A Civil War Mother

Portrait attributed first to artist Thomas Sully (1783-1872), a leading portrait artist of the time. Later,to the artist Jacob Eichholtz (1776-1842).

Portrait attributed first to artist Thomas Sully (1783-1872), a leading portrait artist of the time. Later,to the artist Jacob Eichholtz (1776-1842).

All but two of Isabella Hodgkiss Freeman Norvell’s eight sons served in the Union forces.  Isabella was the third wife of Michigan Senator John Norvell (1789-1850).

Barry Norvell , a civil engineer, died of yellow fever in 1858, aboard the steamer John Bell on the Ohio River.

James Knox Polk Norvell was born in 1845 while Polk was President of the United States, and therefore too young to serve when the War began in 1861.

Colonel Freeman Norvell first served in the First Michigan cavalry and then the 5th Michigan, entered the service as Captain, he also had served as a Marine Lieutenant in the Halls of Montezuma in 1848 during the Mexican War.

Major John Mason Norvell of the Second Michigan infantry, entered the service as First Lieutenant.

Lieutenant Alfred Cuthbert Norvell served in the Twenty-third Michigan infantry and Lieutenant Stevens Thompson Norvell was in the Fifth U. S. Regulars. Both Alfred and Stevens enlisted as privates.

Lieutenant Edwin Forrest Norvell served in the First Michigan cavalry and then the 5th.

Dallas Norvell, was a Commissary Sergeant of the Fifth Michigan cavalry, and later a Lieutenant. Edwin Forrest Norvell and Dallas Norvell later served on the staff of General George A. Custer.

During the ten months in 1863 when Dallas Norvell served, Isabella Norvell had six sons in service. Throughout the duration there was no day when she did not have at least three sons in uniform.

All six survived.

Norvell Brothers CW



Edwin Forrest Norvell died young in a carriage accident in 1876.

Freeman Norvell would later return to Detroit where he at one time was the co-owner of the Detroit Free Press and died of pneumonia in 1881.

John Mason Norvell served in the Army for the remainder of his life; he died in 1892.

Dallas Norvell, resigned from the service during the war for medical reasons –he was subject to seizures– and after the war moved to Canada where he died in 1888.

Stevens Thompson Norvell, like his brother John Mason, continued in the Army first as an officer with the famed “Buffalo Soldiers” on the plains, and later serving with Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill.  He died in 1911.

See With the Buffalo Soldiers


Finally Alfred Cuthbert Norvell, suffering from depression and possibly PTSD, committed suicide in 1883 by shooting himself in the heart with a pistol.

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, Detroit, Detroit History, Genealogy, Marine Corps History, Mexican War, Michigan History, Nashville History, Norvell Family History, Social History, Tennessee History, US Army and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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