General Custer Comes to Dinner

English: George Armstrong Custer.

English: George Armstrong Custer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

General Custer  center December 1864 - Edwin Forrest Norvell on porch right

General Custer center December 1864 – Edwin Forrest Norvell on porch right

Two of the Norvell brothers who served in the Civil War– there were six in total from Michigan– were on the staff of General George Armstrong Custer. Custer had taken command of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade just before the Battle of Gettysburg, replacing General Joseph Copeland. Dallas Norvell joined the staff of General Custer in January 1863 and his brother Edwin Forrest Norvell was an aide-de-camp to Custer. Dallas resigned his comission as a lieutenant in October 1863 for medical reasons. Edwin would remain on Custer’s staff achieving the rank of Major in 1865. In 1866, he was discharged for failing to obey orders, this may have saved his life as he most likely would have been with Custer at Little Big Horn.

After the Civil War, Dallas Norvell became a gentleman farmer on Grosse Ile, where he and his mother Isabella Hodgkiss Freeman Norvell had purchased land about 1850. About 1871, Dallas moved to Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, as he said that Grosse Ile was becoming too citified. There General Custer frequently came to dinner when he was in the Michigan area. Amherstburg, Ontario was a British military town created after the American Revolution on the eastern shore of the Detroit River to defend the frontier. Just north of Amherstburg was the Huron Reserve, the home of the Wyandot First Nation, the southern boundary of which became known as Texas Road. This was due the establishments on the waterfront where gambling, gun fights, etc. occurred so that locals called the area “Texas.” Dallas Norvell had property near Texas and the wharf in front of his place was a regular stopping place for the early Detroit river steamers. Using the pen name “Texas” Dallas wrote nature sketches for the Detroit Free Press which was owned by his brother Freeman Norvell and brother-in-law Henry Nelson Walker after the Civil War.

In those halcyon days before Little Big Horn, with Custer’s star on the rise, one can imagine that at dinner, when Custer visited, they talked of the good old days during the War when all the Norvell brothers were in the service and of the time they spent together.

Dallas Norvell Home, Grosse Ile, Michigan

Dallas Norvell home on Grosse Ile, Micigan



About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in American History, Canada, Civil War, Genealogy, General Custer, Michigan History, Social History and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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