William Reynolds, from British soldier to Colonial American Patriot

William Reynolds, from British soldier to Colonial American Patriot


A newspaper record of an 1889 family reunion passes the family legend down through the next generations.

  • Corry, PA, USA

The search for William Reynolds, the soldier, can be documented by identifying various sources of information, along with historical accounts of the time.  The key source of information given to the family comes from what has been handed down through the generations.  The legend of William Reynolds has lived on in our family in most part due to an article that appeared in The Flyer, a Corry, Pennsylvania newspaper dated October 9, 1889.  In this newspaper we read about a family reunion that took place.

To trace the beginnings of William Reynolds, we can break down some of the accounts given in the article:

“Wm. Reynolds, the first ancestor in this country was a British soldier stationed in Ireland.  He was sent in 1755 under Gen. Braddock to assist the colonists.”

We know that General Braddock sent two regiments to America that were stationed in Ireland by order of King George II.  The two regiments were Sir Peter Halkett’s 44th Foot and Thomas Dunbar’s 48th Foot.  These two battalions left Cork, Ireland with 520 men each.  The numbers in the regiment were raised by drawing men from regiments in Great Britain and Ireland.

If William Reynolds sailed to America with one of the regiments mentioned above, he could have taken part in the Battle of the Monongahela, or he could have remained in the rear party that moved supplies to support the front of the expedition.  At this time, we don’t have documentation on his whereabouts in July 1755.  However, based on the family’s account, it does seem likely that this expedition was the means by which he would have traveled to America from England.  The details of the Battle of the Monongahela and Braddock’s Expedition can be researched in great detail at a number of web sites that are beyond the scope of this summary.

The period of time between July 1755 and when Reynolds first appears with the 2nd Battallion of the Pennsylvania Regiment is an interesting era to research.  The following articles and future ones will trace the steps of Reynolds from his service as a Brisitsh soldier to the time that he joined the Revolutionary War and served at Valley Forge.

At the time of this writing Pittsburgh was celebrating it's 250th Anniversary.  For my family, it marks the 250th anniverary of the survival and discovery of my ancestor, William Reynolds, in the French and Indian War.

William Reynolds wounded in the Battle of Sideling Hill in 1756.

  • Maddensville, PA

William Reynolds is tied closely to David Jameson who is listed on the commission roll of Fort Augusta for December 9, 1757. These two men have their names recorded together in several references of the Pennsylvania Archives.  See references attached here Page 89, 98 ,and 266.

William Reynolds first appears in the Pennsylvanian Archives timeline in April 1756 as part of Ensign David Jameson’s company.  William Reynolds is listed among the names of men “killed or wounded in Jameson’s fight near McCord’s Fort on April 2, 1756.”  The events record that Indians captured a “private fort” owned by William McCord where twenty-seven people were killed or captured.  When the Indians retreated with the captives, they were chased by thirty men of Capt Culbertson’s Militia, and by nineteen men of Captain Hamilton’s company led by Ensign Jameson.  William Reynolds is listed in the PA Archives as one of the men wounded in this battle, April 1756. (See Page 41 attached to this article)  A detailed narrative of this battle can be read on Jim Wilks website or the Jameson Family website under the topic David Jameson at War.

Camp at Drowning Creek 1758

  • Jennerstown, Pennsylvania

The following attachments comprise of three letters written by Major George Armstrong to Colonel Henry Bouquet over the course of about a week.  Here we find some additional details about the role William Reynolds had in the Pennsylvania frontier.

Major George Armstrong, in command of an advanced detachment of Forbes's army, wrote to Colonel Bouquet from "Kickeny Pallan's," July 26, 1758, that this point "is the best place for a deposit [of supplies] between the Alleghanies and Laurel Hill." He wrote Bouquet again the following day, from "Branding Creek," and explains in his letter that "Drounding Creek," is another name for " Kickeny Pallen's."  Kickeney Paulin's, or Keckenepaulin's Cabin was an old Indian camp that stood on a tributary of Quemahoning Creek, now known as Picking's Run, near Jenner Cross Roads, Jenner Township, Somerset County.

