140 years late, veteran lauded with U.S. Medal of Honor
A Nevada Army veteran who died without knowing he won the nation’s highest medal of bravery received the
honor he’s been owed for nearly 140 years in a ceremony on Monday.
Nevada Rep. Mark E. Amodei held an event at his Reno office to present a new Medal of Honor to Jerry Reynolds, the 82-year-old grandson and closest surviving relative of the late Pvt. Robert Smith.
Smith fought in a battle against American Indian tribes in the Dakota Territory on Sept. 9, 1876, when he was 29. Then-President Rutherford B. Hayes approved the Medal of Honor for Smith in 1877 for showing “special bravery in endeavoring to dislodge Indians secreted in a ravine,” according to Army records.
But the award never made it to the veteran, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, as Harry Reynolds but used an alias for unknown reasons. His grandson said the medal was delivered to Camp Sheridan in Nebraska
Territory, where Smith previously had lived, but someone else signed for the package.
Smith returned to using his birth name after his discharge from the Army, then later moved to Elko, Nevada. While he talked with his family about his experiences in the so-called Indian Wars, he was better known for his skill driving horses as a teamster than he was for his war heroism, and he died in 1930 without knowing he received the award.