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and the Civil War

William James Reynolds, Sr.

WILLIAM JAMES REYNOLDS, SR. son of James Reynolds b. 08/16/1823, Patrick Co. Va., d. 04/02/1865, Fort Delaware, Del. m. 02/08/1859 Serepta Ann Robertson Reynolds Gill who was b. 08/08/1833 in Patrick Co., Va. Captured as a Private in Captain D. Lee Ross's Company D of the 51st Virginia Infantry under Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early at the Battle of Waynesboro VA March 2, 1865. Transported by train as a prisoner of war to the federal military prison on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, he died within a month of "yellow measles" one week before the surrender at Appomattox. He and 2,435 more Confederates are quasi-buried at Finns Point National Cemetary on the New Jersey shore of the Delaware River. His name appears on the memorial obelisk there. Issue: William James Reynolds, Jr. (Quasi-buried means the Yankees dumped the daily contagion victims wholesale into the swamp.)

Fort Delaware State Park on Pea Patch Island is well worth visiting. It is an elegant complex of early 19th Century brickwork originally built as a coast artillery post to defend Philadelphia. In that role it never fired a shot in anger. An entire forest is buried underneath the brickwork, having been driven into the soft mud as pilings.

This old fortification was pressed into a use for which it was never designed. 21st Century visitors will be momentarily locked standing in a chamber. You are shoulder to shoulder with 18 others. The guide will ask how many more do you think could be squeezed in. Perhaps half a dozen you say. The guide says this lockdown cell contained 158 Confederate soldiers overnight. Since habeas corpus had been suspended by Lincoln, civilian Southern sympathizers were also kept there. A Methodist minister who survived the ordeal, the Rev. Isaac W. K. Handy of Augusta County, Virginia, left the best written account of the experience in his book United States Bonds; Or Duress by the Federal Authority, (Turnbull Bros., Baltimore 1874)

Will Reynolds escaped Prison Division Four by dying in it. Back home in Patrick County, Virginia he was not a debtor but a soft-touch creditor. Scores of people around Meadows of Dan VA and Woolwine VA each owed him sums under $10 for lumber he had cut, dressed, and sold them. His widow spent better than 20 years suing for these paltry sums. She obtained several judgments - all uncollectable in a rural economy from which both cash and commerce had vanished.

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Joe Reynolds

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