. Prior to the fighting, a comical exchange to place between Gordon and the Widow Main, a "spartan" of a woman who lived on what would soon become a battleground. Gordon warned the Widow that fighting would commence soon and asked for her to take herself and her children to the safety. The woman refused saying the she would rather die than leave her home at the hands of the rebels. With concealed laughter from his men and staff, Gordon left the woman as an embarrassed man. Gordon would throw out a strong skirmish line that would slow the advance of two regiments of Pennsylvanians. His main line was positioned behind a stonewall and in a tree line bordering an open field to their front. When the reserves pushed back the skirmish line, Gordon's main line unleashed a devastating volley the stunned the Union men and caused the advance to halt for a brief time. Events elsewhere would force Gordon to withdraw from his strong position back a gorge where Rodes' was attempting to rally his brigade and make a final desperate stand. The rock on which this final stand would rest would be Gordon's regiment, having remained intact and in the words of General Rodes was an "excellent regiment" and one which Gordon had "kept constantly in hand and had handled in a manner that I have never heard or seen equaled during this war." Gordon's men would hold the line while others crumbled and as they lay exhausted and low on ammunition, the "fresh" (having just completed a forced march from Hagerstown) brigades of James Kemper, Nathan Evans, and Richard Garnett. Gordon's men would hold the extreme left of the new Confederate line and would blast away several Union advances as they attempted to capture Turner's Gap from the north. John Gordon and his Alabamians nearly held off the Pennsylvania Reserves by themselves as the approached and turned the Confederate flank and John Gordon proved to superiors how cool he was under fire. The regiment would be tested again three days later at Antietam, but the fight at Frostown earned them a reputation as hard fighters.

Colonel Hugh W. McNeil, commanding 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (1st Rifles): Commanding the "Bucktails", Colonel McNeil's regiment would make the first contact with Confederate forces at Frostown Gap. Taking into battle about 300 man, the majority of his regiment is deployed as skirmishers to feel out for the Confederate forces and the remainder are in a supporting role. When skirmishing breaks out, McNeil pushes his men against the the southern skirmishers routing them. Upon advancing on the Confederate mainline, the battle turns into a slugfest with the 13th Reserves duking it out with Colonel Gordon's 6th Alabama. For nearly an hour, the two sides hammered each other with musketry. When reinforcements arrived to support McNeil and his men, the colonel gave the order to charge breaking the Confederate line and sweeping up the mountainside capturing several Confederate wounded and stragglers. Only nightfall kept McNeil's regiment and the remainder of the division from advancing any further. Expecting a renewed fight in the morning, McNeil's men would sleep on their arms that night. The next morning, a reconnaissance found the Confederates had retreated. McNeil and his regiment then were ordered forward in pursuit of the retreating rebels. Colonel McNeil would be killed in a sharp skirmish on the 16th, just hours before the bloody Battle of Antietam.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"If you will permit, I will tell you about the afternoon at South Mountain in 1862..."

Chaplain George Gilman Smith was a member of Philips (GA) Legion and participated in the heavy fighting that occured in the afternoon at Fox's Gap. During the course of the fighting he would recieve a rather dangerous wound. Smith writes about his motivation for going to war and the unexpected and bloody fight at Fox's Gap. He would survive his wounding and the war, writing several books. Born on Christmas Eve in 1836, he would pass away in 1913.

" If you will permit, I will tell you about the afternoon at South Mountain in 1862, when I recieved a bullet through the neck, and when night alone saved General Lee's army from capture. A year before I had been the pastor of a charming little church in a beautiful valley in upper Georgia. I was just married and ought to have been content to have staid at home, but in my veins was the blood of those who had fought in the Revolution, and when I saw my parishioners going to the front I went too, as the chaplain of the Phillips Legion. We had fifteen companies- nine of infantry, five of cavalry, and one of artillery- commanded by Col William Philips. We had had our share of hard work, but until the summer of 1862, we had no serious fighting. On the Sunday monring (September 14) on which the battle of South Mountain began, we were in camp at Hagerstown. We were expecting quite a time of repose when the order come to move towards Boonsboro. I had not the remotest dream of any hot work, nor do I think any of us had, for we had no idea that the army of the Potomac could be reorganized and mobilized so soon. We thought the assualt upon our lines was merely a feint of cavalry. This was evidently General Lee's opinion, or else he would not have allowed Jackson to have crossed the Potomac; but it was soon evident from the rapid motion of the artillery and infantry that hot work was before us. My regiment had gone and I ambled off as rapidly as I could toward the front.

