A Sampler of Civil War Literature
»Women as Principal Characters

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"Mrs. Major Reynolds"
Military Background

Portrait of Mrs. Major Reynolds
May 17, 1862, page 317 (2-3)

May 17, 1862, page 306 (1)

Mrs. Major Bell Reynolds, whose portrait we publish on page 317, from a photograph by Cole, of Peoria, Illinois, is the wife of Lieutenant Reynolds, of Company A, Seventeenth Regiment Illinois troops, and daughter of K. W. Macumber, Esq. Her native place is Shelbourne Falls, Massachusetts. The Seventeenth, to which her husband belongs, is one of the most popular regiments in our Western army, being one of the earliest in the field, and during the whole war have been in active service. They met the enemy in a terrible encounter, and vanquished him, at Frederickstown, Missouri. They early took possession of Cape Girardeau; they also bore a prominent part, and were terrible cut-up at the battle of Fort Donelson, and were in the thickest of the fight at the battle of Shiloh (or Pittsburg Landing). In these last two battles Lieutenant Reynolds was Acting-Adjutant. During the greater part of the campaign Mrs. Reynolds has shared with her husband a soldier’s fare in camp; many a night, while on long marches, sleeping upon the ground in the open air, with no covering other than her blanket, and frequently drenched with rain; and oftentimes, to the order "Fall in," she has hurriedly mounted her horse in the darkness of the night, and made long marches without rest or food except such as she might have had with her. She has at all times exhibited a degree of heroism that has endeared her to the brave soldiers of the Seventeenth and other regiments that have been associated with them, and to the officers of the army with whom she is acquainted.

Governor Yates, of Illinois, and his staff were at Pittsburg Landing to look after the Illinois troops, who suffered so severely in that fearful struggle, and learning of Mrs. Reynolds’s heroic conduct on the field, and untiring efforts in behalf of the wounded soldiers, by and with the advice of his staff commissioned her Daughter of the Regiment, to take rank as a Major, "for meritorious conduct on the bloody battle-field of Pittsburg Landing." Mrs. R. left Pittsburg Landing a few days after the battle to attend some wounded soldiers to their homes by the rivers, leaving the last one at Peoria—Captain Swain, of Illinois, who died as the boat touched the wharf at Peoria. She remained at Peoria a few days to recover from her fatigue, and has left again to rejoin the army, and hopes and expects soon to be in Corinth.

The following letter has been addressed to Governor Yates by citizens of Peoria:

"Peoria, April 27, 1862.


"To His Excellency Richard Yates, Governor, etc.,

Springfield, Illinois:

"Dear Sir,--Permit us to thank you for the honor conferred upon Peoria by your voluntary act in commissioning Mrs. Belle Reynolds, of this city, to take rank as Major of Illinois State Militia, showing your appreciation of valuable services so nobly rendered by a lady on the bloody battle-field of Pittsburg Landing.

"And we take pleasure in bearing testimony to the high moral and Christian character of the ‘Major,’ believing that in whatever circumstances she may be placed she will ever honor her commission and the worthy Executive who gave it.

Respectfully yours."


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