Behind The Stonewall

The Memorial For General Reynolds - Gettysburg Pennsylvania



About what you are looking at...

(July 1, 1863 - mid-morning)  The viewer is standing just inside the east edge of Herbst Woods on McPherson's Ridge south of the Chambersburg Pike (modern day US Rte. 30), and the McPherson farm.   Using the short monument in the foreground as a reference, the viewer will be looking west into Herbst Woods.  Note that the appearance of a downhill slope is correct, and the slope leads to Willoughby Run, with Herr's Ridge farther to the west. Archer's Brigade, of Heth's Division of Hill's Corps, Army of Northern Virginia made their assault through these woods.  Arriving just in time, the men of Solomon Meredith's Iron Brigade of the Union Ist Corps entered these woods in a counter-charge against the Alabama and Tennessee troops of Archer's Brigade.  The Iron Brigade, comprised of midwesterners from the 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan, 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin had earned their reputation in battles in Virginia in the early part of the war.   Wearing distinctive black leather hats, the men grew a reputation as stubborn fighters, one of the better units in the Army of the Potomac.   It is said that on their approach, the Confederates were heard to mutter, "Here come them d**n Black Hats again!"   The Iron Brigade slammed into Archers' men, sending them reeling back across Willoughby Run, capturing about a thousand men including their Brigadier, James J. Archer.


Their success did not come without cost however.  Only days earlier, Major General John F. Reynolds, of nearby Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had declined command of the Army of the Potomac when Major General Joseph Hooker resigned during the last week of June.   Reynolds wished a free hand with the army, which Washington (Lincoln, Secretary of War Stanton, and Chief of Staff Major General Henry Halleck) were reluctant to grant.   In truth, Reynolds was a fine leader, who preferred to be in front of his troops.   A veteran of the War with Mexico, and Military Academy graduate, Reynolds had amassed a service record the envy of all.  Liked by those who commanded him, and those he commanded alike, Reynolds was a soldier's soldier.  A sign of respect for him was shown when he was asked, since he would not take command, who he thought should.   His unhesitating reply, "George Meade".  Hooker had placed him in command of the left wing of the Army of the Potomac (Ist, IIIrd, and XIth Corps), and Meade kept him there.  Arriving at the scene of the battle in front of his troops, Reynolds conferred briefly with Brigadier General John Buford, commanding a small cavalry division of two brigades.  Those cavalrymen, fighting dismounted, had been holding McPherson's Ridge in hopes of giving the Union infantry time to come up from the south and take position on the high ground east and south of the town of Gettysburg.  Their stout defense had been holding for an hour, but now was on the verge of collapse.   Just in time, the lead elements of Reynolds old Corp (Ist Corps) came out of the woods on Seminary Ridge to the southeast.  Reynolds rode to the edge of Herbst Woods, urging the Iron Brigade forward.  He called out to them, "Forward, forward men!  Drive those fellows out of that (Herbst Woods)!   Forward!  For God's sake forward!".  Minutes later he toppled from his horse, shot through the neck below the ear.  The marker used as a reference marks the spot where Reynolds is said to have fallen.

W. G. Davis


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