Somehow I got the name of the "fighting chaplain', and candidly I did not like it, for it was neither just nor complimentary, I did not go to the army to fight, I did not fight after I got there. I had as little stomach for fighting as Falstaff had. I went to the army as a chaplain, and as a chaplain I did my work, and yet that day I got a bullet through my neck. I ought no to have gone where the bullets were flying, but I did go and I got hit, and this is how it came about.

I found Generals Lee, Longstreet and Jones, standing at the base of the pass, and with them was one of the staff officers of our brigade, Captain Young. Inquiring of him for my regiment, he told me that it was behind a stone fence on the right of the Boonsboro and Frederick Pike, and I immediately repaired to that place. A battery of light artillery was firing overhead and we lay quietly looking toward the south. Suddenly the order came to change front. We were now to face towards the west. The turnpike wa narrow, and the enemy were upon us. The change of position called for a change from line of battle to column, and then from column into line. My own regiment did beautifully and for a moment we looked to the woods expecting the Federals to charge upon us, but instead we were ordered to leave the protection of the stone wall and charge into the woods. As we entered the woods I saw a poor fellow fall and heard him say, "Lord Jesus, recieve my spirit." I went to him and said, "My friend, that's a good prayer, I hope you feel it." He answered, "Stanger, I am not afraid to die; I made my peace with God over thirty years ago." Just at that moment I heard Cook, our commander, say in a loud voice, "For God's sake don't fire; we are friends!" I turned and saw a body of our troops ready to fire. I said, "I will go back, colonel, and stop them." As I ran back to the fence, I looked down the very road we had just left, and saw a body of Federals moving upon us. Something had ot be done, and I ran to General Drayton, our commander, and told him the position. A feint certainly must be made; if the Federals should know that the stone fence was abandoned, they would sweep upon the fence and capture the last man. Major Gest, when he saw how matters were, placed the few men had had in position; and I started for my regiment. As I came to the pike, I saw a soldier shooting towards the east. It took but a moment for me to see that the Federals were east, south, and west of us.

The firing was now fierce, but I felt that my regiment must be brought out of that pocket at all hazards, and I started to warn it, when I found it retreating. Poor Ellis, a Welchman, had run the gauntlet and given them the warning, and the regiment was now retreating in a broken and confused manner. One of the boys, Gus Tomlinson, in tears said: "Parson, we've been whipped; the regiment is retreating." "And none too soon either," said I, "for we are surrounded on all sides but one." Just then I felt a strange dizziness and fell, my arm dropping lifeless by my side. I knew that I was hit, and I thought mortally wounded. But where was I hit? Was my arm torn off by a shell? No, here that is. Was i shot through the breast? or- yes, here it was - blood was gurgling from my throat. The dear boys rushed to me, laid me on a blanket and bore me off the field. I thought I was mortally wounded; so did they. "Yea, parson," said they, "It's all up with you." The ball had entered my neck, and ranging downward, came out near my spine paralyzing my arm. How does a man feel under such circumstances? Well one thing I felt, and that was, that it's a good thing in such an hour to have faith in in Christ and love towards all men. I had been in battle but there was not one of the soldiers of the Federal ranks for whom i had any feeling other than love. As we came out Hood's division went in, but it was the caution of the Federals and the cover of the night that saved our army from a worse defeat and from capture."


W.C. King and W.P. Derby. Camp-Fire Sketches and Battle-field Echoes: A Fighting Chaplain Experience at the Battle of South Mountain - Fierce Mortar Duels. (Springfield, Mass: King, Richardson, & Co., 1886). 147-149.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Tell my command that if not in body, I will be with them in spirit." : The 9th Corps remembers Major General Jesse Reno

Jesse Reno was killed just as the fighting at Fox's Gap ended on the night of September 14th, 1862. As he lay dying under a massive oak tree, Reno in his last breath ordered those nearby, "Tell my command that if not in body, I will be with them in spirit." With those words, Jesse Reno closed his eyes for the last time.

