Frederick Mordaunt Bell

Captain Frederick Mordaunt Bell, 2nd Regiment, N.H. Continental Line

Frederick Mordaunt Bell was born in Dover, New Hampshire in 1749. He was the son of Meshach, Jr. and Mary (Mordaunt) Bell.

Frederick Mordaunt Bell was a commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment on May 23, 1775. On Janaury 1, 1776, First Lieutenant Bell was promoted to Captain with duties as Company Commander in the 8th Continental Infantry (the temporary designation for the 2nd Regiment, New Hampshire Continental Line). On November 8, 1776, Captain Bell was re-commissioned as a Captain in the reorganization of the Continental Army.

During the Saratoga Campaign, Major General Gates who succeeded Major General Schuyler in the command of the Northern Department, was reinforced by multiple brigades of fresh continental troops. This included Brigadier General Enoch Poor’s Brigade which consisted of the 2nd and 4th Regiments of the New York Line and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Regiments of the New Hampshire Line. Considerable bodies of militia were also in the field as part of the growing forces the Patriots could muster. Major Genera Gates left the strong position which Major General Schuyler had taken at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson, eight miles above Albany, and proceeded sixteen miles up the river towards the enemy, and formed a strong camp near Stillwater. The two armies were only about twelve miles distant from each other; but the bridges between them were broken down, the roads were bad, and the country was covered with woods. Consequently, the progress of the British army, encumbered by its fine train of artillery and numerous wagons, was slow, and it was attended by some skirmishing.

On the evening of September 17, 1777, General Burgoyne encamped within four miles of the American army, and spent the next day in repairing the bridges between the two camps, which he accomplished with some loss. About mid-day, on September 19th, he put himself at the head of the right wing of his army, and advanced through the woods towards the left of the American camp: General Frazer and Colonel Brehman, with the grenadiers and light infantry, covered his right flank; and the Indians, loyalists, and Canadians proceeded in front. The left wing and artillery, commanded by Generals Philips and Reidesel, proceeded along the great road near the river.

The nature of the ground prevented the contending armies from observing the movements of each other; but Major General Gates, whose scouts were in constant activity, was soon informed of the advance of the British army. Gates detached Colonel Morgan, with his regiment of riflemen, to observe the motions and impede the progress of the enemy. Morgan soon met the advanced parties in front of the British right wing, and drove them back. General Burgoyne supported them by a strong detachment; and, after a severe conflict, Morgan, in his turn, was compelled to give way. But General Gates reinforced him, and the engagement became more general. The Americans attempted to turn the right flank of the British army, with the view of attacking it in the rear; but being opposed by Frazer and Brehman, they made a rapid movement, and commenced a furious attack on the left of the British right wing. The combatants were reinforced; and between three and four in the afternoon, General Arnold, with nine continental regiments and Morgan’s riflemen, was closely engaged with the whole right wing of the British army. Both parties fought with the most determined courage; and the battle ended only with the day. When it became dark, the Americans withdrew to their camp; and the royal troops lay all night on their arms on the field of battle. On hearing the firing at the beginning of the engagement, General Philips with some artillery forced his way through the woods, and rendered essential service.

In this battle, in which each party had nearly three thousand men actually engaged, the British lost upwards of five hundred in killed and wounded, and the Americans about four hundred men. Night separated the combatants: each side claimed the victory, and each believed that with a part only of its own force, it had beaten the whole of the hostile army. But although neither army was defeated, it was evident who had gained the advantage; General Burgoyne had failed in the attempt to dislodge his enemy, and his progress was arrested. His communication with the lakes was cut off, and his resources were daily failing; while the Americans had the same opportunities of gaining supplies as before, and their strength was still increasing by the arrival of fresh troops. In such circumstances, to fight without a decisive victory was to the British nearly equivalent to a defeat; and to fight without being beaten was to the Americans productive of many of the consequences of victory.

In this bloody fighting, Captain Bell was seriously wounded at the Battle of Stillwater on September 19, 1777. Later, Captain Bell succumbed to his wound and died on October 9, 1777. 

Sources: Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army, (Baltimore, 1914), 97; Battle of Stillwater; Selected Wartime Service Records of Captain Frederick Mordaunt Bell.