|Photo courtesy of wikipedia|
Jesse Lee Reno
(1823 - 1862)
Home State: Pennsylvania
Command Billet: Army Corps Commander
Branch of Service: Infantry
Unit: Ninth (IX) Army Corps
Kathy: Posting fine. My mother was a Parke. We trace that line back to NW New Jersey to Micajah Parke. General Reno’s maternal grandmother was Achsah Parke Quinby. Achsah was Micajah’s sister. Their father was Joseph Parke a tavern owner and farmer in what is now Asbury, Warren county,, New Jersey. The General and I have Joseph Parke (abt 1730-1815) in common - his great grandfather and my 5th great grandfather. There is a great deal of info on the General on the Net including photos of him and monuments related to him. I’ve visited South Mountain where he died and his grave at Oak Hill Cemetery Washington D C. My story on the General has been published by the Parke Society and now that you’ve prompted me to review his story I’ll post a reference to its publication to the General’s Wikipedia entry on the Net. And I’ll try and write a paragraph or two on some other American history related to the General. lee
Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_L._Reno
Major General Jesse Lee Reno
Lee R. Christensen
“Up from the meadows rich with corn,
clear in the cool September morn,
The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.”
So begins Whittier’s Civil War poem, Barbara Frietchie. A Parke descendent, Major
General Jesse Lee Reno, IX Corp Commander, Army of the Potomac is intimately associated
with Barbara, her flag, and by extension, though not mentioned, the poem. The General’s
maternal grandmother was a Parke.
General Reno, on a September morn one week after the September morn of Whinier’s
poem, was in Frederick, Maryland. There, he met Barbara Frietchie.
After their meeting, perhaps after sipping tea or her homemade currant wine, he is reported
to have asked his brother, Colonel Benjamin Franklin Reno, “who does she put you
in mind of, Frank?” Frank replied, “Mother.” He might very well have said, “Grandmother
Grandmother Achsah was Achsah Parke Quinby, native of Sussex (now Warren) County,
New Jersey. She was a Northwest New Jersey Parke.
The Parkes had been in New Jersey since 1682 when Roger Parke, a Quaker from Hexham,
Northumberland came to West Jersey to claim and settle on acreage he had purchased
while still in England. He is thought by most of us who descend from Northwest New
Jersey Parkes to be our immigrant ancestor. But the only line that has definitive documentation
of this relationship is John’s. Achsah is not known to be on John’s line.
Achsah’s father was Joseph Parke; her mother, Sarah. In all likelihood, Joseph’s father
was also a Joseph Parke; his mother, Margaret. The antecedents for Sarah and Margaret are
unknown. They are in fact so unknown that no one has ventured an educated guess.
Joseph Parke, Achsah’s father, was a tavern owner, blacksmith and farmer. His tavern
and smithy were a short walk up the hill from Musconetcong River. This section of Sussex
County had earlier been part of Hunterdon County, then Morris County and now Warren
When Achsah was baptized on Christmas day 1768 with her two brothers, Micajah and
Charles and her sister Theodosia, the family was living in a very isolated and sparsely
settled section of New Jersey without a nearby church or village. The Reverend William
Frazer, Church of England, visited the area every third Sunday. On the Christmas Day he
baptized the four Parke children, he also baptized two other children from Mansfield Woodhouse
township. The Reverend found the area troublesome to serve; the Muskenetcunk (his
spelling) - after heavy rains-almost impassable. The residents “appear serious enough but
totally ignorant with regard to the prayers of the Church” he wrote. Services were held in
“barns and dwelling houses.” It is not recorded where the Parke children were baptized. I
would guess the icy Musconetcong.
Achsah married Samuel Quinby, a Revolutionary War veteran and a New Jersey native,
in 1784 or 1786. There is bureaucratic wrangling about the date in his pension file but
no primary evidence. Soon after the marriage, the couple moved to Washington County,
Pennsylvania where Samuel may have been living prior to their wedding. Living near them
in 1790 was her brother Micajah and his wife, the former Mary Beemer.
