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First Name: William

Last Name: Reily

Birthplace: Washington, DC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Van Wyck

Date of Birth: 12 December 1853

Date of Death: 25 June 1876

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Years Served:
William Van Wyck Reily

•  Indian Wars (1775 - 1924) intermittent


William Van Wyck Reily
Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army

William Van Wyck Reily was born on 12 December 1853 in Washington, DC, the son of William and Ellen T. Roche Reily. His father graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1847, and was lost in the Straits of Formosa, off China, while serving on the USS Porpoise on 21 September 1854. Also lost on the vessel was William Van Wyck, for whom young Reily was named. Reily's widowed mother remarried Col. Simeon M. Johnson in 1861; he died in 1871, and her third marriage was to Rear Admiral John C. Febiger, USN.

William Reily was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1870, and after failing three examinations, resigned in October 1872. He participated in a surveying expedition to Nicaragua, from December 1872 to July 1873, and later was employed at the Washington Navy Yard supervising the dismantling of monitor class warships.

On 15 October 1875, he obtained a direct appointment as a Second Lieutenant in the 10th U.S. Cavalry. He transferred to the 7th U.S. Cavalry on 25 January 1876, and joined Company E at Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, on 17 April 1876. One month later, he rode from the Fort with his regiment to participate in the Sioux Campaign. Temporarily assigned to Company F, 7th Cavalry, Reily perished with Lt. Col. George A. Custer's battalion at the Battle of Little Big Horn. His body was found on Last Stand Hill.

A signet ring that Reily wore at the time of his death was later recovered from an Indian who surrendered at Fort Robinson, NE, in April 1877. The ring is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, DC.

Death and Burial

Second Lieutenant William Van Wyck Reily was killed in action on 25 June 1876 during the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana. Originally buried on the field of battle, his remains were recovered the following year and, on 3 August 1877, interred at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, DC.

Honoree ID: 2991   Created by: MHOH




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