Monday, February 14, 2022

Booknotes: Gettysburg’s Lost Love Story

New Arrival:
Gettysburg’s Lost Love Story: The Ill-Fated Romance of General John Reynolds and Kate Hewitt by Jeffrey J. Harding (Arcadia Pub and The Hist Press, 2022).

I originally had something else planned for today but thought this new release Booknotes entry would be more appropriate, this being Valentine's Day and all.

Every regular consumer of Civil War publishing has surely encountered some mention of the tragic romance between John Reynolds and Kate Hewitt at least once in their readings. From the description: "Union general John Reynolds was one of the most beloved and respected military leaders of the Civil War, yet beyond the battlefield, the captivating true story of his secret romance with Catherine "Kate" Mary Hewitt remains etched into his legacy. Clandestinely engaged before John marched off to war, the couple's love remained a secret. Kate made a poignant "last promise," a commitment to enter into a religious life if her beloved were to be killed. Tragically, Reynolds lost his life leading troops into action during the opening phases of the Battle of Gettysburg."

The secret of her engagement with Reynolds revealed in the days following the general's shocking battlefield death, the Catholic-convert Hewitt was warmly received by the Reynolds family and, true to her promise, she entered the Daughters of Charity religious community. It is at that point that historians and writers typically end their discussion of the tragic pair, the balance of Kate's remaining life after leaving the Daughters of Charity considered lost to history. However, in his book Gettysburg’s Lost Love Story: The Ill-Fated Romance of General John Reynolds and Kate Hewitt author Jeffrey Harding reveals that his own research efforts as well as those of genealogist Mary Stanford Pitkin have together uncovered far more of the Reynolds-Hewitt story (both before and after Gettysburg) than has been portrayed in the literature.

For example, though Hewitt was considered a religious "sister" by the Daughters of Charity, she did not become an actual nun. Harding and Pitkin discovered new information about Hewitt's life before she met Reynolds (which includes some unsavory parts of her past that I'd never encountered any suggestion of before) along with fresh details of their meeting and engagement. Showing that Hewitt's story post-1868 was never truly lost but rather just waiting to be rediscovered, the book also conveys previously unknown information about Hewitt's life and marriage after leaving the Daughters of Charity as well as the location of her grave. If you always wanted to know 'the rest of the story,' this looks like the book for you.

1 comment:

  1. I covered this story in my 2016 book, The Two Catherines, so delighted to see another take. To me, the missing link in many of the tellings of this fascinating and poignant story, is the role of the orphan Catherine Dunn. I have no doubt that Reynolds and Kate intended to adopt Catherine after their marriage. What became of Catherine the orphan subsequently is intriguing. Frank


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