Jesse Lee Reno (April 20, 1823 – September 14, 1862) was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican–American War, the Utah War, the western frontier, and as a Union General during the American Civil War. Known as a "soldier's soldier" who fought alongside his men, he was killed while commanding a corps at Fox's Gap during the Battle of South Mountain. Reno County, Kansas, El Reno, Oklahoma, Reno, Nevada, Reno, Pennsylvania and Fort Reno in Washington, D.C. were named after him.
When he returned from Utah in 1859, Reno was promoted to captain for fourteen years of continuous service. Captain Reno then took command of the Mount Vernon Arsenal near Mount Vernon, Alabama, in 1859. At dawn on January 4, 1861, Reno was forced to surrender the arsenal to troops from Alabama, a bloodless transfer ordered by the governor of Alabama, Andrew B. Moore. Alabama seceded from the Union a week later.
Upon leaving Alabama with his small force, Reno was temporarily assigned to command the Fort Leavenworth Arsenal until he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers in the fall of 1861. He transferred to Virginia, took command of the 2nd Brigade, Burnside Expeditionary Force, and soon had organized five regiments. The 2nd Brigade fought in Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's North Carolina Expedition from February through July 1862. Reno became a division commander in the IX Corps, which had become part of the Army of the Potomac. In the Northern Virginia Campaign, Reno actively opposed his friend and classmate Stonewall Jackson during the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Chantilly. Reno was appointed a major general on August 20, 1862. (This promotion was confirmed posthumously on March 9, 1863, with date of rank established as July 18, 1862.) Burnside became commander of the Army of the Potomac's right wing for the start of the Maryland Campaign in September, elevating Reno to command of the IX Corps from September 3.
Reno had a reputation as a "soldier's soldier" and often was right beside his troops without a sword or any sign of rank. On September 12, 1862, Reno's IX Corps spent the day in Frederick, Maryland, as the Army of the Potomac under Maj. Gen. George McClellan advanced westward in pursuit of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Elements of Lee's army defended three low-lying "gaps" of South Mountain—Crampton's, Turner's, and Fox's—while concentrating at Sharpsburg, Maryland, to the west, the location of the subsequent Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862). In the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, Reno stopped directly in front of his troops as he reconnoitered the enemy's forces advancing up the road at Fox's Gap. He was hit in the chest by a Confederate sharpshooter's bullet. He was brought by stretcher to Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis's command post and said in a clear voice, "Hallo, Sam, I'm dead!" Sturgis, a long-time acquaintance and fellow member of the West Point Class of 1846, thought that he sounded so natural that he must be joking and told Reno that he hoped it was not as bad as all that. Reno repeated, "Yes, yes, I'm dead—good-by!", dying a few minutes later. In his official report, Confederate general D. H. Hill sarcastically remarked, "The Yankees on their side lost General Reno, a renegade Virginian, who was killed by a happy shot from the Twenty-third North Carolina."
Inventory Number: CDV 033