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A General’s Secret Love

The name John Fulton Reynolds evokes bittersweet emotions. This gallant son of Pennsylvania is well-remembered as the West Point educated, superbly talented career military officer who distinguished himself as a senior general and commander during the first half of our Civil War. He is also well-remembered for his tragic death during the first day’s fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Students of the war will be familiar with illustrator Alfred R. Waud’s “The Fall of Reynolds” showing the general in the moment of death as he lurches in the saddle, gauntleted hands thrown forward, cap flying from his head, horse rearing.

Library of Congress.
Library of Congress.

His untimely loss snuffed out one of the brightest stars in the galaxy of Union generals, and left many wondering what might have been if the bullet had not hit him that fateful day.

Author Jeff Harding focuses his new book, Gettysburg’s Lost Love Story: The Ill-Fated Romance of General John Reynolds and Kate Hewitt, on another, forgotten misfortune: That of Catherine “Kate” Mary Hewitt, who lost her fiancé when Reynolds perished.

Harding, a licensed battlefield guide at Gettysburg National Military Park, had previously worked as a civilian employee of the Department of the Navy in a variety of roles. He teamed up with genealogist Mary Stanford Pitkin for this project.

The result of their collaboration is a highly readable book that is a human interest story set against the backdrop of a culture governed by social customs of Victorian society and a divisive war that had been building for decades, and exploding with powerful and deadly force that cost a fortune in blood and treasure.

In the middle of this cauldron are Kate and John. His life has been profusely documented in text and visuals. Her life is largely a mystery. Until now. Harding shines a light on Kate’s journey of perseverance, including revelations and scandals, and a secret prewar engagement to the accomplished Reynolds.

As Harding notes in the introduction, “this book combines the story of Kate Hewitt’s life with that of John Reynolds in a manner that provides you with an enhanced understanding of each individual’s life while also detailing Kate’s relationship with, and engagement to, John Reynolds.” It is also nicely illustrated with period photographs and art.

In the end, you’ll see another side of Reynolds, and get to know the woman who might have been his wife. A highly recommended read.

Gettysburg’s Lost Love Story: The Ill-Fated Romance of General John Reynolds and Kate Hewitt
Jeffrey J. Harding
192 pages
The History Press
Softcover (major booksellers and

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