1862: John Parrish Fell to Elizabeth J. (MacFarlane) Fell


Pvt. John Parrish Fell, courtesy Union Drummer Boy, Gettysburg

This letter was written by John Parrish Fell (1829-1882), the son of Hugh Fell (1804-1843) and Abigail Parrish (1809-1848) of Wilkes Barre, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania. John was married in November 1851 to Elizabeth J. MacFarlane (1831-1866). In the letter, John refers to his two children, Emma Jean Fell (1855-1829) and Charles H. Fell (1858-1908). He also refers to his sister, Harriet (“Hattie”) Parrish Fell (1841-1882).

Private John P. Fell enlisted at the age of 33 in Co. F, Seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps. (a.k.a 36th Pennsylvania Infantry). Born in Wilkes-Barre, John was an engineer living in Pittstown, Luzerne County, PA when the war began. He enlisted in the “Wyoming Bank Infantry” which became Co. F of the Seventh. Early in the war, Fell was appointed “Clerk” to Colonel E. B. Harvey, and remained as such until Colonel Harvey resigned. John remained with the Seventh until he and many others in his regiment were captured at the Battle of the Wilderness on 5 May 1864. He remained in captivity until 17 May 1865 when he was mustered out on 28 June 1865.

After the war, John worked as a contract painter in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

[Editor’s Note: This letter is only signed “John” and there was no accompanying envelope to aid in the further identification of the author. However, clues from the letter were used to positively identify this letter as having been written by Pvt. John Parrish Fell.] 


Camp opposite Fredericksburg, [Virginia]
August 25th, 1862

My Dear Wife,

I received two letters from you yesterday — one dated the 17th & one the 12th. I was very much pleased to hear from you & [sister] Hattie as I received one from her dated the 19th.


Le Grande B. Speese, courtesy of Union Drummer Boy, Gettysburg

We have not received a mail before for over a week. We received one while we lay at Fortress Monroe. I suppose you have read of McClellan’s army evacuating the Peninsula. We left Harrison’s Landing the evening of the 15th and arrived here in the 20th & encamped on the same grounds we occupied two months ago. We had just got our shelter tents up & the streets cleaned on the evening of the 21st when we received orders to get ready to march. After we were all ready [with] three days rations in our haversacks, gum [blanket]s rolled up, &c. Capt. [Le Grande B.] Speese detailed me to stay and take charge of the baggage. One thing, I was not well enough to stand a long march as I have had the ague in the old fashioned way since I last wrote you & also an affection of the spine which has troubled me a considerable. But I think I have got the ague pretty well broke up. One thing, I have taken quinine enough with blue pill. I think I am getting better of the other yet it troubles me a good deal yet. I lay it to laying on the hard ground with but little under or over me.

There is something like 25 of our regiment still here — mostly sick & wounded men. We are waiting for our waggon train to come up from Fortress Monroe to load up and follow the regiment. It is very lonesome here. I would like much better to be with the regiment. My friend E[van] B. Dodson ¹ is here quite sick. He has the adjutant’s things in charge. The doctors that are left here want him to go to Washington in the hospital. He has gone now to see the doctor. I will know when he returns what he intends to do. He has just returned. He is going to Washington and wants me to go with him. I am going to the surgeon to see about it. I have been to see him. I stay with the Commissary Stores & Officer’s baggage. I shall obey orders as long as I am able to do so. I think we will be ordered with the baggage to leave by railroad sometime today.


Lt. John D. Adair

Lieut. [John Dunlop] Adair has just been here and says we are to get ready as he is to have everything ready this afternoon at the depot. I must be getting things ready & cannot write you what I would had I time. One thing I must write, Ben Wells has been over twice to see me. I should have went over to see them of there had been any certainty about our leaving here. He says the folks are all well. His father is from home. Report says he was taken to Washington on account of his Secesh talks. There is another man by the name of Carpenter that used to be on the Penn Coal Co. R.R. at the time & when on that, has been over to see me several times. He is carrying on the Sutler’s business. He was employed at Plymouth for sometime at Boston works. He was very kind to me and wanted me to go to Fredericksburg with him but I dare not leave.

I am surprised that Col. [Elisha B.] Harvey ² has not been down to see you. I do not blame him for resigning. He had good reason. If I had time I would tell you the reason I think he resigned but I cannot do it at present. But I am still a good friend to Col. Harvey. I wish you would go and see him. I think you would alter your opinion of him if you would see him. Give him my kind regards.

I will write you again as soon as we get to a place where I can. Tell [my sister] Hattie I will write to her. Give my love to all. Kiss Emma & Charlie for me. I don’t expect to see any of you until my three years is up if I live that long. Write soon. I expect we shall soon have another great battle. I hope we will be able to whip the rebs badly so that they will not get over it for this war is making a grave yard of Virginia. I will bid you good bye. May God bless you & the children.

Yours as ever, — John

Capt. [William W.] White [of Co. G] is home on sick leave. Did you get Lieut. [John A.] Barrett’s photograph I sent by Col. Harvey? If not, get it. I think Capt. White will be back with the regiment soon.

¹ Evan B. Dodson (Born December 6, 1836, married February 26, 1863. Cambra, Luzerne County, PA). Enlisted July 26, 1861, at Washington D.C., in Co. F, 7th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. Discharged Philadelphia, March 29, 1865. Battles: Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mill, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg (twice), Wilderness; was taken prisoner in the last battle, May 5th, 1864; confined to Andersonville six months; escaped twice, was recaptured, and while being taken from Andersonville to Salisbury, N.C., escaped again from the railroad train, but was over taken and finally placed in prison there, remaining until exchanged at Belle Plain on the James River. Dodson Genealogy, 1600-1907 by Thompson Prettyman Ege

² Col. Elisha Boanerges Harvey of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, resigned on 4 July 1862 and Lieut.-Col. H. C. Bolinger was promoted to replace him.

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