Captain James Reagles, Assistant Surgeon


Unknown Union officer (L) and Dr Reagles (R)

Doctor James Reagles was a surgeon with a remarkable career in the Army. His military service included surgical duty with the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, during the Civil War, and postwar duty in the West, including the first survey and exploration of the Yellowstone Territory. He remained on active duty through the Spanish-American War, and was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt into the Army Medical Corps. When he retired in 1908, Dr. Reagles’ career in the military medical service was one of the longest on record.

Reagles was born in Schenectady, New York in 1842. He graduated from Union College in 1861 and then attended Columbia University and Bellevue Hospital, where he earned a Doctorate of Medicine on May 1, 1864. Two days later he was commissioned Assistant Surgeon in the 62nd New York Infantry (Anderson’s Zouaves) and was sent to Brandy Station to join the 6th Corps, Army of the Potomac.

With the 62nd New York, Reagles saw action at the battles of Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, and was at Appomattox when Lee surrendered. Dr. Reagles was present at the mortal wounding of Gen. Sedgwick, Commander of the 6th Corps, Army of the Potomac at Spotsylvania, Va., where the General was shot by a Confederate sharpshooter. Reagles mustered out at the close of the Civil War, but was bored with private practice, and rejoined as Assistant Surgeon in the regular army. Serving with the cavalry in 1866, he remained in the military until 1908.

Stationed in the West with the Indian-fighting army, Reagles was posted to various forts over the years, including Fort Verde, Arizona; Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and Fort Arbuckle. He served on General George Crook’s staff during the Apache wars with Geronimo in Arizona, and saw much field duty.

In 1872, Reagles served as surgeon on Dr. F.V. Hayden’s expedition to explore and chart the Yellowstone Territory. [Hayden, himself a surgeon, also was a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.] Reagles assisted in this first survey of the unchartered lands, and climbed the Grand Tetons with the expedition’s soon-to-be-famous photographer, William Henry Jackson.

Reagles’ military service included assignments to Fort Keogh, Montana; Fort Ontario and Plattsburg Barracks, New York; Fort Yellowstone, Montana; Fort Klamath and Fort Stevens, Oregon; Vancouver Barracks, Washington; and Fort Wrangel, Alaska. His last duty station was as Post Surgeon in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

James Reagles was commissioned a Captain in the Medical Corps of the Regular Army by special order of President Theodore Roosevelt in at his retirement in 1908. Pneumonia ended the long serving surgeon’s life at Schenectady, New York on February 10, 1913. Thus, he missed yet another war but undoubtedly he would have found some way of serving his country in that conflict, too, had he not answered a higher roll call.


Johnson, M.K. and Johnson, P.R. (2006). Collecting Civil War Surgeon’s Images & Photographs.

Johnson, P.R. (1999). “A Life in Uniform, II” in Military Images, May-June., pp.19-23

eBay Sells Letter Written by Colonel J. Lafayette Riker. “1861 WAR DATE DOC. SIGNED (KIA) COLONEL JOHN LAFAYETTE RIKER -(ANDERSON ZOUAVES)” (April 8, 2017)

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eBay Sells, “Cabinet Cards Civil War Soldiers 62nd Regiment NY Volunteers John H Brown.” (March 31, 2017)

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We Expect a Hard Fight (April 11, 1862)

acwoodscoeNo 2 Second Edn

My Dear Aunt, 

I do not know as I shall have a chance to send this away until it will get old and stale but the fact is we are so close to the enemy lines that the mail does not go very regular. I have heard that all of our letters were to be stopped until after the accomplishment of this expedition, so you will not wonder if my letter does not reach you when due.

lt is now nearly two weeks since we have received any letters at all and it makes me feel lonely to be so long without hearing from friends. We expect a hard fight here every day. We are not allowed to fire on their Pickets at all. They come out of the woods near enough to speak to us and swing their hats, call us names etc. They tell us they will serve us as they did at the action of Manassas last spring but they will find they have rather more troops to contend with than they had then.

I had a narrow escape today. A short time ago a shell was thrown from one of the Rebel Batteries. lt struck and exploded near me but I threw my self to the ground in time to prevent its doing any other harm other than to cover me with mud and dirt. Even then it would have hurt me had it burst the right way.

Please write to me as soon as you received this. I do not know as you will be able to read this. I cannot get Pen and Ink and my Pencil is poor. I expect before you get this we will have driven the foe from this point, not without the loss of many lives I fear…

A C Woods

Letters of Alfred Covell Woods.

Contributed by J. Tierney