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Jesse L. Reno


General Jesse Lee Reno (April 20, 1823-September 14, 1862) was born in Wheeling. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1846, eighth in a class that also included George B. McClellan, George Pickett, and another cadet from (West) Virginia, Thomas J. Jackson, later known as Stonewall.

Reno served in a howitzer battery throughout the Mexican War of 1846–48. He twice was promoted for gallant and meritorious conduct, to first lieutenant at the Battle of Cerro Gordo and to captain at the Battle of Chapultepec, in which he was wounded.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Reno was in command of a federal arsenal in Alabama when it was seized by state forces in January 1861. He later commanded the U.S. arsenal at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, until called east in late 1861 to take command of a brigade, for which he was promoted to brevet brigadier general. Reno led his brigade in Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s expedition to the coast of North Carolina, participating in the attack and capture of Roanoke Island and New Bern in 1862. Reno was soon elevated to division command, and then to brevet major general. His division participated in the Union debacle at Second Manassas, with Reno temporarily commanding Burnside’s 9th Corps during part of the campaign.

Reno was felled by enemy fire at Fox’s Gap during the battles for South Mountain, Maryland, and died a few minutes later. In a last conversation with Brig. Gen. Samuel Sturgis, himself a member of the Class of 1846, Reno said, ‘‘Hello Sam, I’m dead.’’ The city of Reno, Nevada, was named in General Reno’s memory.

Written by Mark A. Snell


  1. Cullum, George Washington. Biographical Register of the Officers and Cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1891.

  2. Sears, Stephen W. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. New Haven & New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1983.

  3. Waugh, John C. The Class of 1846, from West Point to Appomattox. New York: Warner Books, 1994.