Sunday, July 3, 2011

Major General Jesse Lee Reno: The Oklahoma Connection

Traveling often yields surprises, and my recent road trip to Taos, New Mexico, is a fine example. Our travel party stopped off in El Reno, Oklahoma, to eat at Johnnie’s Grill. I happen to enjoy a good hamburger, and Johnnie’s makes an excellent onion burger (the fries are great too). After partaking, we drove around the downtown area where I soon noticed an intriguing monument to Major General Jesse Lee Reno, a Union general mortally wounded at Fox’s Gap, Maryland, in September 1862. Although I admire the spirit of those who contributed to this monument, regrettably there are some factual inaccuracies in the monument’s text. Never have I read that Reno was “credited with saving the nation’s capitol at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run prior to being promoted to Major General in July 1862.” Furthermore, the part about his promotion is confusing. According to my trusty copy of Generals in Blue by Ezra J. Warner, Reno “was appointed major general on August 20 to rank from July 18, 1862” (p. 395). So, his promotion occurred before his participation at the battle of Second Bull Run.

Now, how is it that a town in Oklahoma Territory named itself for a Union general who served in the eastern theater? In 1874, Fort Reno was established and then named by General Phil Sheridan in memory of his friend, Jesse L. Reno. As a result of land runs in 1889 and 1892 a town sprung up and was eventually named El Reno in recognition of the nearby fort. Fort Reno had a rather colorful history and more information about it may be found on the website of Historic Fort Reno, Inc. As a further side note, Reno, Nevada, is also named for Jesse Lee Reno!

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