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Volume Two of General Bell’s memoirs begins with his journey back to Britain from India, stopping on the way at St. Helena to pay his respects at the tomb of Napoleon. He is then posted to Canada, taking part in putting down a rebellion led by republican Canadians, and his further travels lead him back to Europe via the United States. His reminiscences form a travelogue with a military slant, capturing the environs and habits of the populations with a delicate piquancy.
Frustrated by court intrigue and influence stunting his further advancement in the service, in peacetime circumstances he would have been stuck with dismal prospects for the future. Many years after his baptism of fire in the Napoleonic Wars, he is posted as part of the British expeditionary force under Lord Raglan to the Crimea. Despite horrific conditions, he leads his men in the battles of Alma and Inkerman. His commentary of the daily life in the trenches recalls the slough of despond of the First World War: the mud, blood, shelling and disease are recalled along with the scarcity of supplies. Infuriated by the blundering politicians, Bell writes a passionate letter to the Times, which (although truthful) does nothing to help his advancement. By a stroke of luck he is plucked from his pestilent surroundings by a staff posting offered by an old comrade.
As he recovers his health, he travels once more to Canada and to the United States, just at the turn of the Civil War, meeting such luminaries as General McClellan and General Scott. He briefly meets with the great Lincoln who he describes as “thin and wiry…very kind and familiar in his manner to all, but a very commonplace-looking man”.
As with his first volume, Bell maintains his narrative with wit and verve, not without a few passing shots at his particular gripes, the Army hierarchy and Roman Catholicism.
Text taken, whole and complete from the 1867 edition, Day and Son Ltd, London.
Original –382 pages
Author – Major-General George Bell C.B. – (1794 - 1877)