The Quinbys had twelve children, one of whom they named Rebecca, born in 1795,
Washington County. By 1810, the Quinbys were living in Mercer county, Pennsylvania,
Shenango Township. Living nearby was the Charles Reno family, whose oldest son, Lewis
Thomas Reno, would marry Rebecca Quinby.
Prior to 1820, Louis T. and Rebecca moved to what is now Wheeling, West Virginia,
where their third son, Jesse Lee Reno was born 20 June 1823. By 1840, the family was living
at French Creek Township, Venango County, Pennsylvania.
At age 18, still living in Venango County, Congressional district 25, Jesse Lee Reno, “a
youth of great promise,” was nominated by his congressman to be a “Cadet in the service
of the United States.” The Secretary of War notified Jesse Lee of his conditional appointment
in April. In June, he reported to West Point for his entrance examinations.
The Academy, then as now, had exacting standards for physical fitness and academic
preparation. As many as 122 conditional appointees may have reported June of 1842 for
their examinations. When the exams were over the class had 92 survivors. Four years later,
the class of 1846 graduated 59, including Jesse Lee Reno, Thomas Jackson, George Mc-
Clellan and George Picket, all of whom would be generals North or South in the Civil War.
Cadet Reno finished eighth in his class, six files behind George McClellan; nine files
ahead of Thomas Jackson. George Derby, who became a celebrated American humorist,
was seventh. Jesse Reno’s best subject was Mineralogy/Geology, where he finished sixth.
McClellan was first. Thomas Jackson’s best subject was Ethics.
In the Spring of ‘46, while the cadets were cramming for final exams, the United States
declared war on Mexico. On graduation the newly commissioned second lieutenants would
have an early opportunity to test their book learning on the battlefield. Reno was first assigned
as Assistant Ordnance officer to the Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y. By Fall of ‘46 he was
with General Winfield Scott’s forces headed for Mexico.
His war record is impressive. He earned five battle stars, was wounded once; breveted
twice, becoming) a BVT Captain, 13 September, 1847. At the battle of Chapultepec, both
he and Jackson were breveted for “Gallant and Meritorious” conduct. Both were artillery
In the peacetime years following the war with Mexico, Lt. Reno had artillery and ordnance
assignments commensurate with his high class ranking at graduation. Some were:
Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Military Academy; Secretary of the Board for preparing
a “System of Instruction for Heavy Artillery”; and Ass’t Ordnance Officer, Frankford
Another assignment took him west to the Mexican war-won country as Chief of Ordnance
on the Albert Sidney Johnston led Utah Expedition, July 1857-June 1859. On this
visit to Utah Territory he might have met his mother’s cousin, Thomas Harris Parke, who
had come to Utah with the Mormons in 1849. Thomas Harris, however, had accepted
Brigham Young’s invitation to colonize Western Nevada and was ranching in Carson Valley,
just south of the Truckee river watering stop that would be named after Jesse Lee Reno
and grow to be the “Biggest Little City in the World.”
In the Fall of’59, Captain Reno was assigned to the Mt. Vernon Arsenal, near Mobile,
Alabama, as commanding officer. In normal times this would have been a plush post, but
times were not normal. After Lincoln was elected president and the cry of secession spread
across the South the State of Alabama felt justified in seizing the Mt. Vernon Arsenal. This
they did, attacking at dawn 4 Jan 1861 with four companies of militia. They overwhelmed
its garrison of 18 men and Captain Reno.
Without prejudice over the loss of Mt. Vernon, the Army assigned Reno to command the
Leavenworth Arsenal, Kansas. This assignment would be a short one. Our national crisis
was now in full flame and the Army was looking for command leadership. In November,
Reno was promoted to Brig-General Volunteers to command a Brigade in General Burnside’s
invasion of North Carolina. By April 1862 he was commanding a division. In July,
he was promoted to Major General commanding IX Corp, Army of the Potomac.
