in the Civil War
General Reynolds and Emmitsburg
the Gettysburg Campaign started to unfold, the Army of the
Potomac, under the newly appointed commander General George Meade,
took up defenses around a river known as the Pipe Creek. General
Meade was only in command for a few days after Washington relieved
General Joseph Hooker on the night of June 27th in Frederick,
Maryland. The Confederate army was in Maryland and in
Pennsylvania. The Union army did not know the exact location of
their counterparts. On July 1st, General Meade devised a plan to
stop an invasion by forming a defensive line that would stretch
from Middleburg to Manchester, Maryland. This was known as the
Pipe Creek Defense Line.
The line was drawn to protect Baltimore and Washington from the
invading forces. After several engagements in southern Adams and
Franklin Counties, Pennsylvania and at York and Carlisle, the
Confederate army started moving south and east. This brought some
of the skirmishes towards the northwest part of the Emmitsburg
area. Emmitsburg started to see those troops in gray heading
toward Gettysburg in late June. Soon after that, the left wing of
the Union Army under General Reynolds started to head toward
June 29th General Reynolds issued is orders to his division
commanders. They would march from Frederick, Maryland heading to
the Mason Dixon Line to the small town of Emmitsburg. The orders
that General Reynolds issued are as follows:
"General Orders, Headquarters
First Army Corps, Numbers 70. June 29, 1863.
The First Corps will march this
morning at 4 a. m. in the following order: The Second Division,
the Third Division, the First Division, by Lewistown and
Mechanicstown to Emmitsburg, keeping to the left of the road from
Frederick to Lewistown between J. P. Kramer's and where the road
branches to Utica and Creagerstown, to enable the Eleventh Corps
to march parallel to it. Headquarters will be at Middleburg
tonight. Strong exertions are required and must be made to prevent
straggling. The First Division will furnish the guard for the
train, and the commanding officer of it will report here for
orders at 4. a. m. He will be furnished by the division commander
with a copy of the orders issued today from these headquarters in
reference to the march of the rear guard. The artillery will march
in the rear of the leading division, which is the Second,
detailing a section of rifled guns to report to the commanding
officer of the rear guard.
By command of Major-General
Reynolds: William Riddle, Major and Acting Assistant
the first portions of the Army of the Potomac traveled toward
Emmitsburg, a local farmer and his family who lived near
Mechanicstown gave bread to the troops in blue. The column
continued its march toward the Mason and Dixon Line. An Illinois
officer wrote about the rich farmland and as his unit came into
Emmitsburg he quoted: “His weary soldiers found themselves near a
Catholic Convent. The beauty and tranquility of this place, so
strikingly in contrast with a military tumult which suddenly
invested it, are vividly remembered.”
General Reynolds and his staff approached Emmitsburg, General
Reynolds rode ahead of his columns and entered the town. Once
there, Reynolds and his staff tried to recruit locals to cross
over the Catoctin Mountain Gaps to observe and report in detail
the movements of the Confederate Army.
The Union forces, tired from a day's march from Frederick and
Middletown, Maryland set camp in Emmitsburg. The soldiers'
campsite covered the grounds of the present day National Fire
Academy and reached almost to what is now the Post Office. The
town’s residents welcomed the men in blue. After seeing the damage
done by the fire on June 15th, the men in blue thought that the
rebel army had torched the town. They soon found out that it was
actually a stable fire that caused three sections of the town's
square to burn down. The rebels were cleared of this false
June 30th Emmitsburg became the supply base for the Union army.
Major General John Reynolds, commander of the Left Wing of the
Union Army consisting of the First, Third, and the Eleventh Corp,
was moving towards Emmitsburg. Parts of the First and Eleventh
Corps came through Emmitsburg during the day. The First Corp came
into Emmitsburg to obtain supplies that the army needed. There the
First Corp set camp and mustered to receive their pay. At the
Southern end of town, towards Mount Saint Mary's College, the
eleventh Corp, under the command of General Oliver O' Howard, made
their way into Emmitsburg. General Howard made his headquarters at
Mount Saint Mary's. During the early evening hours General
Reynolds decided to break camp and move the First Corp to Marsh
Creek, which is located about five miles north of Emmitsburg. Just
across the Mason Dixon line, General Reynolds made his
headquarters at the Moritz Tavern.
General Reynolds corps marches out of Emmitsburg, members of
General O. Howard’s corps started to lie out camp on the grounds
of Saint Joseph’s Academy. An officer quoted that the Sisters of
Charity supplied them with a good dinner that was truly enjoyed.
While relaxing, General Carl Schurz performed a small recital on
the academy’s chapel organ.
soon as General Reynolds set up his headquarters, he received a
message from General Buford stating that the rebel forces were now
at Cashtown, advancing towards Gettysburg. General Reynolds
forwarded the message to General Howard as well as to General
Meade, whose headquarters were at Bridgeport, just east of
Emmitsburg. General Howard was instructed to position his men to
Reynolds' left in case the Confederates happened to come from the
direction of Fairfield. By this time it seemed that the
Confederates were moving towards Emmitsburg.
