Louis Bell Papers, 1828-1900

Collection number: MC 165
Size: (7 boxes) (2.33 cu.ft.)

About Louis and Mollie Bell

Louis Bell was born in Chester, New Hampshire on March 8, 1837, the son of Governor Samuel Bell and his second wife, Lucy. His siblings included Dr. Luther V. Bell, New Hampshire Senator James Bell, and New Hampshire Chief Justice Samuel D. Bell. Louis Bell attended school at the Derry and Gilford Academies and graduated from Brown University at the age of eighteen. In 1857, after being admitted to the New Hampshire bar, Bell opened his own law practice in Farmington, New Hampshire. On June 8, 1859, Bell married his childhood friend Mary Anne (Mollie) Persis Bouton, third daughter of Rev. Dr. Bouton of Concord. Together, the couple had two children: a daughter, Marian, born September 5, 1860 and a son, Louis, born December 5, 1864. A third child, born in the spring of 1862, lived for just three weeks.

In 1861, after the Civil War broke out, Louis Bell enlisted in the First N.H. Volunteer Regiment. He initially served as Captain of Company A. When the First, a 90-day regiment disbanded, Bell joined the newly-formed Fourth N.H Volunteer Regiment. On August 5, 1861 he was appointed its lieutenant colonel. After a brief assignment with the Army of the Potomac, the new regiment was sent to occupy the South Carolina lowlands south of Charleston. Bell received the recognition of Brigadier General Thomas W. Sherman, who appointed Bell as his Inspector General and Chief of his Staff.

In January 1862, a force led by Bell undertook a Florida campaign during which it captured Fernandina, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine. On March 18, 1862, Bell was promoted to full colonel and became commander of the regiment. While commanding the regiment’s occupation of St. Augustine, General David Hunter had Bell arrested and relieved of his command for allegedly returning a fugitive slave to her owners. Following a half-hearted investigation, Bell was reinstated to his command in September 1862 without trial.

The regiment returned to South Carolina in late 1862 and by the following spring, Bell commanded a brigade which included the Third and Fourth New Hampshire Regiments and the Ninth and Eleventh Maine Regiments. The brigade took part in several siege operations against works outside of Charleston. These included the capture of both Fort Wagner and Fort Gregg, located on Morris Island, and the shelling of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

Following a brief furlough, Bell’s brigade was reassigned to Virginia where it took part in the battle of Drewry’s Bluff (May 15, 1864) before settling into the siege lines surrounding Petersburg, Virginia. Bell’s forces also took part in the Battle of the Crater (July 30, 1864), a bloody affair which did little to move the siege lines. In December 1864, Bell and his command were part of a failed expedition against Fort Fisher, located at the mouth of the Cape Fear Rivers outside of Wilmington, North Carolina. A second expedition attacked Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865. Though successful, Colonel Bell was mortally wounded, dying a few hours later. He was buried in Chester, New Hampshire. Mollie Bell, wracked with grief, survived her husband by only four months.

    Timeline of the 4th New Hampshire Volunteer Regiment

  • 1861, November 4th: 4th Regiment arrived in Port Royal, helped to capture Hilton Head S.C.
  • 1862, January: Left to capture Fernandina, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine. The 4th Regt. Garrisoned at St. Augustine.
  • 1862, September: 4th Regt. Ordered to Beaufort, South Carolina
  • 1863, spring: Attack on Morris Island to start siege of Charleston.
  • 1863, July-September: Siege of Fort Wagner S.C.
  • 1863, September through 1864, January: Participation in the siege of Charleston
  • 1864, May: After a brief furlough, the 4th Regt. met at Drewry’s Bluff to make a push for Richmond.
  • 1864, June: Siege of Petersburg. Bell successfully captured prisoners but the regiment experienced heavy losses in the trenches.
  • 1864, August: Series of skirmishes turn into the battle of Deep Bottom against Gen. Robert E. Lee.
  • 1864, September: After extremely heavy losses, those who did not re-enlist return home to New Hampshire. All others are sent in the expeditions for Fort Fisher.
  • 1864, December: The first expedition against Fort Fisher is unsuccessful.
  • 1865, January 15: Fort Fisher is successfully captured by the second expedition. Col. Louis Bell is mortally wounded in battle and dies that evening.

