General John Fulton Reynolds and General George McClellan – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO


[Gregory Urwin] The equestrian statue of John Reynolds captures him in action on the first day at Gettysburg, July 1st, 1863. We see here a resolute commander, a decisive commander, pointing as if to say this is the ground where the army should fight. And seconds later he will be dead. A Confederate bullet will strike him in the back of his head. [Lynn Marsden-Atlass] What you see in the sculpture is very dramatic and you see the fear in the eyes of the horse and you see him recoiling from the noise and it is the first equestrian sculpture in Philadelphia, 1884. I’m Lynn Marsden-Atlass. At the University of Pennsylvania I’m a specialist in American and Contemporary Art. [Urwin] I’m professor Gregory Urwin of Temple University, a military historian. Reynolds, by all accounts, he was a handsome man, he sat a horse well, he’s highly respected. McClellan, his statue, if you know anything about the war, you might think this was the guy who won it. He looks quite confident there which in many ways is a contradiction to the way he behaved. The closer he got to enemy, the less certain he was. So thats McClellan as McClellan wanted to be seen and not often as McClellan was. [Marsden-Atlass] We see a portrait of a general that is very sure of himself, he’s very much in control of his horse. [Urwin] George Brinton McClellan is the son of a prominent physician born in Philadelphia. He enters the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 13 and after two years he is admitted to the United States Military Academy where he will graduate second in his class. President Lincoln will put him in charge of the army at the Potomac. McClellan though doesn’t move quickly enough to suit his political masters. They want a quick victory and he keeps saying no these men are green, they need to be trained, they need to be organized. So in November of 1862, Lincoln will relieve him of command. Reynolds doesn’t come from as prominent a family but he does very well. [Marsden-Atlass] General Reynolds who is down in the thick of it, trying to defend his men and contain his horse. [Urwin] And you know, he makes his mark by in effect choosing the Gettysburg battlefield. [Marsden-Atlass] You have two extremely different artists. Henry Jackson Ellicott was the chief modeler and sculptor for the Federal Government so when the Grand Army of the Republic was looking for a sculptor to present the grandeur and the honorable George McClellan, they chose an established, academic artist. And then you have somebody like John Rodgers who’s entirely self-taught. Rodgers is best known for his small scale sculptures and many middle-class families had them in their homes, you could buy them for $15 a piece. He was an artist who was making a lot of money but in a populist kind of way. Rodgers was actually rather reticent about taking this commission. He’d never done anything of this scale before but really the gift to create this monument – $25,000 – was a huge sum of money. [Urwin] Around 1900 the average working man was making about $900 a year so $25,000, that’s not bad. In comparing McClellan with Reynolds, it’s like comparing a known quantity that fell short. Why was the man so cautious? In some ways he was afraid to be a failure. Military action always entails a certain amount of risk no matter how great the odds seem to be in your favor and McClellan was afraid to take risks. He also seems to have been unnerved by bloodshed and Reynold will be heard to yell “Forward boys! For God’s sake, forward!” He dies a hero’s death and that’s how he’s remembered.

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