William Reynolds was sent with a guide Joseph Kelly to recon the area between Fort Ligonier and Braddock's Road.  During this scouting, Reynolds would have come in contact with Colonel George Washington. This is documented in the Bouquet Letters.  Colonel Washington was being told to maintain a course from Cumberland Maryland to Fort Duquense in order to keep the French guessing as to where the British would likely be advancing.  Meanwhile, the Forbes Army was building a road through Loyalhanna (Ft Ligonier) and Col Henry Bouquet wanted there to be communication between his road (Forbes Rd) and the road occupied by Washington (Braddock Rd).  William Reynolds was the officer sent with Joseph Kelly to find a route to connect these two roads.

William Reynolds meets George Washington

  • New Stanton, PA

William Reynolds is sent with Guide Joseph Kelly to find the original road Braddock used in 1755.  It was on this scouting mission that William Reynolds would have met Colonel George Washington.

One of the locations mentioned in the Forbes papers is "The Salt Lick Camp." This location happened to be where Bradock's senior officers held a council of war on the night of July 3-4, 1755. The council made the fateful decision to press on to Fort Duquense without waiting for Colonel Dunbar's troops to catch up with Colonel Halkett's army. This is important in the life of William Reynolds in the assumption that he may have been with Dunbar's army at this stage in 1755 and his life was spared by not being involved in Braddock's defeat.

George Washington wrote to Bouquet, "I have talked a good deal with Kelly upon the nature of the intervening ground from the new road (Forbes Road) to (Braddock's Road) and from what he says, I apprehend it impractical to effect a junction with the troops on the new road till we advance near the Salt Lick which is no great distance from Fort Duquesne."

Reynolds survives the Battle at Fort Duquesne (Grant's Defeat)

  • Pittsburgh, PA

From the newspaper article of 1889, we read “He fought in the battle of Fort Duquesne and being a cavalryman, his horse was shot under him, and he received an almost fatal wound.” This account can at least be verified in the Pennsylvania Archives Publication under the following entry.  “Lieut. William Reynolds, Dec. 19, 1757; wounded at Grant’s defeat near Fort Duquesne, Sept. 14, 1758; resigned March 17, 1759." See reference page 182.

Although it mentions that Reynolds resigned on March 17, 1759, other research in the Letters of Henry Bouquet suggests that Reynolds returned to his regiment in the latter part of 1759.

I can find no other William Reynolds in the Pennsylvania Archives 132 volumes serving in the military during this period of American history.  In addition, the fact that the details handed down by the family in 1889 match exactly with the accounts I have found in several published sources can only lead me to believe that this William Reynolds is indeed our ancestor.  As you will see later, the number of William Reynolds documented as serving in the Revolutionary War makes the search for Reynolds in 1777 much more difficult.

The Pennsylvania Archives details the men that fought in the Battle of Fort Duquesne on September 14, 1758 in which Major James Grant was defeated by the French & Indians.  Read the account of the battle here.

In the “List of Casualties from Action near Fort Duquesne,” William Reynolds is recorded as being part of the Pennsylvania 2nd Battalion.   His unit suffered 18 casualties, 5 wounded, and 85 not wounded.     It is important to mention at this time the need to understand the leadership that surrounded William Reynolds.  For example, read the names of the other men listed on page 182 of the Pennsylvania Archives. You will see these men together in other parts of the Archives publication, as well as other books written about the French & Indian War.   William Reynolds’ name appears several times in the Pennsylvania Archives along with these officers. [See sources in the PA Archives attached as page 98 105 107 128 ]

William Reynolds is listed in the muster rolls of the Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot where he was commissioned a Lieutenant at Fort Augusta on December 19, 1757.  This was also the date that Colonel James Burd took command of Fort Augusta.

Reynolds also appears in the “List of Officers who served in the Pennsylvania Regiment of 3 Battalions, A.D. 1758 & 1759.” [Officer’s name and number of loss to each.][Source page 264 and 266]

William Reynolds returns to his Regiment

  • Philadelphia, PA


We read in the Pennsylvania Archives that William Reynolds resigns on March 17, 1759.  However, this is not the end of his military career.  It was common that men could leave after their enlistment had ended, but the fact that Reynolds was now an officer, he would not have been held to the same terms as the enlisted men.

