Early this year I was contacted by a friend, Jeff Harding, who is a licensed battlefield guide at Gettysburg National Park. He told me the story about the fiance of General John Fulton Reynolds who had died at Gettysburg. There was a lot that was known about the fiance from correspondence between Reynold’s siblings. The big question was what became of the fiance, Kate Hewitt, after his death. A few other researchers looked in to this mystery and thought that they had discovered what had happened to Kate. It is agreed amongst almost all historians that she joined a religious order after John’s death and spent at least some time in Albany, New York. It was also fairly well documented that she left the religious order in 1867. This is where the questions really come out. There happened to be another Catherine “Kate” Hewitt in upstate New York during this same time period. She was also about the same age as Reynolds’ fiance. This second Kate Hewitt lived in Saratoga, New York. A few articles and books were written that linked the two Kate Hewitts and assumed that after leaving the religious order, Kate returned to Sarasota and lived the rest of her life there as a single woman. That story then got shared and accepted as fact by more recent accounts of General Reynolds and his fiance.
When Jeff contacted me he was interested in taking a new fresh look at the life of Kate Hewitt. He asked if I would help with the genealogy research part of it. We decided to set aside all earlier “facts” and start from scratch. One of the first things that became clear is that the Kate Hewitt who was affianced to General Reynolds was not the same woman by the same name who lived in Saratoga. From there we were able to figure out what really did become of the elusive Kate Hewitt.
The article below which originally appeared in the August edition of Civil War Times magazine, outlines our findings concerning Kate’s life after leaving the Sisters of Charity. We also discovered some very interesting aspects of her life prior to meeting John Reynolds. Those stories will be included in a book that we hope to have published in the upcoming year. In the meantime, you can read the story of why we believe that there were actually two Kate Hewitts who led very different lives.
The Lost Story of Kate, the Secret Love of Gettysburg’s First Hero