Family History

David S. Reel

Company C, 115th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

David and Margaret (Gard) Reel must have agonized long and hard when David heard the call of President Lincoln to help "preserve the Union". David sold the farm and headed off to Olney to join ranks with Company C of the 115th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. In August of 1862, he kissed Margaret and the four little ones good-bye and traveled to Camp Butler near Springfield, Illinois where he was mustered in as a Union soldier on August 22, 1862.

Mary Ellen was six years old and already a good reader. The boys, Emanuel and Justus, were four and three, no doubt quite a handful for Margaret, who was also busy taking care of little Anna who would celebrate her first birthday on September 30, 1862.

Since David had sold the farm before leaving Wabash County, Margaret and the children had to move to the "old place" where their kind neighbors helped build a log cabin. Margaret hired someone to put on the roof, but life had to be difficult with four little ones and her husband gone off to war.

David and his fellow soldiers floated down the Ohio River on the steamboat "Leonora" to Richmond, Kentucky where they worked very hard to build their "winter quarters." David found that by working with the hospital corps he could make twenty dollars a month taking care of men with everything from gun-shot wounds to measles. He wrote on 26 December 1862 that they had had a roast turkey for Christmas dinner. But it must have been difficult spending the holiday so far from home and family. One of the men in the hospital was his Wabash County, friend Richard Mull who eventually died at Richmond, Ky., Jan 4, 1863

During his tour of duty, David was part of the Iron Brigade of Chickamauga, serving with several different regiments under General Rosecrans. He sent letters to Margaret from Richmond, Kentucky, Nashville, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama.

Postage in the 1860's was only one cent for sending a letter. But David must have worried about sending money to Margaret. She wrote him in 1865 to be careful and "do not trust anyone with your money." But since he missed his family so much, David asked “I want you to send me your likeness on plate. So you can send it in a letter. Then it won’t cost only 3 cents. Write a small letter so it won’t weigh too much.”

When he returned home, he was still suffering from a head injury, but managed to clear some land at the "old place" and get back into farming, what he knew best. The government finally issued his pension of fourteen dollars a month in 1898, 33 years after he returned home and one year before he died (21 Mar 1899). The pension was retroactive to Dec. 29, 1897 and at his death decreased to twelve dollars a month for widow Margaret.

David and Margaret had three more children after the war: "Lizzy" (Sarah Elizabeth) in 1869, Frank G. (died in infancy date unknown), and baby Katherine (“Kate”) on Nov. 2, 1875.

Mary Ellen continued her studies and married George H. Higgins, settling in New Salem, Illinois. The boys Manuel and Justus both became prominent Wabash county farmers. Manuel married Margaret ("Maggie") Parkinson. And Justus married Mary Schrodt. Lizzy married Charles Henry Campbell. The youngest, "Kate", married Peter Hoffman and later George Theodore Kitchene.  

Submitted by Sara Simpson

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