2nd Lieutenant John Alexander Bethell was born on July 21, 1834 in Key West Florida. His family were some of the early settlers of Pinellas Point (St. Petersburg), Florida.
His father, "W.C." was born in the Bahamas (Nassau), and gave his occupation as a "waterman". John's occupation was stated as "laborer"; it is not unlikely that obtained some "waterman" experiences his own.
He entered state service as a member of Able Merander's Coast Guard Detachment, between July 14, 1861 and September 5, 1861.
He continued state service by enlisting in Captain Henry Mulrennan’s Florida Volunteers Coast Guards on November 27, 1861; he was promoted to coxswain on February 1, 1862. He served with this organization until April 25th, 1862.
He was enlisted as a 2nd Corporal on April 25th, 1862 in Captain Smith’s Company (Key West Avengers), 7th Regiment Florida Infantry by Major R. B. Thomas at Tampa, Florida for a period of 3 years or the war.
An undated Company Muster Roll for April 30 to November 14, 1862 documents that he was brevetted to 2nd Lieutenant from 2nd corporal on April 25, 1862; an undated Company Muster Roll for February 7 - 28, 1863 documents his promotion to 2nd Lieutenant January 1, 1863. He is present on all company muster rolls until an undated Company Muster Roll for January and February, 1864 stating that he was absent on 25-day furlough starting February 14, 1864.
He tendered his resignation on February 27, 1864.
In a letter dated April 5th, 1864 by Lt. Col Tilghman Ingram to Colonel Kinloch Falconer AAG, he recommended that Lieut. Bethell “be discharged from the service for the following reasons - 1st That Lt. Bethell on the 4th day of February 1864 was furloughed for Twenty five (25) days and has not since reported [to] this command. 2nd That by letter to his Captain [Robert Blair Smith] he states that he has resigned on Surgeon’s Certificate of disability with the intention of doing the Navy.”
His name last appears on a Register containing Rosters of Commissioned Officers, Provisional Army Confederate States as being “Dropped” May 16, 1864.
After the war he ran a small store and made a living as a fisherman at Point Pinellas. He drew a Confederate Pension (Florida A01728, A05495). One year prior to his death on April 12, 1915 he published a history of Point Pinellas Florida.
It was said at the time of his death that throughout his life he never complained of illness, and when he died he suffered from no recognizable disease. The doctor in attendance declared, "He just passed away , like a piece of machinery, worn out."