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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1846

Vol. II

(Born Va.)

Jesse L. Reno

(Ap'd Pa.)


Jesse Lee Reno: Born June 20, 1823, Wheeling, WV.º

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1842, to July 1, 1846, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Ordnance, July 1, 1846.

Served: as Asst. Ordnance Officer at Watervliet Arsenal, N. Y., 1846; in the War with Mexico, 1846‑48, being engaged with Howitzer

(Second Lieut., Ordnance, Mar. 3, 1847)

Battery at the Siege of Vera Cruz, Mar. 9‑29, 1847, — Battle of Cerro Gordo, Apr. 17‑18, 1847, — Battle of Contreras, Aug. 19‑20, 1847, —

(Bvt. First Lieut., Apr. 18, 1847,
for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Cerro Gordo, Mex.)

Battle of Churubusco, Aug. 20, 1847, — and Battle of Chapultepec, Sep. 13, 1847, where he was wounded; on Special duty at Erie, Pa.,

(Bvt. Capt., Sep. 13, 1847,
for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Chapultepec, Mex.)

1848; at the Military Academy, as Asst. Professor of Mathematics, Jan. 9 to July 16, 1849; as Secretary of Board for preparing a "System of Instruction for Heavy Artillery," Oct. 1, 1849, to Oct. 15, 1850; as Assistant to Ordnance Board at Washington Arsenal, D. C., 1851‑52, 1853; on

(First Lieut., Ordnance, Mar. 3, 1853)

Topographical duty, Aug. 2, 1853, to Apr. 25, 1854, making Survey of Military Road from the mouth of the Big Sioux to Mendota, Min.; on Coast Survey, Apr. 25 to July 15, 1854; as Asst. Ordnance Officer at Frankford Arsenal, Pa., 1854‑57; as Chief of Ordnance on Utah Expedition, July 15, 1857, to June 25, 1859; in command of Mount Vernon Arsenal, Ala., 1859, till its seizure by the Rebels, Jan. 4, 1861.

Captain, Ordnance, July 1, 1860, for Fourteen Years' Continuous Service.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑62: in command of Leavenworth Arsenal, Kan., Feb. 2 to Dec. 6, 1861; in General

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Nov. 12, 1861)

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Burnside's Expedition to North Carolina, in command of Brigade, Dec. 20, 1861, to Apr., 1862, being engaged in the Capture of Roanoke Island, with its garrison and armament, Feb. 8, 1862, — Combat of Newberne, Mar. 14, 1862, — and Action of Camden, Apr. 19, 1862; in command of Division in the Department of North Carolina, Apr. to Aug., 1862; in

(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, July 18, 1862)

Movement to Newport News and the Rappahannock, Aug., 1862; in the Northern Virginia Campaign, commanding 9th Corps, Aug.‑Sep., 1862, being engaged in the Battle of Manassas, Aug. 29‑30, 1862, — and Battle of Chantilly, Sep. 1, 1862; and in the Maryland Campaign, commanding 9th Corps (Army of the Potomac), Sep., 1862, being engaged in the Battle of South Mountain, where, "while gallantly leading his men," he was

Killed, Sep. 14, 1862: Aged 39.

Buried, Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, DC.

Biographical Sketch.

Major-General Jesse L. Reno was born, June 20, 1823, in Wheeling, Va.º He was of French descent, the name being originally Renault.  p263 Upon his graduation from the Military Academy, July 1, 1846, he was promoted to the Ordnance Corps, and, immediately after, ordered to Mexico as a subaltern of a Howitzer Battery. He was engaged in all of the operations of General Scott's invasion of Mexico, from the Siege of Vera Cruz to the Storming of Chapultepec, receiving, for his "gallant and meritorious conduct," a brevet for the Battle of Cerro Gordo and another for Chapultepec, where he was wounded.

After the Mexican War, Reno was detailed as Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the Military Academy; then as Secretary of a Board to prepare a "System of Instruction for Heavy Artillery;" and, subsequently, was placed on Topographical and Coast Survey duty. In 1857 he accompanied Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert Sidney Johnston, as his Chief of Ordnance, in the Utah Expedition, on the termination of which he had command of Mount Vernon Arsenal, Ala., till seized by the Rebels, Jan. 4, 1861. Being then a Captain of Ordnance, Reno was placed in command of Leavenworth Arsenal, Kan., but was soon called into active service for suppressing the Rebellion.

