SKU: A01006 Category:


Description: This May 14, 1853 autograph letter signed from William H. Bell, a Major of Ordnance at the Allegheny Arsenal, to William F. Johnston, then President of the Allegheny Valley Rail Road, is in regards to the new railroad line being constructed on Arsenal grounds — "I enclose the copy of a letter of the Colonel of Ordnance of the 11th inst., and would request an answer to the Second par. thereof, as early as practicable." He closes "I am sir very respectfully yr obt. sevt." and signs with a flourish as "Wm. H. Bell, Major Ord."

The enclosed letter from H.K. Craig, then the Colonel of Ordnance in Washington DC, to Major Bell begins, "The Secretary of War [Jefferson Davis, later President of the Confederacy], has decided that it is now too late to call upon the Allegheny Valley Rail Road Company to construct a Wall inside of this road to protect the public property; such an understanding should have been connected with his consent." The second paragraph, to which Bell requested an answer, reads " If, therefore, a sense of justice and fair dealing will not induce the Company to construct the wall, you will have to provide the necessary permanent protection. Please forward at once an estimate of the sum necessary for this purpose, with a description of the kind of Wall you propose. The facing of the River Wall, if not already appropriated by the Rail-Road Company, should be reserved for the foundation of such a wall. My consent to the removal and use of the stone by the Company was given in the full expectation that the government was not to be involved in expense beyond the grant of land, by its generosity." Bell authorized this copy in the upper right corner, signing it "Wm. H. Bell Maj. Ord."

Also included here is a copy of a memo written in a third hand, summarizing some additional thoughts Bell apparently wished to convey to Johnston: "Major Bell left papers with Mr. Logan. Had a long talk. He wishes Gov. Johnston to write to the Secretary of War, just on two points to show that the construction of the Rail Road as proposed cannot be detrimental to the interest of the Government. One point to show that the advantages of the rail road are facilities for transporting to the Lakes & outweigh all disadvantages whatever, and secondly that the construction of an ordinary fence will protect the ground from intrusion better than they are now protected.  To send copy of letter to Col. Craig. Major Bell seemed to regard this as a matter of courtesy, and to think that it would place the position of the company in the proper light. He has had but no opinion about the whole matter all the time.

Each of these three related documents is written on a single page of lightly ruled blue writing paper; each has one slightly rough edge, due to being neatly torn from a sheet of paper twice as big. Each is also docketed on the verso with the date and a short description. Each letter measures approximately 9.75" x 7.75" and the memo measures approximately 10" x 8"  Item #A01006  

William H. Bell (1798-1865) graduated from Military Academy in 1820, and went on to a successful career in the US Army, serving in the Mexican-American War and commanding several Arsenals – including those at Washington DC, St. Louis, Allegheny, and Harpers Ferry, prior to resigning at the outbreak of the Civil War due to sympathies with the Confederacy.  

Condition: Some offset ink, particularly in the blank lower third of the memo, fold lines, otherwise in very good condition.