John Mason Norvell’s Civil War Memoir 1

Lt John Mason Norvell

Lt John Mason Norvell

John Mason Norvell, the son of Michigan U.S. Senator John Norvell (1789-1850)  and his third wife, Isabella H. Norvell (1804-1873),  was a career soldier.    He entered the service of his county as a 2nd Lt in the 2nd Michigan Infantry April 25, 1861.  He was promoted to Captain and Asst. Adjutant General of the U.S. Volunteers August 1861.  By  1862 he had been promoted to the rank of Major.    John Mason Norvell’s Civil War service  covered  the entire scope of the war from his entrance in 1861 until the surrender of Lee at Appomattox in 1865.   After the war, he joined the regular army and remained in the service until he retired in 1890.   He prepared this memoir of his service sometime in 1866.

Detroit Michigan

April 30, 1861

Entered Service– Second Lieutenant Second Michigan Volunteers, Colonel Israel B. Richardson, Commanding.

May 25 1861

Mustered in U.S. Service. Marched to Washington, D.C. with regiment immediately after mustered in service.

Washington D.C.

May 29, 1861
Went into camp above Georgetown, D.C., immediately after being (regiment) reviewed by the President ( Mr. Lincoln).

June 20, 1861
Was appointed Regimental Adjutant.

June 28, 1861
Appointed Asst. Adjutant General of Richardson’s brigade (Brigade consisted of Second Michigan Volunteers, Third Michigan Volunteers, First Mass. Volunteers, and Twelfth New York Volunteers).

[First Bull Run]

July 16, 1861

Marched to Bull Run (Manassas, Va) a.m.

July 18 1861  

First Battle of Bull Run, chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison Wikipedia

First Battle of Bull Run, chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison

Took part in the “Affair at Blackburns Ford, Va.” My first experience under fire – had horse shot. Brigade loss in “Affair” sixty five officers. The Regiment had 8 men [enlisted men also called E.M.] killed and wounded.

[Blackburn’s Ford first appeared to be lightly defended by the Confederates, but Longstreet’s brigade was hidden in the woods. Richardson moved toward the ford, where his forces engaged Confederate forces. The subsequent firefight revealed that the Confederate position along this stretch of Bull Run was formidably defended and Richardson’s forces retreated.]

July 21 1861

Battle of Bull Run. Took part in Battle. Loss small.

[The First Battle of Bull Run, ( called First Manassas by C.S.A.) fought on July 21, 1861, near Manassas, Virginia. Each side had about 18,000 poorly trained and poorly led troops. Union forces were slow in positioning themselves, which allowed Confederate reinforcements to arrive by rail. This resulted in a Confederate victory and disastrous retreat of the Union forces, which shocked the north.]

Returned to Potomac River opposite Washington, D.C., after Bull Run fight and went into camp near Long Bridge (Fort Albany, Va.).


In transcribing the memoir I have added notes to explain and clarify the events he described,

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, Bull Run, C.S.A., Civil War, Civil War Battles, Lincoln, Michigan History, Michigan History, Military history, Norvell Family History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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