About the Louis Bell Papers (1828-1900)

The collection consists of personal and military correspondence, military reports, publications, miscellaneous items, and copies of Louis Bell’s service records. The personal correspondence within this collection are largely between Bell and his wife and consist of love letters, gossip, and descriptions of life in the field. There is also correspondence between various other family members and friends contained in personal correspondence. The military correspondence is made up of general correspondence between soldiers, details of the events at St. Augustine, outfitting receipts and requests, as well as general orders. The Louis Bell Papers contain muster records, drill reports, and morning reports dating to the first half of the war when Bell was Inspector General. Various publications are also included and consist of newspapers, pamphlets, and booklets that arose during wartime. Additional miscellaneous items such drawings and poems from the field, a photograph of Louis Bell, and his complete service records round out the collection.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [Folder Number], [Box Number], Louis Bell Papers, 1828-1900, MC 165, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Gift, 2008

Purchase, 2016

Collection Ownership History

This collection consists of separate acquisitions which were passed through family lineage and manuscripts dealers prior to processing at this repository.

Collection Arrangement

Arrangement is chronological.

Collection Contents

Series 1: Personal Correspondence, 1852-1900

(1.0 cubic foot)

This series is divided into three parts: Letters from Louis to Mollie Bell, those from Mollie to Louis, and letters from both to and from other individuals. The first two parts contain love notes, accounts of military actions, expressions of homesickness, gossip, prayers for a safe homecoming, accounts of their children, among many other topics. Correspondence with others includes business receipts, condolence letters, and the like.

Box 1
Box 1, Folder 1Louis to Mollie: Aug. - Sept. 1860
Box 1, Folder 2Louis to Mollie: Oct. 1860
Box 1, Folder 3Louis to Mollie: Jan. - Feb. 1861
Box 1, Folder 4Louis to Mollie: Apr. - June 1861
Box 1, Folder 5Louis to Mollie: July 1861
Box 1, Folder 6Louis to Mollie: Oct. 1861
Box 1, Folder 7Louis to Mollie: Nov. 1861
Box 1, Folder 8Louis to Mollie: Dec. 1861
Box 1, Folder 9Louis to Mollie: Jan. 1862
Box 1, Folder 10Louis to Mollie: Feb. 1862
Box 1, Folder 11Louis to Mollie: Mar. 1862
Box 1, Folder 12Louis to Mollie: Apr. –May 1862
Box 1, Folder 13Louis to Mollie: June-July 1862
Box 1, Folder 14Louis to Mollie: Aug. –Sept. 1862
Box 1, Folder 15Louis to Mollie: Oct. 1862
Box 1, Folder 16Louis to Mollie: Nov. 1862
Box 1, Folder 17Louis to Mollie: Dec. 1862
Box 1, Folder 18Louis to Mollie: Jan. –Apr. 1863
Box 1, Folder 19Louis to Mollie: May 1863
Box 1, Folder 20Louis to Mollie: July 1863
Box 1, Folder 21Louis to Mollie: Aug. 1863
Box 1, Folder 22Louis to Mollie: Sept. –Oct. 1863
Box 1, Folder 23Louis to Mollie: Nov. 1863
Box 1, Folder 24Louis to Mollie: Dec. 1863
Box 1, Folder 25Louis to Mollie: Jan. –June 1864
Box 1, Folder 26Louis to Mollie: Aug. 1864
Box 1, Folder 27Louis to Mollie: Undated Fragments
Box 2
Box 2, Folder 1Mollie to Louis: Jan.-May 1861
Box 2, Folder 2Mollie to Louis: June 1861
Box 2, Folder 3Mollie to Louis: July 1861
Box 2, Folder 4Mollie to Louis: Oct. 1861
Box 2, Folder 5Mollie to Louis: Nov. 1861
Box 2, Folder 6Mollie to Louis: Dec. 1861
Box 2, Folder 7Mollie to Louis: Jan. 1862
Box 2, Folder 8Mollie to Louis: Feb. 1862
Box 2, Folder 9Mollie to Louis: Mar. 1862
Box 2, Folder 10Mollie to Louis: Apr. 1862
Box 2, Folder 11Mollie to Louis: June 1862
Box 2, Folder 12Mollie to Louis: July 1862
Box 2, Folder 13Mollie to Louis: Aug. 1862
Box 2, Folder 14Mollie to Louis: Sept. 1862
Box 2, Folder 15Mollie to Louis: Oct. 1862
Box 2, Folder 16Mollie to Louis: Nov. 1862
Box 2, Folder 17Mollie to Louis: Dec. 1862
Box 3
Box 3, Folder 1Mollie to Louis: Jan.-Apr. 1863
Box 3, Folder 2Mollie to Louis: May-July 1863
Box 3, Folder 3Mollie to Louis: Aug. 1863
Box 3, Folder 4Mollie to Louis: Sept.-Nov. 1863
Box 3, Folder 5Mollie to Louis: Dec. 1863
Box 3, Folder 6Mollie to Louis: Jan.-Nov 1864
Box 3, Folder 7Mollie to Louis: Undated Fragment
Box 3, Folder 8Mollie Bell to Persis Bell: 1852-1854
Box 3, Folder 9Mollie Bell to Persis Bell: 1856
Box 3, Folder 10Mollie Bell to Persis Bell: 1857-1858
Box 3, Folder 11Mollie Bell to Persis Bell: 1859-1860
Box 3, Folder 12Mollie Bell to Persis Bell: Undated
Box 3, Folder 13Mollie Bell to Lucy Bell: 1862-1863
Box 3, Folder 14Mollie Bell to Lucy Bell: Undated or Fragments
Box 3, Folder 15Mollie Bell to Augusta Spring Mixer: 1857-1864
Box 3, Folder 16Augusta Spring Mixer to Mollie Bell: 1851-1853
Box 3, Folder 17Miscellaneous to Mollie Bell: 1859-1865
Box 3, Folder 18Mollie Bell to Miscellaneous: 1857-1862
Box 3, Folder 19Mollie Bell to Miscellaneous: Fragments
Box 3, Folder 20William Badger to Louis Bell: 1864
Box 3, Folder 21Miscellaneous to Louis Bell: 1860-1861
Box 3, Folder 22Miscellaneous to Louis Bell: 1862
Box 3, Folder 23Miscellaneous to Louis Bell: 1863
Box 3, Folder 24Miscellaneous to Louis Bell: 1864
Box 3, Folder 25Miscellaneous to Louis Bell: Fragments or Undated
Box 3, Folder 26Louis Bell to Miscellaneous: 1861-1863
Box 3, Folder 27Louis’ Business Papers: 1852-1860
Box 3, Folder 28Louis’ Business Papers: 1861-1864
Box 3, Folder 29Miscellaneous: 1828-1900
Box 3, Folder 30Miscellaneous: Fragments