Having been wounded at least two times, Reynolds may have needed an opportunity to rest, or simply get away from the risk of battle for at least a short period of time.  We can see by the date of his resignation, it was Spring time, and then returned in late Summer.  It would stand to reason that survival during the winter months would be much easier if you were attached to the Provisional Army for they had the financial means to provide one with food and shelter.

We read in the Letters of Henry Bouquet that William Reynolds did return to his unit.  John Hughes, one of the Provincial Commissioners to the Governor, wrote a letter to Colonel Henry Bouquet that mentions that Reynolds had returned.  See the letter attached to this entry from Hughes to Bouquet written from Philadelphia in August 1759.

Moving into the Fall of 1759, we see that William Reynolds is again active in his military career.  In another letter written from Hughes to Bouquet from Philadelphia, October 13, 1759, Hughes mentions that Reynolds will go to the farthest point to return to his unit.

King of England's Proclamation to Reynolds and other F&I Veterans.

  • Lancaster, PA

Taken from a paper in the handwriting of Col. James Burd, and given by him to James Irvin, of Dauphin (then Lancaster) County. It is entitled: "A list of officers of the three battalions of the Pennsylvania regiment who served in the former war against the French and Indians on the western frontier, in conjunction with the British and regular forces of Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware government, and between the years 1756 and 1763, and who were entitled to a grant of crown lands in America in virtue of the King of England's proclamation of October, 1763." The residence of nearly every officer is given in the original list, and on the back is the following certification:

"The list of the officers of the three battalions of the Pennsylvania regiment of last wars, as they stand on this and the other side, is just & true, to the best of my knowledge, as witness my hand this 1st October, 1783."James Burd." of Lancaster County men who served during the French and Indian war as officers in the battalions above referred to, viz.:

James Burd, colonel. Joseph Shippen, lieutenant-colonel and brigade-major. Asher Clayton, major. John Philip DeHaas, major. Samuel Grubb, captain.

Samuel Atlee, " John Hambright, " Richard Gardner, " William Johnston, " Thomas Price, " John Byers, " Ludwick Stone, " John Singleton, " Caleb Gradon, " Samuel Hunter, " Robert Boyd, " Samuel Lindsay, " William Ewing, lieutenant and adjutant. James Ewing, lieutenant and adjutant. Henry Geiger, lieutenant. David McClay, " Frederick Van Hambach, lieutenant. William Reynolds, lieutenant. Alexander McKee, " Henry Haller, " Adam Boyd, " Samuel Scott, " John Foster, " William McClay, "

James Barnbridge, " John Conrad Bucher, " Robert Lowry, ensign. Blatchford Duffield, " John Brisbane, " Richard Hudson, " Memucan Hughes, " James Dorough, " Martin Heidler, " Evan Shelby, " James Young, paymaster. Peter Bard, commissary of stores. James Read, judge advocate.

Rev. Thomas Barton, chaplain. Rev. Alexander McDowell, " Rev. Charles Beatty, " Rev. John Steel, " Rev. Hector Allison, " The last-named five were all Presbyterian clergymen.

<a target="_top"></a>History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1883.

William Reynolds serves at Valley Forge in the Winter of 1777

  • Valley Forge, PA

The documentation found in the Pennsylvania Archives for William Reynolds service during the Revolutionary War is more difficult to trace. The primary reason has to do with the fact that there are many "William Reynolds" serving the cause at this time. We do not know which unit he served, or where he ended up at the close of the war.  There is some information passed down from the family, but not enough to narrow the number of candidates down to one person.

At this time, more research needs to be completed to identify with some certainty which of the many dozens of records belongs to our William Reynolds. The attachments to this article can give you a small sample of the number of records available (by no means did I try to attach all possible sources).  It also illustrates the limited amount of information one can gather from the documents to make a positive identification. My goal of late is to try to find at least one William Reynolds attached to a unit that was at Valley Forge in the Winter of 1777. The search continues.