This letter was written by David “Newlin” Fell (1840-1919), the son of Joseph C. Fell (1804-1887) and Harriet Williams (1807-1890) of Buckingham, Bucks county, Pennsylvania. Newlin attended [Millersville State Normal School (now Millersville University)] and graduated in 1862. Subsequently, Fell served as 2nd lieutenant of Co. E, 122nd Pennsylvania Infantry, from August 12, 1862, through May 15, 1863, and then during July through August 1863 as 1st lieutenant of Company D, 31st Pennsylvania Militia Regiment. He fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run, at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. After the war, he became a judge and eventually served as a justice on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Minors Hill, Va.
October 16th 1862
You have probably concluded ere this that it was not my intention ever to redeem my promise to write to you after I landed upon the Sacred Soil of the “Old Dominion.” If you were here tonight and could see see how we are situated, you would ask no apology for this seeming neglect.
We have now plenty of time but rather poor accommodations for such purposes. Capt. and I live in a house about the size of a large chicken coop. We are supplied with what we called “shelter tents.” They are made of thin muslin and are twelve feet long and five broad. They are stretched upon a horizontal pole elevated about three feet from the ground. We left our ridge tents at Clouds Mills six weeks ago and for a long time had nothing to protect us from the rain and dews.
Most of our time has been spent in marching and we soon learned how to make ourselves comfortable in bivouac.
All of [Abram Sanders] Piatt’s Brigade except our regiment was on the first train that was fired into by the rebels at Warrenton. We had been left at Cloud’s mills with orders to follow the next morning. Railroad communication having been destroyed, we started on foot and after a forced march of fifteen hours reached Fairfax Court House in time to see a little of the last battle and join in the retreat which took place next day.
Since then we have been moving almost constantly. We were thrown out upon the outpost of the army and for two weeks gradually withdrew until we were under the guns of the forts around Washington. We are now about two miles from Fall’s Church bivouacked upon the same ground which we occupied five week ago. We were yesterday transferred from [Samuel P.] Heintzelman‘s to [Franz] Sigel‘s Corps & expect to move down to Centreville soon. The change is not agreeable to most of our men. They want to “fight mit Sigel” but have a dread of the Old Bull’s Run battleground. If our double defeat upon that fatal field can ever be retrieved, I think Sigel is the man for the work.
I see by today’s Inquirer that Penns. is all right upon the election. I trust that the 5th District has had enough Union men left to elect their candidate.
The President’s Proclamation receives the utmost unanimous support of the whole army. The cry “I won’t fight with a “nigger” is not uttered by those who are at their posts of duty upon the field.
Hugh, if you feel disposed to write, your letters will always be acceptable. Your friend, — D. N. Fell
Address Co. E, 122 Regt. P. V., Piatt’s Brigade, Whipple’s Division, Washington D. C.