Series 2: Military Correspondence, 1861-1864

(0.66 cubic feet)

Series Two is organized into "General Correspondence", "St. Augustine", "Outfitting", and "General Orders." The First part of the series contains letters written between various officials pertaining to the struggles and circumstances of military life. See timeline above for specific battles and sieges. The second part contains letters and miscellaneous accounts of the happenings at St. Augustine. The 4th Regiment was stationed in the stronghold after its successful capture in order to keep the peace. Allegations of abuse of power, mistreatment of freedmen, and a disregard for his commanding general’s orders led to Bell’s arrest. Bell adamantly denied these allegations and requested to regain his station. The Court Martial never took place and the Army reinstated Bell to his command in September 1862.

The third part contains a large collection of receipts and invoices for the outfitting of the regiments before they went to war. There are also reports of requested items within this series. The fourth and final part consists of official pamphlets distributed among military officials describing the most recent orders of the General.

Box 4
Box 4, Folder 1General Correspondence: Jan.-Sept. 1861
Box 4, Folder 2General Correspondence: Oct. 1861
Box 4, Folder 3General Correspondence: Nov. 16-24, 1861
Box 4, Folder 4General Correspondence: Nov. 25-30, 1861
Box 4, Folder 5General Correspondence: Dec. 1861
Box 4, Folder 6General Correspondence: Jan. 1862
Box 4, Folder 7General Correspondence: Feb. 1862
Box 4, Folder 8General Correspondence: Mar. 1862
Box 4, Folder 9General Correspondence: Apr. 1-14, 1862
Box 4, Folder 10General Correspondence: Apr. 15-30. 1862
Box 4, Folder 11General Correspondence: May 1862
Box 4, Folder 12General Correspondence: June 1862
Box 4, Folder 13General Correspondence: July-Aug. 1862
Box 4, Folder 14General Correspondence: Sept. 1862
Box 4, Folder 15General Correspondence: Oct. 1862
Box 4, Folder 16General Correspondence: Nov. 1862
Box 4, Folder 17General Correspondence: Dec. 1862
Box 4, Folder 18General Correspondence: Jan. 1863
Box 4, Folder 19General Correspondence: Feb.-Apr. 1863
Box 4, Folder 20General Correspondence: May-July 1863
Box 4, Folder 21General Correspondence: July-Aug. 1863
Box 4, Folder 22General Correspondence: Sept.-Dec. 1863
Box 5
Box 5, Folder 1General Correspondence: Jan.-Mar. 1864
Box 5, Folder 2General Correspondence: Apr.-May 1864
Box 5, Folder 3General Correspondence: June 1-19, 1864
Box 5, Folder 4General Correspondence: June 20-30, 1864
Box 5, Folder 5General Correspondence: July 1-15, 1864
Box 5, Folder 6General Correspondence: July 16-31, 1864
Box 5, Folder 7General Correspondence: Aug.-Dec. 1864
Box 5, Folder 8General Correspondence: 1865
Box 5, Folder 9General Correspondence: Miscellaneous 1860-1864
Box 5, Folder 10General Correspondence: Miscellaneous Undated
Box 5, Folder 11General Correspondence: Miscellaneous Undated
Box 5, Folder 12Confiscated Materials 1854-Sept.1861
Box 5, Folder 13Confiscated Materials: Oct. 1-15 1861
Box 5, Folder 14Confiscated Materials: Oct. 16, 1861-1862
Box 5, Folder 15Confiscated Materials: Undated or Fragment
Box 5, Folder 16Confiscated Materials: Publications [A Florida map from this folder is located in Map Case E, Drawer 1, Room 114.]
Box 5, Folder 17St. Augustine: 1862
Box 5, Folder 18Bell’s Arrest: 1862
Box 5, Folder 19Outfitting Receipts: Aug.-Sept. 19, 1861
Box 5, Folder 20Outfitting Receipts: Sept. 23-25, 1861
Box 5, Folder 21Outfitting Receipts: Sept. 26-31, 1861
Box 5, Folder 22Articles Needed by the 8th Regiment Maine Volunteers: 1861
Box 5, Folder 23Articles Needed by the 46th Regiment New York State Volunteers: 1861
Box 5, Folder 24Articles Needed by the 47th Regiment New York State Volunteers: 1861
Box 6
Box 6, Folder 1General Orders: 1861
Box 6, Folder 2General Orders: 1862-1864
Box 6, Folder 3Muster Records: May-Aug. 1861

