by Col. Black Jack Travis
Major James Reilly was born on April 4th 1822 in Ballydonagh, Ireland. He immigrated to the US as a teenager. By the summer of 1845 he had enlisted in the US Army at Fort Columbus, NY. He participated as an artillerist in the War with Mexico and was promoted to the rank of sergeant. His military career then took him to Oklahoma Territory and the Indian Wars.
By 1860 he was in command at Fort Johnston in Southport, NC. When the hostilities broke out between the North and South, James Reilly chose the cause for Southern Independence. Promoted to Captain he took command of 10th NC. First Artillery which become known as the “Rowan Artillery.” He served with the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. Reilly’s battery was rated 2nd in all of Lee’s artillery. After the battle of Gettysburg on September 7th he was promoted to Major and transferred to Wilmington, NC where he served with distinction at Fort Fisher.
Major Reilly was present at the first Union attack on Fort Fisher on December 24th . When the Union made its 2nd attack on the Fort on January 15th 1865, Major Reilly was the highest ranking officer still standing . Fighting with great bravery and valor as Fort Fisher was overwhelmed by the Union forces, he surrendered the Fort at Battery Buchanan on the evening of the 15th.
Reilly was married to Ann Quinn from 1848-1877. In 1878 he married Martha E. Henry. After the war he served as the manager for Brunswick Ferry Company. H e also farmed and built a Catholic Church at Farmer’s Turnout, NC (Brunswick County) near his second wife’s family. He died on November 7th 1894.