The effort by survivors of the 9th Corps to memorialize their fallen commander at South Mountain began when the Society of the Burnside Expedition and 9th Army Corps set in place plans to erect a monument to Reno on the battlefield at Fox's Gap. At the meeting of the society in 1888, a resolution was put before the veterans and it was decided to erect a memorial to General Reno. Here is the resolution passed during this meeting:

"Resolved, That a committee consisting of a member from each organization in the 9th Corps participating in the Battle of South Mountain, September 14, 1862, be appointed, which committee is hereby authorized to solicit subscriptions to be used in the erection of of a suitable memorial - costing not over $1,000 - to designate the spot where our great soldier and commander, General Jesse L. Reno, was killed, the same to be in position by September 14, 1889, on which day it shall be dedicated by this society. The commitee are authorized to make all necessary arrangements."

With this resolution, the men who fought under Reno took their commanders last words to heart. The commanding general may not be there in body, but his spirit was. The society appointed General John Hartranft to head the memorial committee and the President of the society would appoint other members to the committee. Also during this meeting, several of the regiments represented pledged on the spot to contribute $100 to the effort.

For the next year, Hartranft and his committee raised funds and looked into locating the site of Reno's wounding and purchasing the property. When the next meeting came about in June 1889, General Hartranft reported that funding was being raised at a suitable rate but the form of the monument, the commitee had decided, was to be placed before the society for suggestions. With this report, it appeared the monument would not be ready by September. A motion was made to delay the dedication for one year, but was quickly withdrawn after heated discussions. In the end, the society decided to leave the design and arrangements up to those members serving on the memorial committee.

With this vote, the committee set about designing the monument and finding a suitable location. With little time left before the monument would be dedicated, the location of General Reno's wounding was determined and the rights to the land were purchased for erection of the memorial. The design of the memorial would be a short, granite column with crowned at the top with a Maryland Cross on each side to commerate the 1862 Maryland Campaign. On each side would be an inscription dedicated to General Reno. On the North face (front) would be, from top to bottom: 9th Corps September 14, 1862 Reno. The Ninth Corps insignia would also appear on this side. On the West facing side the inscription reads: This monument marks the spot where Gen. Jesse Lee Reno, commanding 9th Army Corps U.S. Vol's, was killed in battle Sept. 14, 1862. On the South side is a listing of Reno's battles during his career: Battles. Vera Cruz; Cerro Gordo; Cantretras; Churubusco; Chapultepec; Roanoke Island; New Berne; Camden; Bull Run; Chantilly and South Mountain. On the east side is the dedication inscription: Erected by the survivors of the 9th Army Corp to their Commander and Comrade September 14, 1889.

With the monument completed and placed, all was set to go on September 14, 1889. The day dawned cold and wet but nevertheless, nearly 1,000 people gathered for the ceremony. The dedication speech was read by one of Reno's division commanders, Orlando Willcox. A photo of the dedication ceremony appears in William F. McConnell's Remember Reno: A Biography of Major General Jesse Lee Reno attesting to the size of the crowd that gathered.

Following the dedication, the society appropriated the remaining funds from the memorial to construction of a stonewall around the monument. The society raised $1,009 and the memorial cost just over $688 to construct and place. A fund was also established to pay a local caretaker to tend to the monument in the absence of society members. The society also ordered 500 copies to be made outlining the dedication ceremony proceedings along with a photo of Reno and of the memorial. The little booklets were entitled Reno Memorial South Mountain, MD: Unveiled September 14, 1889, Its Inception, Erection, and Dedication. The monument is a testement to the love a general's soldiers have for the commander, nearly 30 years after he was killed in battle. Today, the monument is cared for by the National Park Service.


The Society of the Army of the Potomac. Report of the 19th Annual Re-Union at Gettysburg, PA July 1st, 2d, & 3d, 1888. (New York: Macgowan & Slipper, 1888). Pg. 59-60

The Society of the Army of the Potomac. Report of the 20th Annual Re-Union at Orange, New Jersey, June 12th & 13th, 1889. (New York: MacGowan & Slipper, 1889), 90-91.

The Society of the Army of the Potomac. Report of the 21st Annual Re-Union at Portland, ME July 3d & 4th, 1890. (New York: MacGowan & Slipper, 1890). Pg. 80-81.

William F. McConnell. Remember Reno: A Biography of Major General Jesse Lee Reno. (Shippensburg,Pa: White Mane Publishing,1996).