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Worthy of the Cause for Which They Fought: The Civil War Diary of Brigadier General Daniel Harris Reynolds, 1861-1865

Edited by Robert Patrick Bender; University of Arkansas Press

Born, raised and educated in Ohio, Daniel Harris Reynolds moved to Arkansas in 1858 and quickly attained a deep-rooted attachment to his adopted state. He was elected to the state secession convention and then raised a company of mounted rifles. Eventually rising to brigadier general, Reynolds kept a daily diary of his experiences in the Trans-Mississippi West and with the Army of Tennessee.

Robert Patrick Bender has rescued a well-written account from archival oblivion and brought this well-educated, perceptive and opinionated historical character back to life. From Wilson’s Creek to Bentonville, Reynolds provides a personal testimonial to the fighting spirit of his fellow Arkansans and a valuable historical record of the war in the West.

Unfortunately, Reynolds had to work from a typescript copy; the location of the original handwritten diary is unknown. This presents problems of provenance. Is the typescript faithful to the original? When was it made and by whom? The editor doesn’t say. Nevertheless, Reynolds’ accounts of the Battle of Chickamauga, Sherman’s campaign for Atlanta and the devastating retreat from Nashville read like carefully prepared after-action reports—clear, straightforward and unemotional. He even documents with clinical dispassion the amputation of his own leg just before the war ended.

Only in Reynolds’ final entry, dated June 15, 1865, does the general reveal his true feelings. “The war is over and we have failed,” he writes. He adds that he is proud of “having commanded ‘Reynolds Arkansas Brigade’ and nothing do I regret so much as the loss of our cause.” Devoted to the historical legacy of the Confederacy, Reynolds embraced the mythology of the Lost Cause until he died in 1902.


Originally published in the June 2012 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.