ARUN RATH, HOST:
Union victory. Peace. One hundred and fifty years ago, those headlines in The New York Times told the story. General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to the Union and Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The Civil War was nearly over. It's a pretty familiar story, but this week, we read about a recent discovery that rewrote the ending of one woman's story. On the morning of April 9, 1865, Union and Confederate soldiers were exchanging gun and artillery fire. Caught in the crossfire was a slave named Hannah Reynolds. During the battle, a cannonball crashed through her master's house, striking Reynolds directly.
ALFRED JONES: She took an artillery shell to the arm. And it was just assumed if you take an artillery shell that you're going to die pretty much on the spot.
RATH: That's Reverend Alfred Jones. He's a retired schoolteacher from Appomattox and a local pastor, and he says that's how he first heard the story of Hannah Reynolds. She was the only civilian casualty in the battle, and while freedom was close, for her, it came too late. Ahead of the 150th anniversary of the battle, Alfred Jones was asked to prepare a eulogy for Hannah Reynolds.
JONES: And I figured if I'm going to do a eulogy, I want to try to find out as much as I can about this lady.
RATH: His search took him to a local library where they keep records from the era.
JONES: One of the persons on duty - they went, well, let's take a look at the 1865 death register and see if there's anything for Appomattox. So he put the microfilm in, and lo and behold, there it is - 1865, Hannah Reynolds.
RATH: One column listed her name, another where she was from - unknown.
JONES: And then another column would have cause of death, and on the cause of death, it had artillery shell.
RATH: And then Alfred Jones found the piece of information that changed the entire meaning of this story.
JONES: And then another column would say the date of death, and the date of death was April the 12th.
RATH: April the 12th. Keep in mind everyone thought Hannah Reynolds had died on April 9, still a slave. But in fact, she had held on for three more days.
JONES: This lady actually lived to become a free woman. And then another column said who's reporting the death, and that column - it had Samuel Coleman, which was her owner. And it had relationship in the next column, and the relationship was former owner.
RATH: Former owner. On Saturday, Jones delivered his eulogy for Hannah Reynolds. He says now he feels a tremendous responsibility.
JONES: It was remarkable to me that a woman who was injured a slave 150 years ago - her name is known, and her story has went across the United States and across the world. I mean, I can just really sense the fingerprints of God on this whole story.
RATH: That's Reverend Alfred Jones of Appomattox, Va., speaking about Hannah Reynolds. She died 150 years ago today a free woman.
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