These letters were written by Charles Henry Bell (1842-1898), the son of James Bell (1792-1864) and Rebecca Fletcher (1800-1883) of Haverhill, Grafton county, New Hampshire. Charles was single and working as a house painter when he was drafted on 31 May 1864. I can’t find him in military records but he indicates on his letterhead that he was a member of the “1st Division Sharpshooters.” His letter suggest that the regiment was being recruited as most of the veterans had mustered out by the time of these letters.
After he was mustered out of the service, he married Ann Allissa Willoughby (1847-1926) and lived in Boston where he returned to house painting. He wrote the letters to his older sister, Licetta Bell (1840-1902), living in Boston at the time. Licetta never married and lived many years with her older sister Calista Bell who was married in 1848 to Rev. William McPherson.
In one of his letters, Charles mentions his cousin Jacob Leroy Bell who was Captain of Co. G, 11th New Hampshire Infantry.
Camp 1st Division Sharpshooters
January 9, 1865
I thought that I would write you a few lines to let you know where we are. We have got our camp nearly all cleared off now so that it begins to look a little more like home. Egan [?] and me have got our tents [ ] done except some new men that just come last night and will [ ] here their tents up for me shall all help them and it won’t take long to get them done. We have yet only about 75 men now but they are going to fill us up to 100 in a few days and then we shall have target practice every day and by spring shall get to be quite good shots for we have improved a great deal since we were organized. And now when we get short of rations, we go out and shoot some wild turkey or squirrel but we have got them pretty well thinned up now for there has been so many after them.
The regiment got some more recruits last week and they were all foreigners but they are a better lot of men than the ones they sent before for them can understand english and the others could not.
I wonder why that John don’t write, I have written to him several times but don’t get any answer so that I shall quit writing to him now for awhile at least.
How does Henry Mitchel? I suppose that he is enjoying the honeymoon now and I wonder if it is as grand as the honey that we got one night by moonlight when we was on the raid. I went to taste a piece in the dark and there was a bee in it that showed his contempt for the Yanks by stinging me on the tongue. But a thing that is not worth fighting for is not worth having.
I don’t hear of any news except the report that the Pay Master is coming soon and that is good news if it is true for we have not been paid for 4 months now and a [ ] from him would be very acceptable.
When does Capt. Leroy Bell intend to come back to the army. His camp lays about 3 miles from us now. We lay outside of the rear line of works near the Jerusalem Plank Road, He will know where that is for his regiment laid there in the camp quarters that ours built. Please remember me to him.
Give my love to all the folks. Your affectionate brother, — C. H. Bell
Camp 1st Div. Sharpshooters
I was very glad to receive a letter from you and to know that you had received some of my letters at last for I heard that you had not any of you heard from me. I was very anxious to hear from you. I do not see why my letters were delayed so long on the road and was very sorry to learn that you had been so anxious about me for I was well all the time but I came very near going to Richmond on the first day’s fight, for the Rebs drove us out of the woods in rather a hurry and I had to make my legs do their duty for I had made up my mind not to be taken prisoner. But we soon made them run faster than they made us for we opened our artillery on them and the Old 3rd Brigade charged at the same time and they left in a hurry.
We are under orders to march again and shall probably start in the morning. I don’t know where we are going. Some say that we are going to march over land to Fairfax and others say that we are going to City Point to take transports for Alexandria but we shall know by tomorrow night. I think that it won’t be long now before we are home again for there is nothing more to do now and they won’t keep the whole army long. I had as leave stay here now until fall for so many of the boys get sick that go home in the summer.
Please give my love to all. Your affectionate brother, — C. H. Bell