Miami Union - Veteran - Chief of the Secret Service Department

February 22, 1879 

BELL, CHARLES S. - SAD DEATH OF A WELL KNOWN UNION SCOUT - Some of His Exciting Adventures and Hairbrenth Escapes - Dayton, O., Feb. 23,--The death of Charles S. Bell, at the Soldiers' Home, the early part of the week ends a career of intense and pathetic interest.  By his intrepid daring in the war he won a reputation as the first scout in the Union army, and was entrusted by General Grant and other commanders with enterprises of the most weighty importance.  He was a young man, not twenty years old, when he entered the Union army, hardy and full of romantic bravery, and no undertaking was too hazardous for him to enter upon.  His promptitude and energy won the attention of the Commander-in-chief, and one or two enterprises conducted successfully established him in the confidence of his superior officers.  He would carry his scouting expeditions into the very midst of the enemy's camp, escaping at times in a manner that would seem little less than marvelous.  Frequently when absent for a considerable time he would be given up for dead, and would then make his appearance at some moment when least expected.  On several occasions he enlisted in the rebel army, and was uniformed in gray.  At one time to effect an object in view, he took the character of a rebel scout, and succeeded in drawing General Chalmers, of the Confederates, now in Congress from Mississippi with his entire corps, within the Federal lines.  In the fight that ensued Chalmers was wounded in the face, and a large portion of his command was scattered or made prisoners by General Hulburt in charge of the Union forces.  Bell's exploits finally rendered him so well known that it became very dangerous for him to prosecute his operations.  In 1863 he was discovered, captured and placed on a train, handcuffed, and started for Richmond.  Notwithstanding these difficulties, Bell contrived to jump from the train while it was under full speed, elude his pursuers and finally make good his escape.  He was quiet and intelligent, and possessed a fair education.  Shortly after the close of the war he wrote for the New York Ledger a series of articles relating his adventures while acting as scout and spy in the Union army.  He was by profession a journalist before he entered the army, and for a while, in New York, after the war, he edited a financial and commercial paper, on Wall Street.  This venture did not succeed, and he abandoned it, obtaining a position in the Secret Service Department, under General Grant's administration.  The cloud of his life settled upon him during this time.  He was trusted by Grant in his most confidential matters, and during the Babcock affair he was sent to St. Louis by the President as a confidential agent.  Here, among other matters, he was charged with accepting a bribe of $500.  The charge was widely commented on by the press at the time, and it lost Bell his position and the confidence heretofore placed in him by General Grant.  It seems to have been keenly felt by Bell, and if he was guilty, he was punished sorely for it.  Having dropped out of public life about six months ago, he was admitted to the Dayton Home.  He had little to say, was retired and reserved, and but very few of those who met him knew the man except as one who had been a soldier, not as Colonel L. C. Bell, Chief of the Secret Service Department, and the most noted scout of the war.  His constitution had been one of the best, but suddenly it began to fail him from an attack of hasty consumption, the seeds of which were sown by his exposure during the war.  During the past few months he failed rapidly.  He went to Arkansas with the hope of finding relief, but returned to die at the Home.  He died last Tuesday and his body now lies with those of a thousand brave soldiers in the beautiful little cemetery at the Home.  It was not until several days after his burial that the identity of the man became known.  He was without wife or family, and was entered on the books of the Home from Illinois, without any relatives.  He was without means, and never received a pension from the Government.  His career is ended, and the one fault of his life will be obliterated by posterity when his services are recalled.


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