General Meade replies to General Reynolds as follows:
"Headquarters Army of the Potomac, Taneytown, June 30, 1863-11. 30
is received. The enemy undoubtedly occupies the Cumberland Valley,
from Chambersburg, in force; whether the holding of the Cashtown
Gap is to prevent our entrance, or is their advance against us,
remains to be seen. With Buford at Gettysburg and Mechanicstown,
and a regiment in front of Emmitsburg, you ought to be advised in
time of their approach. In case of an advance in force either
against you or Howard at Emmitsburg, you must fall back to that
place, and I will re-enforce you from the corps nearest to you,
which are Sickle's, at Taneytown, and Slocum's, at Littlestown.
advised of the general position of the army. We are as
concentrated as my present information of the position of the
enemy justifies. I have pushed out the cavalry in all directions
to feel for them, and so soon as I can make up any positive
opinion as to their position, I will move again. In the meantime,
if they advance against me, I must concentrate at that point where
they show the strongest force. Please get all the information you
can, and post yourself up in the roads and routes of
communication. The only news we have beyond yours is that Stuart,
with a large cavalry force, was in Westminster last night, and
moved toward Gettysburg. Supposed the same force that has been
ravaging in our rear.
George. G. Meade, Major General
P. S. If,
after occupying your present position, it is your judgment that
you would be in better position at Emmitsburg than where you are,
you can fall back without waiting for the enemy or further orders.
Your present position was given more with a view to an advance on
Gettysburg, than a defensive point."
During the evening, General Howard rode out to see General
Reynolds at the Moritz Tavern. There they ate dinner and looked
over maps. General Reynolds wrote a dispatch to General Meade
telling him about the movements of the Confederate army. With that
dispatch, General Reynolds also sent a message to General Meade
that in case of a Confederate break-through, a defensive plan was
required. General Reynolds wrote that a position north of
Emmitsburg was a good place to make a stand. If they were to fight
a defensive battle in this vicinity, north of Emmitsburg, the
Confederate force would undoubtedly turn the western wing by way
of Fairfield. After sending out the message to General Meade, the
commander made his way to bed. On the ride back to Mount Saint
Mary's, General Howard thought that General Reynolds seemed
distracted. Perhaps the General was thinking about his love,
Catherine Hewitt, or maybe he somehow knew the coming of day would
be his last on earth.
General Reynolds met Catherine Hewitt in California in 1860. There
they fell in love with one another. General Reynolds was then
transferred to West Point. Miss Hewitt traveled back east with
General Reynolds; while there she attended school in Pennsylvania
at Sacred Heart Academy near Torresdale. General Reynolds and
'Kate,' as he called her secretly planned to marry, however the
marriage was postponed by the start of the war. They decided
instead to get married after the war had ended, as so many others
planned to do.
Early in the morning on July 1st, General Reynolds awoke his staff
officer. The orders of the day were to move within supporting
distance of General Buford outside of Gettysburg. Orders were then
sent out to General Howard whose Eleventh Corp was still at
Emmitsburg. The Eleventh Corp was ordered to march out and support
the First Corp outside of town. Another dispatch was sent to
General Sickels, who was in command of the Third Corp. General
Sickels near Bridgeport, Maryland was told to report the location
of his command and if he was heading towards Emmitsburg.
General Reynolds rode up the Old Emmitsburg Road, he could hear
that Buford was already engaged at the town of Gettysburg. On the
road with him were civilians, already fleeing the town of
Gettysburg. General Reynolds rode to see General Buford and to
have him detail what was happening on the field. General Buford
stated that General Henry Heth's Division was to their front and
that they were part of A.P. Hill's Corp.
General Reynolds deployed the First Corp next to General Buford's
Cavalry outside of Gettysburg. General Reynolds had mixed feelings
as to where to deploy his men. First, he wanted to take the high
ground known to us today as the Round Tops. Realizing this action
would leave the town of Gettysburg to the Confederates, General
Reynolds decided to stay and fight. After seeing the Confederates
moving towards Herbst Woods, Reynolds gave orders to a courier to
move past Meredith's Brigade to confront the Confederates there.
General Reynolds then hurried down towards Herbst Woods.
There he confronted the second Wisconsin and ordered them to move
forward into line at double quick time. As the regiment moved
towards the woods with General Reynolds in front, a volley came
from the Confederates. At this time General Reynolds turned from
his saddle looking for other regiments to reinforce the second
Wisconsin. Shot by a sharp shooter's rifle, he fell to the ground.
His last orders were "for God's sake, forward". General Reynolds'
aides jumped to the ground to help him and moved his body back
towards the Seminary to seek medical assistance. As the General
was laid to the ground it was discovered that the bullet had
struck him below the right ear and by the time a surgeon came onto
the scene, General Reynolds had already passed away.
upon hearing of the death of General Reynolds came to Philadelphia
to view his body and there the engagement was finally revealed.
While preparing the general for burial the family discovered a
locket around his neck and a ring on his finger with the
inscription "Dear Kate". The family was at first shocked upon the
learning the secret, but after Ms. Hewitt sat down with the family
and explained the story of the engagement, the family took Ms.
Hewitt in as if she was one of them. Heartbroken and grieved,
Catherine Hewitt came to Emmitsburg and entered a convent called
the Sisters of Charity. Ms. Hewitt Sister Hildegardi. Kate kept in
touch with the Reynolds family until 1868 when she left the
convent and was never seen or heard from again.
other articles by John Miller
Mike Hillman's Account of the Emmitsburg role in the
Battle of Gettysburg