John Mason Norvell’s Civil War Memoir 3

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 prepared this memoir in 1866, his story continues during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862.

May 31, 1862

We crossed the Chickahominy on the afternoon and went into position – skirmishing.

June 1, 1862

Took part in the Battle of Fair Oaks, Va. The Division went into action about daylight and was engaged until about noon. A very hard fight, but we drove the enemy from the ground they took from “Casey” the afternoon before and recaptured three of Casey’s guns. Loss of about (900) nine hundred (gov.) officers & E.M. killed and wounded.

[As part of the Peninsula campaign, Confederate forces struck Union troops at the Battle of Fair Oaks in Virginia, as George B. McClellan, slowly advanced up the James Peninsula. On May 31, in a tremendous battle, General Silas Casey’s lines had been shattered . The Battle of Seven Pines cost both sides about 6,000 men.]

General O. O. Howard (commanding, Second Brigade) wounded – lost his right arm.

[Oliver Otis Howard (1830 – 1909), West Point class of 1854, a brigade commander in the Army of the Potomac, lost his right arm at the Battle of Fair Oaks in June 1862, an action which later earned him the Medal of Honor.]

From Wikipedia Map by Hal Jespersen,

From Wikipedia
Map by Hal Jespersen,

[June 25, 1862 – July 1, 1862]

Took part in the Seven Days Fighting, which took place when General McClellan moved the Army of the Potomac to Harrison’s Landing, Va., (change of base), White Oak Swamp, Glendale, “Chapin Farm,” Malvern Hill.

June 30, 1862

We had a terrible time getting the Corps across the Chickahominy owing to a “Rise” in the tide, I had to return to the river at one o’clock a.m. on the first of June with a regiment of Infantry (69th N.Y. Volunteers) in order to get some of our artillery across, but only succeeded in getting one battery (Hazard’s 4th artillery battery) over. The other three batteries remained “stuck in the swamps” (about half way across) until after the fight was over. Hazard’s Battery did splendid service. Captain Hazzard of the 4th U.S. Artillery, our “Chief of Artillery” was mortally wounded while fighting with his battery. He was a splendid officer and a great loss to us.

[Captain George W. Hazzard, (1825-1862), West Point Class of 1847. On June 30, 1862, George W. Hazards’ battery was left behind during the Army of Potomac retreat and barely made the crossing at White Oak Swamp. Hazard was wounded in leg by shell, died in August 1862. ]

I had my horse killed while placing it in position and was knocked over.


To be continued.

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, C.S.A., Civil War, Civil War Battles, Combat, Genealogy, Michigan History, Michigan History, Military history, Peninsular Campaign Civil War, Union Army, US Army and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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