South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

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).

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