Letter of Sanford B. Perry, Attorney, to Adj. General of Illinois Fuller, December 19, 1863

Chicago 19th Dec. 1863

Gen. Fuller
Dear Sir,

On the 14th day of Nov., Capt. George L. Bellows of the 51st Illinois Regt. Vols. wrote to me from Chattanooga, informing me that the commissioned officers of his Regt. at a meeting held on the day previous elected him to be Major of the Regt. At the same meeting Major [Charles] Davis was elected to be Lieut. Col. The certificate of the Election were sent to Col. Bradley at Chicago to be forwarded to you as a basis for issuing the Commissions in conformity with the elections. Capt. Bellows desired me to see Col. Bradley about the matter and to do what might be proper and necessary to have his commission issued.

On the evening of Nov. 25th (while Capt. Bellows was in fact laying dead on the field of battle) I had an interview with Col. B. and he informed me that Capt. [John] McWilliams of the same Regt., now a prisoner of war at Richmond, ranked Capt. Bellows and that the rule of your office is to commission the ranking officer, if he is not objectionable. He felt that while Capt. Bellows was a brave, competent and deserving officer, yet the promtion was due to Capt. McWilliams because he had the older commission and was also competent and desrving. I saw that Col. Bradley favored Capt. McWilliams' claims. I acquiesced in his decision and did not trouble you in the matter. Col. B. left the next day for Springfield and told me he should deliver to you the certificate of election and make no opposition to your issuing the commission if you saw fit to do it.

Capt. Bellows was in the fearful charge of Mission Ridge and was killed instantly on the 25th of Nov. by a rifle bullet passing through his neck. We have his body now here, awaiting trans-shipment to his friends in Worcester Mass. He was never married and leaves, as his immediate family, a mother who has been very sick for several weeks and who cannot recover, a maiden sister and a brother. He had written to them of his election as major and they suppose he was in fact such.

He was a cousin of my wife and has been for fifteen years much in my family. For the sake of his mother and sister whose hearts have followed him lovingly and anxiously through the fields of Stone River, Chicamauga, and Mission Ridge, in all of which battles his bravery was unquestioned, I have decided to ask you to issue his commission as major. It cannot now interfere with the claims of Capt McWilliams. I cannot of course do him any good, but it will be a great gratification to his friends. It it is in partial violation of your rule, still it will not be a precedent troublesome to you.

I sought Col. Bradley's advice in this matter before writing to you and enclose herewith a letter from him addressed to you.

I had thought of getting Wm L. Church Esq to write you a letter chiefly for the purpose of letting you know who I am, but perhaps it is not necessary.

If you can consistently issue the commission, I shall esteem it a great favor to me personally, and it certainly will be appreciated by the broken hearts who are mourning their brave and honored dead.

Yours very truly,
Sanford B. Perry

Dec 10, 1863

Chattanooga Dec 10th 1863

Adjutant Gen Fuller

Dear Sir,
Capt Geo L. Bellows 51st Ill, was killed at the storming of Mission Ridge on the 25th of Nov. As I told you when at home last month, Capt. Bellows had been elected Major of the Regt a little time previous. I did not recommend his being commissioned at that time as there were senior captains deserving of promotion.

His friends are now anxious that a commission should be issued as he has died in defence of his country. If consistent in your view with the interests of the service, I wish this might be done. Capt. Bellows was a very brave and heroic officer and has well earned this compliment.

L. P. Bradley
Col 51st Ill

Administrative Files of Civil War Regiments, 51st Infantry Regiment, R.S. 301.18, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, Illinois.


  1. Sanford Perry was an established attorney in Chicago. He cooperated with Lincoln in legal matters in the 1850s. Perry was born in Massachusetts in 1819 and died in 1884 in Chicago.