A. Reno 1834-1889
Before the Antietam Campaign:
Capt Reno was an 1857 graduate of the USMA at West Point. He served in
the 1st US Cavalry Regiment in the Pacific Northwest
In the Antietam Campaign:
Capt Reno was in command of Companies B, C, H, and I of the 1st US Cavalry,
serving as the Quartermaster's Guard, at Headquarters, Army of the Potomac.
The remainder of the War:
In the action at Kelly's Ford, Virginia, 17 March, 1863, where he was
wounded, he was brevetted major for gallant and meritorious conduct, He
was also present at Cold Harbor and Trevillian Station, and at Cedar Creek
on 19 October. 1864, when he was brevetted lieutenant-colonel. From January
till July, 1865, as colonel of the 12th Pennsylvania cavalry, he was in
command of a brigade and encountered Mosby's guerillas at Harmony, Virginia.
After the War: After serving
as assistant instructor of infantry tactics in the US Military Academy,
and in the Freedmen's bureau at New Orleans, he was assigned to duty in
In 1868 he was made a major in the Seventh Cavalry under the command of
George Armstrong Custer, and took part in Custer's 1874 expedition through
the Black Hills. He was with George A. Custer 2 years later at the Batlle
of Little Big Horn. Says PBS ...
As the officer in charge of the only unit to survive the Battle of the
Little Bighorn, Marcus Reno has remained a subject of controversy for
more than a century.
Many in the army and in the general public refused to believe that mere
Indians could destroy a commander like Custer unaided by American blunders,
and they sought to blame Reno for the defeat at the Little Bighorn. They
pointed to Reno's defensive reaction when his assault on Sitting Bull's
encampment was met with unexpected resistance, to his evident loss of
command at several points during the course of the battle and to the fact
that he had clung to his defensive position even while Custer's forces
were being surrounded and destroyed.
In 1879, a military court of inquiry officially cleared Reno of charges
of cowardice, but the following year he was court-martialed on several
unrelated charges by an officer whose son had died at the Little Bighorn.
By the time of his death in 1889, Marcus Reno had become the antithesis
of the gallant Custer in the popular imagination, a disgrace to the noble
code of the United States cavalry who was unworthy to lie buried beside
the brave men who had died at "Custer's Last Stand." In 1967,
however, a military Board of Review re-examined Reno's court-martial and
reversed history's judgment against him by changing the status of his
discharge to honorable and ordering the reinternment of his remains in
the sacred ground of the Little Bighorn cemetery.
References, Sources, and
other notes: Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson and John Fiske. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company,
-copyright 1996 - 2005 by Brian Downey and AotW Members