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A Civil War Love Story

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, young men across the country heeded the call for volunteers. Twenty-four-year-old Reese Henderson of Marysville, Ohio, was one of those volunteers.

Reese left behind the love of his life, Mary, and became one of the nearly 320,000 Ohioans who served in the Union army. Those young men from Ohio made up one-fifth of the Union soldiers in the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

The Union army was camped on Sunday, April 6, in southwestern Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing, a “nondescript hog-and-cotton steamboat dock on the Tennessee River,” writes historian Winston Groom, author of “Shiloh, 1862.” At sunrise that day, Confederates swooped down on the unsuspecting Yankee soldiers. When the battle ended two days later, 24,000 men were left dead, dying or wounded.

Battle of Shiloh, April 6, 1862.

Source: Library of Congress

Reese Henderson was fortunate. Wounded in that bloody battle, he was taken to a Union hospital in Mound City, Illinois, on the banks of the Ohio River. The hospital had been established the year before and became one of the largest Union hospitals during the war.


The saga of Mary and Reese Henderson was told in The Minneapolis Journal the evening after her funeral service at Westminster Church on Thursday, March 23, 1905:

“In 1861 Mary was loved and betrothed by Reese R. Henderson. The call for volunteers in defense of the union took her lover away. At the bloody battle of Shiloh, on the second day, he was severely wounded; indeed, thought to be mortally wounded.

“In response to a telegram from the surgeon in charge of the Mound City hospital, she left on the first train, nursed him back to life, and took him home to Marysburg [Marysville]. They were married in 1862, he supported on his crutches during the ceremony.”

Two days before, members of the John A. Rawlins post of the G. A. R. [Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization] of which Major Reese Henderson was the first commander, met to pass this resolution:

“Be it resolved that we extend to Comrade R. R. Henderson, in this hour of bereavement, the assurance of our sincere sympathy and our appreciation of the loss he has sustained in the separation from her who has been his lifelong companion, faithful and true under every vicissitude.”

Reese Henderson lived for another 20 years after Mary’s death and died in California. Both are now buried together beside the Henderson monument in Lakewood’s Section 25.

How the couple ended up in Minnesota is still unknown.


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