General Burnside, who had been a Cadet with Reno, knowing his resolute and ambitious character, applied for him to command a Brigade in the North Carolina Expedition, then being organized. Reno, at once appointed a Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, joined the Expedition, which sailed from Hampton Roads, and, after a stormy passage, reached Hatteras Inlet, the batteries defending which were silenced by the naval vessels. The Expedition then proceeded to Roanoke Island, the northern end of which was strongly fortified. On the afternoon of Feb. 7, 1862, 10,000 Union troops were landed near the middle of the island under cover of the gunboats, and on the morning of the 8th the land attack was made in three columns, General Foster leading the centre one, with Reno on the left and Parke on the right. Foster's advance had to be made over a narrow causeway with densely wooded swamps on either side, and swept by a Rebel battery in front. The movement of the Union flanking columns, under Reno and Parke, had not been observed by the Confederates, they relying upon the supposed impenetrability of the wooded morasses, which, notwithstanding, were penetrated through deep mud and water by the gallant troops, which thus turned the enemy's flanks and put them to disorderly rout. Thus was effected the capture of the island, its forts, artillery, munitions, and garrison of 3,000 men. General Burnside, in his official despatch of Feb. 10, 1862, says: "I will be excused for saying, in reference to this action, that I owe everything to Generals Foster, Reno, and Parke, as more full details will show."

The Expedition now proceeded to Neuse River, the entrance to which was strongly fortified, but the gunboats cleared the way for the advance of the troops to the vicinity of Newberne, where the Confederates were strongly intrenched behind a broad and deep ditch, swampy ground, and a dense undergrowth of trees, many of which were felled to form a thick abatis. Notwithstanding these formidable obstacles, the enemy's works were carried after a hard struggle, and immediately Newberne was in our possession. The action of Camden soon followed, and, for ship participation in these successes, Reno was promoted, July 18, 1862, to be a Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.

Burnside, as now ordered, forwarded reinforcements to Newport News designed to aid Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan, but the Army of the Potomac was already on its retrograde move to join the Army of Virginia. Reno, with the Ninth Corps, promptly joined the latter army, and was desperately engaged, May 29‑31, in the Battle of Manassas, and Sep. 1st at Chantilly. General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pope, in his official report of Sep. 3, 1862, of this campaign, says: "I cannot express myself too highly of the zealous, gallant, and cheerful  p264 manner in which General Reno deported himself from the beginning to the end of the operations. Ever prompt, earnest, and soldierly, he was the model of an accomplished soldier and a gallant gentleman." This is high but deserved praise, for to Reno, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stevens, and Kearny, who all fell in this fateful September, Pope owed much of his safety from the jaws of destruction.

The Confederate Army having now driven its antagonist into the fortifications of Washington, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee, instead of attacking that strong position, decided to turn it by invading Maryland, hoping that "my Maryland" would receive him with open arms, and thus, the Union communications with the North being cut off, the Capital would at once become his prize. But "my Maryland" did not yield to Confederate embraces, and Lee soon found himself confronted by the Army of the Potomac at South Mountain, through which, at Turner's Gap, passes the turnpike from Frederick to Hagerstown, with country roads on either side. Reno occupied the southernmost one, where, in the severe conflict which ensued, he fell mortally wounded, and, as he was borne to the rear, said with his last breath: "Tell my command that if not in body, I will be with them in spirit." The hero's body was small, but his spirit was mighty. General Burnside in his obituary order says: —

"By the death of this distinguished officer the country loses one of its most devoted patriots, the Army one of its most thorough soldiers. In the long list of battles in which General Reno had fought in his country's service, his name always appears with the brightest lustre, and he has now bravely met a soldier's death while gallantly leading his men at the Battle of South Mountain.

"For his high character and the kindly qualities of his heart in private life, as well as for the military genius and personal daring which marked him as a soldier, his loss will be deplored by all who knew him, and the Commanding General desires to add the tribute of a friend to the public mourning for the death of one of the country's best defenders."

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Page updated: 20 Aug 16