John Mason Norvell’s Civil War Memoir 4

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  in the summer of 1862 with the Battle of Second Bull Run.

August 23, 1862

Marched from Harrison’s Landing, Va, for Washington, D.C.

August 28, 1862

Arrived and went into camp on Georgetown Heights.

[Second Bull Run]

August 29, 1862

Marched on the afternoon for Bull Run (Centreville). Could hear heavy cannonading all afternoon and evening. Arrived at Centreville at 1:30 a.m., General Sumner, commanding corps, (ours 2nd) marched and remained with us until daylight.

[General Edwin Vose Sumner (1797-1863) led the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac through the Peninsula Campaign, the Seven Days Battles, the Maryland- Antietam Campaign, and the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.]

August 30, 1862

Took part in the action. Loss small only engaged about one hour.

August 31, 1862

Marched from Centreville, Va., at 1:30 a.m.

Note: Came very close to being taken prisoner.  

Edwin Vose Sumner (January 30, 1797 – March 21, 1863) Library of Congress

Edwin Vose Sumner (January 30, 1797 – March 21, 1863)
Library of Congress


General Sumner having ordered me to notify General Fitz-John Porter, commanding the 5th Corps, as soon as our 2nd Corps had left the road clear & after closing in to withdraw our Picket Line – He (Gen. S.) left two (2) Non-Com’d Officers & eighteen (18) Privates from his Escort (Second U.S. Cavalry) & when I went to withdraw the line found that it had been withdrawn & it was occupied by the Enemy. I rode right upon them (Evidently a Picket Reserve) before I discovered they were “Rebs” – (the ground they were occupying being the same when I had left our “Corps Officer” of the Day about six (6) o’clock the evening before). I was politely asked by them to surrender (Rebs), at the same time calling me a “Yankee Son of a Gentleman.” I did not do it when they commanded firmly.
Result – two men killed, one non-commissioned and two enlisted men wounded (escort) , and my horse shot through the hindquarters.

When I reported to General Sumner, he informed me that one of his staff officers had misdirected the Corps Officer of the Day to withdraw his line and he (staff officer) whose name was Hipp had failed to inform him of the fact.

General Sumner had a good laugh at me and asked me how I would like to go to Richmond, but when I told him about the event, the laugh was on my side.

The Division was halted at Fairfax C.H. [Court House] in order to publish General George B. McClellan’s orders assuming command of the Army of the Potomac again. (Great enthusiasm displayed by the rank and file.)

Note: Gen G.B. McClellan had been relieved a few days before and most of the Army of the Potomac placed under the Command of Maj Gen. John Pope who got his Army thrashed like the “Devil” at Bull Run 2nd August 29- 31st, when Gen. Pope- was gracefully retired and Gen McClellan restored to command.

[Norvell believed that John Pope (1822-1892), West Point class of 1842, commanded the Army of the Potomac. In reality, Pope commanded the Army of Virginia, consisting of units from the Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia. Pope walked into a trap at the Second Battle of Bull Run, was defeated, and forced to retreat.]

Sep 13 1862

Had skirmished at South Mountain (only ordered on the field at dusk- hard fighting over with.)


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, Detroit, Detroit History, Michigan History, Michigan History, Norvell Family History, Peninsular Campaign Civil War, Union Army, Veterans and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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