Genealogy Research Helps Solve a Civil War Mystery

Catherine Mary Hewitt
Catherine Hewitt, the fiance of Gen. John Fulton Reynolds

A few years ago I helped, Jeff Harding, a battlefield guide at Gettysburg National Park, with some research concerning the monument for my Great Great Grandfather’s unit at Gettysburg. A few months ago he came to me with a new challenge concerning the fiance of General John Fulton Reynolds, the first officer killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.

There have been a variety of articles and papers over the past 20 to 30 years concerning who this fiance was. They had a name, Catherine Mary Hewitt, and a birthplace, but other than that there was not a lot to go on. These researchers found records for a Catherine Mary Hewitt who was born around the right time period and in New York State and therefore they decided she must be “The Kate”. This Catherine Hewitt lived her entire life in Stillwater, Saratoga County, New York. We started referring to her as “Stillwater Kate”.

Jeff Harding had decided to take a new look at the past research, but more importantly, at records that are available now that weren’t when the original research was done. That’s where I came in. One of the key resources that is more available now than it was even just a few years ago is easily searchable newspaper archives. We looked at the time line that we knew for Reynolds’ fiance and compared it to records we could find for Stillwater Kate.

General John F Reynolds
General John Fulton Reynolds. Photographer Matthew Brady; Source Library of Congress

After a few weeks of research we started to realize that based on records we could find for Stillwater Kate and John Reynolds’ fiance, it was impossible for them to be the same person. Doing this type of research, as with most genealogy research, entails just as much proving something NOT true as it does proving it was true.

We also started to realize that some researchers in the past had made excuses for things that didn’t match between the records for Stillwater Kate and what was known about Kate the fiance.

While we respected the earlier researchers’ work, we had to finally admit that the proof was overwhelming that John Reynolds’ fiance was not the Kate in Stillwater, and was in fact a different Kate who actually led quite an interesting life.

We will have an article published in the August Issue of Civil War Times magazine. We also have plans for a longer piece of work on Catherine Mary Hewitts life that was unknown until now.

Below are two videos. The first is an older video that will give you some background on this story. The second video is a new preview of the information that will be in the Civil War Times article.

Earlier video

Newest Video