Series 3: Military Reports, 1861-1862

(0.3 cubic feet)

This series is made up of muster records, drill reports, and morning reports. The first part series contains a substantial amount of official Muster Records for the year of 1861. These records determined the payroll for soldiers serving in the regiments and were given to Louis Bell when he was acting as Inspector General. The second part is the collection of Drill Reports sent to Louis Bell during his time as Inspector General. These weekly reports recorded the success of drills that were run by each of the regiments Bell was overseeing. The third part contains the Morning Reports delivered to Louis Bell when he was serving as Inspector General. Morning Reports acted as a way to keep Bell informed on the daily happenings and issues occurring within the regiments he was commanding.

Box 6
Box 6, Folder 4Muster Records: Sept. 1861
Box 6, Folder 5Muster Records: Oct. 1861
Box 6, Folder 6Muster Records: Undated
Box 6, Folder 7Drill Reports: Week of Nov. 16-21, 1861
Box 6, Folder 8Drill Reports: Week of Nov. 21-18, 1861
Box 6, Folder 9Drill Reports: Week of Nov. 28-Dec. 5, 1861
Box 6, Folder 10Drill Reports: Week of Dec. 4-11, 1861
Box 6, Folder 11Drill Reports: Week Ending in Dec. 18, 1861
Box 6, Folder 12Drill Reports: Week of Dec. 19-25, 1861
Box 6, Folder 13Drill Reports: Week Ending in Jan. 1, 1862
Box 6, Folder 14Drill Reports: Week Ending in Jan. 8, 1862
Box 6, Folder 15Drill Reports: Week Ending in Jan. 15, 1862
Box 6, Folder 16Drill Reports: Week Ending in Feb. 5, 1862
Box 7
Box 7, Folder 1Morning Reports: Feb.-Apr. 1862
Box 7, Folder 2Morning Reports: May 1-19, 1862
Box 7, Folder 3Morning Reports: May 20-30, 1862
Box 7, Folder 4Morning Reports: June 1-9, 1862
Box 7, Folder 5Morning Reports: June 10-30, 1862

Series 4: Publications, 1862

(0.01 cubic feet)

This series consists of multiple publications pertaining to the 4th Regiment or wartime experiences. Within the collection are town newspapers, regimental newspapers, and works written in memoriam among others.

Box 7
Box 7, Folder 6“Savannah Daily News”: Jan. 15-Feb. 10, 1862
Box 7, Folder 7“The New South” Port Royal S.C.: March 22-Sept. 1862
Box 7, Folder 8“The Examiner” St. Augustine, Fl.: 1860-1862
Box 7, Folder 9Publications: In Memoriam
Box 7, Folder 10Publications: Miscellaneous

Series 5: Additional Correspondence Materials, 1928-1900

(0.01 cubic feet)

This series contains a collection of unique items such as a photograph of Louis Bell, wartime drawings and poems, and miscellaneous envelopes from the era.

Box 7
Box 7, Folder 11Drawings, Poems, etc.
Box 7, Folder 12Envelopes
Box 7, Folder 13Photo, etc.

Series 6: Louis Bell’s Service Records, 1861-1865

(0.01 cubic feet)

This series is a photocopied collection of Louis Bell’s complete service records from the National Archives.

Box 7
Box 7, Folder 14Louis Bell’s Service Records: Photocopies
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  • Louis Bell