While Jesse Lee Reno was winning rapid promotion and earning recognition as a battlefield
commander the war was not going well for Union forces. His classmate General
McClellan’s Peninsula campaign to capture Richmond had failed. General Pope’s Army of
Virginia had been outmaneuvered and defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run.
On 4 September following up his summer successes Confederate General Robert E.
Lee invaded Maryland. He crossed the Potomac north of Washington enroute to Frederick,
Maryland and points beyond. By 6 September, his troops, including Thomas Jackson, now
called Stonewall, were in Frederick. The Barbara Frietchie legend was about to begin.
The Army of the Potomac, staying between Lee’s Army and Washington, began its
march against the Confederate forces 7 September with Reno’s 1x Corp leading. By 12
September they were in Frederick which the Confederates did not seriously defend. General
Reno and his staff spent the night there.
On the morning of the 13th while riding past Barbara Frietschies, General Reno was
drawn to a crowd in front of her house. He listened to the stories of her confrontation with
Confederate troops. He dismounted and at her invitation stepped inside while she served
him a glass of her homemade currant wine. On leaving he offered to buy one of her flags.
She declined but did give him her large bunting flag. With her flag in CoL B.F. Reno’s pistol
case he rode off to face Stonewall Jackson’s Corp at South Mountain.
By mid morning 14 September the forces of General’s Reno and Jackson were engaged
at South Mountain, Fox’s Gap. By mid afternoon Reno’s entire Corp had arrived on the
He was at Fox’s Gap personally leading his command. In the early evening, he rode forward
to see what was delaying the right flank’s progress. While in front of his troops in an
exposed position he was hit by musket fife. He was carried off the mountain and died about
an hour later. Barbara Frietchie’s flag would cover General Reno’s casket at his funeral.
And just as Grandmother Achsah was part of Major General Jesse Lee Reno’s inheritance,
so is Barbara’s legend part of his legacy.
Notes, Comments and Major Sources
William F. McConnell’s Remember Reno, A Biography of Major General Jesse Lee
Reno, White Mane Publishing Co., Inc. 1996 has been used for both background and detail
without identifying specific citations.
Roger Reno, Rockford, Illinois, Reno Family Historian provided me with the family
sketches he has written on Charles Reno and Lewis Thomas Reno.
Rev. William Frazer’s Three Parishes-St. Thomas’s. St. Andrew’s and Musconetcong,
N.J.-1768-70 by Henry Race, as printed in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and
Biography, Vol XII, 1888, pages 212-233 has Achsah’s baptism as well as the Reverend’s
description of his parish problems.
Samuel Quinby’s Revolutionary War Pension file is on LDS film #0971992.
I have made full use of Census records following the moves of the Parkes, Quinbys and
Renos from Washington County, Pa 1790, to Nevada 1860 and back to Iowa 1870. The last
census Achsah appears on is Mercer County, Pa, 1850. She is living with her son Charles
Quinby and appears as “Acey” age 83, born New Jersey. The General’s last census is 1860,
Mobile, Alabama with his wife and two children.
Barbara Frietschie, the woman, the poem, the myth, the flag, is examined in two articles.
The first by Conrad Reno, the General’s son, written in 1900 and republished by Broadfoot
Publishing Company, 1993. My copy, sent to me by the Curator, Civil War Library, Philadelphia.
The second record, by Dorothy and William Quynn, published in the Maryland
Historical Magazine, September 1942. A copy was sent to me by The Historical Society of
Frederick County, Frederick, Maryland.
The life of West Point cadets in 1846 is described in John C. Waugh’s Class of 1846.
Warner Books, 1994. He also covers the entrance examination procedures of that year.
The Archives Curator, United States Military Academy furnished me with photocopies
of data relevant to General Reno from Official Register, Officers and Cadets, US Military
Academy, June 1846, and Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates, U.S. Military
Academy from 1802-1890.
The Quinbys and the Renos are a family historian’s delight. They make full use of family
names from generation to generation. Additionally, the Renos seem to have adopted the
use of two given names frequently reduced to initials very early.