Lancaster Pa., July 8, 1863
We notice that many of the army correspondents gave a false impression in regard to the circumstances under which the late Major General Reynolds lost his life; and none that we have read state the facts correctly. It has been said that General Reynolds, who commanded the advance, brought on the fight prematurely by his impetuosity, and against the wishes of Gen, Meade. The facts as we gather them from the most reliable source, are these: Buford's cavalry had been engaged with the enemy's advance some distance beyond Gettysburg. As the General and his staff approached the town they were met by a couple of citizens, who stated, that the enemy were driving the cavalry back into Gettysburg. Hearing this Gen, Reynolds urged on his advance at the double quick, His quick military eyes saw at a glance, the the importance of the position, which the enemy was evidently aiming to secure. So intent was the advance of both armies on securing that position, that both were advancing without skirmishers thrown out. Gen. Reynolds, held , as his theory, that in great battles the officer in command should select his position in person, and not entrust that important work to his engineers. Acting upon this principle his eye had seized, as if by intuition, upon this position, and he had himself posted three regiments of his advance brigade. He was placing the fourth in position and had just sent an aid to Gen. Meredith with an earnest order for that officer to hurry up his brigade. Mr. Vail, his Orderly, who was less then ten paces from him at the time, says that order was the last words the General uttered. His earnest and emphatic manner showed the importance he attached to the prompt execution of the order. Turning around in his saddle to watch the movement, the advance of both armies exchanged vollies and Gen. Reynolds fell, a minnie ball having entered the base of the brain, producing instant death.
It is the Opinion of his officers that if Gen. Reynolds had not fallen at that critical juncture, he would have been able to hold the position, and those familiar with the ground say that our troops would then have an immense advantage. In other words, the great advantages which would thus have been gained, fully justified Gen. Reynolds, in a military sense, in the gallant effort he made to secure and hold the heights beyond Gettysburg against the rebals. Those correspondents, therefore, who charge him with rashly bringing on a premature engagement, do the heroic dead great injustice, as will be, manifest to all when the military history of that eventful day is impartially written.
A press upon our time and our columns has prevented us sooner from publishing the eloquent and appropriate remarks of Rev. Walter Powell at General Reynolds' Funeral. We have already published a sketch of his military history. The beautiful tribute which follows completes the record:
It is with a sincere diffidence that I rise to speak on an occasion like this, made interesting by a thousand considerations. I feel that I may be able to speak some honest words, if not elegant ones. The feelings with which we are inspired, or rather oppressed, are not such as require any elaborate language. We mourn with a profound sorrow, and must be indulged in the spontaneous words of the heart.
The fortune of War has brought us together in solemn state to mingle our tears over a soldiers grave. Our grief is not without some mixture of pride, for we remember that he stood high in the Nation's confidence and fell in leading brave men to the charge. the fatal instruments of death know no exempts in the favor of such honored ones, but the officer and the private alike fall before their destructive way: It gives no assurance of life to be elevated to the glory of command. Nay, the honor, it would seem, is only purchased by the greater hazard.
It mitigates our sorrow to consider the cause in which he fell. It were a grief of far greater poignancy, if he had died of any of the common ills of life. Fighting to prescribe the integrity of his country, not only adds lustre to his name, but so reflects upon us, that we can bear his loss with a quiter resignation. When we bury our fathers and brothers who have fallen in the battle field, it should not be forgotten that the cause in which they died, is an honor of greater comfort to the patriotic heart then volumes of ordinary condolence. Our country drinks not our kindred blood to yield us no recompense in the hour of bereavement.
But, what is any private loss considered by the side of the loss our country has suffered? An able general, in such a time as this is worth more then the best Cabinets and the wisest of statesmen. O, how many have fallin? I cannot think of it without a tear. My poor country weeps today like a tender mother at the graves of her sons. She shares a mourners place in this cortege, and challenges the loss, which family endearment has experienced to be compared to hers. To find for her armies generals worthy of her confidence has been the most painful duty of her struggle. She loses her tried ones only to be plunged into greater humiliating tentations. Well may she weep over her tried ones fallen!
Once more, my friends, are we taught that lesson which has been so often repeated in this war, that "the paths of glory lead but to the brave." How ambitious have been our military sons to take our most responsible places. But no sooner have their brows begun to wear the laurels of well fought battles, then the pale messenger of death, that cavalryman of Apocalyptic visin, has cut them down in their pride. Swelling with hope and great expectations, brains teeming with high projects, imaginations glowing with visions of glory-like a bubble of the air all has burst before them, and a melancholy grave has swallowed down their generous ambition. Shall military pomp escape the inevitable fate? Shall that road to honor which leads through bloody battle-fields have an exemption denied to more peaceful path ! Ah, no !-bear witness, ye sleeping corse, now all glory from the from the scene of strife ! Another sad commentary, thou, upon the vanity of human hopes.
I may not be any adequate reimbursement to human affliction for its loss, to have the name of one's kindred live ever bright in a nation's history ; but the soul must be very dead to all human ambition, which does not quit its tears for a time and grow cheerful over such a reflection. Mourning friends, yours is the sorrow of brothers and sisters, of kindred very nearly allied. Human glory may not move you now; But the day is not distant when a clammer mood shall possess your hearts, and then it will be no small part of your consolation to find the dead you mourn has made a name, about which the historian writes in his choicest style. You shall have sympathy in your sorrow from generations yet unborn. The fall of Gen. Reynolds will stand as a beacon-light to the future navigator of this tumultuous strait in human history, and he will count his whereabouts thereby. We may even venture to suppose that the light of re-established order in American Government will begin to dawn upon him and hold hold out its cheerful prospects.
It is with propriety, my friends, that we mourn with those who mourn here to-day. He who died in the defence of our homes deserves more then a friendly furnel respect, the common decency of such occasions. The sacrifice he made of himself commands us to forget that we are not brothers and sisters by the affinities of blood. Our mourning should be, and is, of the sincerity which swells up the kindred hearts. We shall not allow him to be called theirs alone who base their claim on family ties. He was a nation's son, and all the people shall mourn him as their loss.
Today is the anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence. What a day for a military hero to be buried on ! I cannot refrain from a reflection upon such a conjecture. It recalls to me the unity that was then felt, and professed. Alas ! that it should now be necessary to make such sacrifices to preserve it. But it is some consolation to know that the spirit which actuated our fathers is not yet wholly dead, and that there are those ready to fight and die for the integrity of our nation. To-day we are asserting against a domestic, what we then asserted against a forgin foe. And the funeral pageants of our fallen braves are the periods to the style of our Declaration. We breathe and reflect at them, only to grow more stern in our voice.
But we must restrain our words. It were fondness to linger longer at his open grave. The work is not yet wholly done in which he so gloriously died. Take up his fallen sword and go forth. Leave him to his quiet resting-place. May the dust lie lightly upon his coffin and when the grass shall again start above him, may the tears of affection and love keep it ever green.