- Associated Press - Monday, August 18, 2014

PERRYVILLE, Ky. (AP) - James Carlos “Cotton” Reynolds began collecting Civil War artifacts from a very early age as he scoured the fields surrounding his Perryville home.

What began as a simple hobby with boyhood friends soon became a passion Reynolds would pursue for rest of his life.

Reynolds died in April at the age of 84, leaving behind a “massive” collection that is being touted as “one of the finest in the country that is not already in a Museum.”

On Aug. 19, the collection will be auctioned at Johnson Properties Auction Facility in Algier, North Carolina, near where one of Reynolds’ daughters lives.

“We are just honored to help the family out,” said Jimmy Johnson, owner of Johnson Properties, on Thursday. “It is so rare to see such a collection, and we have had an overwhelming response already for the items. We’ve had calls from around the country for some of these artifacts that are just impossible to reproduce, and we have a large group of more than 30 re-enactors coming in tonight to preview the collection.”

Johnson said bids are currently being accepted online and will continue up until the time an item is sold during the live auction, which begins 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. He could not estimate the worth of the collection.

“We will have a live feed for those who would like to bid online. When the auctioneer says sold, no further bids will be accepted online,” said Johnson.

Reynolds was known in the region and throughout the Southeastern United States as being a premiere collector of Civil War artifacts, John Primble knives and other fine cutlery.

Representing more than 50 years of gathering, the collection is the life’s work of a man known as a “walking encyclopedia” of historical knowledge, particularly of history surrounding the Perryville Battlefield.

A plumber by trade, Reynolds was renowned for his knowledge and expertise on Civil War artifacts, his story-telling and his love for everything Perryville.

Bill Baas of Danville, an avid Civil War re-enactor himself, knew Reynolds for more than 30 years.

Baas’ face lit up as he recounted stories of the man he considers his mentor, fellow historian and friend.

“We talk about people being characters, and if ever there was a character of local color, he would be it,” said Baas. “He was very much a Perryvillian. Not that he was that local a person - he was well-traveled and well-experienced - but his world revolved around Perryville - the town, the battle, Civil War history and collecting.”

Baas first encountered Reynolds in the early 1980s at an organizational meeting to discuss the possibility of having a Perryville Battlefield Association, comprised of city, county and state volunteers working together to preserve and honor the battlefield.

Baas said the collector was sitting at a table behind him in the now-closed Battlefield Restaurant. When the presentation was finished, Baas said Reynolds made his opinion on the matter very clear.

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