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"Remember Reno"

"Remember Reno"
Gen. Jesse L. Reno
Image Size 11" x 15"
Release Date: August 2001
Edition size 250: 25 A/P: 15 P/P

Price: Regular Edition of 250: $160.00 Unframed plus $10.00 Flat Shipping

Price: Regular Edition of 250: $320.00 Handsomely and Professionally framed, plus $40.00 Shipping

Major General Jesse L. Reno
USMA Class of 1846

At Antietam Creek on September 17, 1862, the IX Corps crossed the Burnside Bridge under the rallying cry of “Remember Reno”. On this bloodiest day in American history, the men of the IX corps chose to remember their beloved commander who had lost his life leading his men just three days earlier at the Battle of South Mountain.

Born on April 20, 1823 in Wheeling, Virginia (West Virginia), Jesse Lee Reno was the third oldest of eight children born to Lewis and Rebecca Reno. The spelling of “Reno’ is an anglisized version of the French surname “Reynaud”. Jesse’s ancesters, having arrived in America in 1770, shortly changed the name to the phonetically simple ‘Reno”.

Jesse’s family moved to Franklin, Pennsylvania in 1830 where Jesse attended school and lived out his formulative years. An area history describes Jesse as a boy “of handsome countenence, of medium stature, brave and quick in action, and a generous companion.”

Jesse secured entrance to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1842. Joining the class of 1846, Jesse would develop friendships with fellow classmates, George B. McClellan, George E. Pickett, George Stoneman, Darius Couch and Thomas J. Jackson. He would graduate eighth in his class of 59 on July 1, 1846.

During the War with Mexico in 1847 Lt. reno would command a Rocketry and Mountain Howitzer battery. There he fought in the battles for Vera Cruz and El Telegrafo. Jesse Lee Reno would be cited for “Gallant and Meritorious Conduct” and awarded the rank of Brevet First Lieutenant for his actionat the Battle of Cerro Gordo on April 18, 1847. He would again be cited and breveted a Captain for his action at Chapultepec and Mexico city in September of 1847.

Reno's years between the Mexican War and the Civil War were spent at many posts throughout the country, including a brief stint as an assistant professor of mathematics at West Point. He was assistant to the Ordnance Board in Washington DC in the early 1850’s, where he met his wife-to-be Mary Bradley Beanes Cross. Promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant on March 3, 1853, Reno was given orders to conduct a road survey from the mouth of the Big Sioux River to Mendota, Minnesota. The survey took 2 1/2 months and laid out a route that was 279 miles long. Reno returned to Washington in the fall of 1853 to collate and compile his report.

On November 1, 1853 he wed Mary Cross at St John’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC.
Reno then spent several years as an ordnance officer at Frankford Arsenal, northeast of Philadelphia. In June of 1857 he was assigned as commander of an expediton to the Utah territories. The long 2 year assignment ended in 1859 when Reno was assigned as commander of the Mount Vernon Arsenal in Mobile Alabama.

Dawn on January 4 1861 saw Reno’s small force of 18 men overwhelmed without bloodshed by four companies of state militia. The state troops had been ordered by Alabama’s Governer Andrew B. Moore to gain control of the post. A full week before Alabama seceded from the Union, the Civil War had come to then Captain Jesse L. Reno.

Reno safely left the south and was given command of the Leavenworth, Kansas arsenal until being promoted to the rank of Brigadier General of volunteers by General Ambrose Burnside in the fall of 1861. Given command of the 2nd Brigade, he trained and organized five regiments: the 21st Massachusetts, 51st New York, 51st Pennsylvania, 9th New Jersey, and the 6th New Hampshire. Reno's brigade actively participated in Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition from February through July of 1862. They fought gallantly at Roanoke Island, New Bern and South Mills. In August Reno would directly oppose his friend and classmate, “Stonewall” Jackson at the Second Battle of Bull Run and Chantilly.

On July 12, 1862, Reno was promoted to Major General and given Command of the IX Corps. On September 12, the IX Corps spent the day and evening in Frederick Maryland. Reno and three of his Divisions were sent on to Middletown at the foot of South Mountain on the morning of the 13th. September 14th saw Pleasonton’s cavalry facing strong enemy opposition at South Mountain’s Fox’s Gap. He immediately asked Reno for infantry support and at 6 AM Reno sent his Fourth Division into the Gap. The Division commander General Jacob Cox met heavy opposition and passed word back to Reno for reinforcements.

By late in the afternoon, Reno’s entire IX Corps was up at Fox’s gap being personally directed by the General. Moving forward the Corps began driving the Confederates from Fox’s Gap. Two hours into the attack, the advance stalled along the right flank. Reno rode forward with his staff to determine the cause of the delay. Rather than go directly to the right flank, Reno chose to start at his left and ride along the entire front length of his line, commending his troops for their excellent progress and battle conduct. About halfway across the line and in an exposed position, Reno stopped to observe the enemy’s position with a telescope. Musket fire suddenly erupted from the confederate line and Reno was struck by a bullet that lodged in his chest. He was carried to the rear , where he saw his classmate and friend General Samuel Sturgis. Reno spoke to him and said “Hallo Sam, I am dead!”. Sturgis thought Reno was joking and replied,“Oh no, General, not so bad as that I hope”, to which Reno responded: “Yes, yes, I’m dead-goodbye!”

Reno was carried down the mountain and placed under a large oak tree where he was cared for by his surgeon, Dr. Calvin Cutter. At about 7 PM General Reno uttered his last words, “Tell my command that if not in body I will be with them in spirit.”

General Ambrose Burnside eulogized General Reno when he issued General Order No. 17, announcing the loss of their leader to the IX Corps.“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 has fought in his country’s service, his name always appears with the brightest luster, and he has now bravely met a soldiers death while gallantly leading his men at the Battle of South Mountain.”

My portrait of the General is a simple and respectful attempt to honor and “Remember Reno”!

Paul R. Martin III


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

Copyright 2001, Paul R Martin III, Silent Sentinel Studio, P.O. Box 551 Yorktown Heights, NY 10598 (914) 245-8903

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