John Mason Norvell’s Civil War Memoir 5

Brig Gen Israel Richardson and John Mason Norvell

Brig Gen Israel Richardson and 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.


Sept 16-17, 1862

Took part in the Battle of Antietam. Mostly artillery dueling on the 16th. Very hard battle on the 17th. The loss of the Division at Antietam was about 1,100 killed and wounded – officers and E.M.

[ The Battle of Antietam was one of the bloodiest of the War. The carnage on both sides totaled about 23,000.]

Maj Gen Israel B. Richardson, Commanding Division 1st Divsions, 2nd A.C. (Army Corps) mortally wounded about 12:30 p.m. Was on my horse beside him, he being dismounted at the time receiving an order from him to deliver to General McClellan a message, when he was struck by a piece of shell, a piece of same shell struck my horse, which knocked me about 10 feet.

[Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson was 46 years old when he led his division at Antietam. His division attacked the infamous “ Sunken Road.” After stubborn fighting, they had gained control of the high ground in front of the road, later nicknamed “Bloody Lane. ” Richardson pushed forward beyond the road and was directing the fire of his artillery and organizing another attack when he was struck by a shell fragment. This is where Norvell was at the time, in the worst of the battle seated high on a horse. ]

Maj Gen. Israel B. Richardson --  USA Cannon Marker- Antietam Battle Field marks spot where he was wounded.

Maj Gen. Israel B. Richardson — USA Cannon Marker- Antietam Battle Field
marks spot where he was wounded.

Gen R died Sept 25 and was buried in Pontiac Michigan. He was a great loss to the Army. Was ordered by General McClellan to accompany Gen. Richardson’s remains to his home in Pontiac, Michigan– which I did. Returned to Washington October 10, 1862 en route to join Division.

[Norvell wrote his account about four years after these events and was wrong about the date of Richardson’s death, it was November 3, 1862, so most likely he returned to Washington in November 1862.]

And upon my arrival there, relieved from duty with the first division, Second Army Corps by direction of the Secretary of War at the request of General Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant General U.S.A. Assigned to duty with the Commissary General of Prisoners, General Hoffman.

Remained on duty with the Commissary-General of Prisoners until December 28, 1862 when General William H. French, Commanding Third (3rd) Division, Second Army Corps, A of P [Army of Potomac] applied for and had me assigned to his division as “Chief of Staff’ and A.A. Gen. [Asst.. Adjutant General].

January 1863

Took part in Gen. Burnside’s “Mud March”

[The Mud March, Jan 20-23, 1863, was a disastrous attempt at a winter offensive against Lee by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside.]

– Gen B [Burnside] had relieved General McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac by order of the President after Gen McC had won the Antietam fight. General Joseph Hooker had in the meantime relieved General Burnside of Command of the Army of the Potomac by order of the President.

Accompanied General French to General Hooker’s headquarters for a council of war, the night before we re-capt. [recaptured] the Rappahannock River and went into our old camps

[This appears to refer to the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va., April 30- May 6 ,1863, where Lee gained a stunning victory over the forces under the command of Joseph Hooker. ]

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, Antietam, Battlefields, C.S.A., Civil War, Civil War Battles, Detroit History, Michigan History, Military history, Norvell Family History, Union Army, US Army and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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