Civil War Union Army Officer. A native of Chester, Pennsylvania, he received a commission of Lieutenant Colonel, 51st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry when it was apparent in the summer of 1861 that the Civil War would not be a short one. The 51st Pennsylvania was assigned to General Ambrose Burnside's Roanoke, North Carolina expedition. During the first battle (Roanoke Island), the 51st Pennsylvania was deployed in the rear of the 9th New York Zouaves who fled in a panicked retreat upon being fired upon mistakenly by another Union regiment. Quickly realizing the danger those frightened New Yorkers soldiers could create, Lieutenant Colonel Bell ordered his men to fix bayonets and stop their retreat while he personally threatened to shoot any man who attempted to pass. Order promptly returned to the colorfully clad New Yorkers and they soon found themselves at the focal point of the Union attack, which captured the enemy's fort and three artillery pieces. During the subsequent Battle of New Berne in March 1862 Lieutenant Colonel Bell led a detachment of his unit that brought artillery pieces through torrential rains and thick mud into a critical position; an act that General Burnside personally cited in his official report. While in the thick of the battle, Bell was ordered to command the left wing of the regiment by his commanding officer, Colonel John Hartranft. Moving at the double quick Bell ordered a volley against the Rebel line which made it waver. Hartranft then ordered Bell to charge and with loud cries the Pennsylvanians moved forward and soon planted their colors inside the fort. After New Berne was captured, Lieutenant Colonel Bell was briefly detailed to lead a brigade, which he did in an expedition into Elizabeth City, North Carolina. After the successful conclusion of Burnside's operations there, he and the regiment were assigned to the Army of the Potomac, and fought in the August 1862 Battle of Second Bull Run, where he commanded the unit's picket line, and in the Battle of Chantilly, where he led the regiment in holding Union artillery positions. Finally, at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, he was with his regiment as they stormed what is now known as Burnside's Bridge in the later hours of the momentous conflict. After the 51st Pennsylvania's brigade forced their way over the bridge with many casualties, Lieutenant Colonel Bell saved the lives of seventeen Rebel prisoners from the hands of irate men under his command by stepping in before the defenseless Confederates were shot. After doing this, Rebel artillery along Boonesboro Pike started to shell the bridge. In the process of requesting more soldiers be sent over the bridge to secure it, he was struck in the left temple by a canister, which knocked him to the ground. Bleeding profusely from the wound, he told his men "I don't think it's dangerous", and "Boys, never say die" while being carried away from the battle. Despite his brave assurances, he died from the wound later in the day. A popular man in the regiment, his men reluctantly withdrew from their positions on the Antietam Creek banks when later relieved, cursing the rebels who had killed their Lieutenant Colonel. (Additional infomation by Robert Donohue).
Bio by: RPD2