A Civil War Biography

Joseph Jones Reynolds

Reynolds was born 4 January 1822 in Flemingsburg, Kentucky. At fifteen he moved to Lafayette, Indiana with his family. He briefly attended Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, before receiving an appointment to West Point. He graduated from the US Military Academy 10th in the class of 1843.

He was initially assigned to the 4th US Artillery which did garrison duty in Virginia and Pennsylvania. In 1845 the 4th Artillery was sent to Texas to join occupation troops under Zachary Taylor. A year later Reynolds was assigned as an instructor of history and geography at West Point where he remained until 1855. In 1857 after a tour of duty in Indian Territory, Reynolds, then a 1st lieutenant in the 3rd US Artillery, resigned his commission and taught mechanics and engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for the next 4 years. In 1860 he went into partnership in the grocery business in Lafayette with his brother.

When the war started Reynolds returned to the military on 25 April 1861as a colonel in the 10th Indiana militia. He was named brigadier general of Indiana volunteers then on 14 June 1861 was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers in the US Army to rank from 17 May 1861. Interestingly there were 34 brigadier generals of volunteers whose date of rank was 17 May, the earliest date of rank given any brigadier general. When the War Department ranked these 34 brigadiers by seniority Reynolds was listed 19th just after Ulysses Grant, a classmate of Reynolds. William T. Sherman was listed 7th, Fitz John Porter 5th. The others faded into obscurity. In September 1861 Reynolds was given command of the Cheat Mountain District and commanded a brigade under William S. Rosecrans at Cheat Mountain.

Reynolds resigned from the army on 23 January 1862 to tend to his grocery business following the death of his brother. While back in Indiana he helped organize troops. He was again appointed brigadier general of volunteers on 17 September 1862. He was promoted to major general of volunteers on 29 November 1862 and led a division during the Tullahoma campaign. He distinguished himself at Chickamauga commanding the 5th division of the XIV Corps. On 10 October 1863 he was named chief of staff of the Army of the Cumberland, then commanded by George H. Thomas and retained that position until after Chattanooga. On 25 January 1864 Reynolds was assigned to the Department of the Gulf and took over command of the defenses at New Orleans. On 7 July 1864 he was named commander of the XIX Corps and organized the campaign against Mobile, Alabama. On 22 December he was sent to Arkansas in command of the VII Corps and the department.

He was mustered out of the volunteer service on 1 September 1866 but prior to that, in July 1866, he had returned to the regular army as a colonel in the 26th Infantry. He was brevetted brigadier and major general in the US Army on 2 March 1867. He was transferred to Texas and commanded the sub district of the Rio Grande. In 1870 he was transferred to the 3rd US Cavalry. Before the end of reconstruction in Texas Reynolds tried to get himself elected to the US Senate by the carpetbag Texas legislature. His election was, however, successfully contested and Reynolds never served in the Senate. The end of military occupation ended his political aspirations. He commanded various places in Nebraska and Wyoming. On 17 March 1876 he attacked and captured a Sioux village on the Powder River in Montana. He retreated for no apparent reason leaving behind his dead and a wounded private who was tortured to death. Although the findings of a court marshal were overturned Reynolds resigned on 25 June 1877. He retired to Washington, DC where he died on 25 February 1899.

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