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OR XL P1 #247: Report of Captain Lemuel B. Norton, Chief Signal Officer, June 1-July 30, 1864

Numbers 247. Report of Captain Lemuel B. Norton, Signal Corps U. S. Army, Chief Signal Officer.1


September 2, 1864.


On June 14 a signal tower, 125 feet high, was finished at Cobb’s Hill, which tower commands a view of Petersburg, a street therein, a portion of the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad, and turnpike, considerable of the Appomattox and James Rivers and a part of the enemy’s lines in our front. Communication was opened between this tower and all those points which communicated with the old stations at its base, and also with a station which was placed at these headquarters as soon as the tower was finished.

One June 1 a station of observation was established on the river-bank, near Spring Hill fort, and opposite Port Walthall, and a signal officer placed there to observe and report movements of the enemy on the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad and turnpike, and along their works in the vicinity of the Port Walthall Junction. This station afterward proved to be a very important one, from the fact that no trains of the enemy’s troops could be passed either way over the railroad in daylight, or columns moved along the turnpike, without the information being immediately given to the commanding general. From this station


*Fort portion of report (here omitted) covering operations from April 19 to June 14, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part II, p. 20.


alone, during the month of August, over 300 reports of observation were sent to these headquarters, the most of which were forwarded to the general commanding.

On the 7th a station was established at Hatcher’s house (headquarters Tenth Corps then), which communicated with the station at General Ferry’s headquarters, and through it by signals with the water battery, and the flag-ship in James River. The magnetic telegraph operated between these headquarters and Hatcher’s house.

The signal party which left this department with the Eighteenth Corps on the 27th of May returned with that corps on the 14th of June, and opened the following stations:

On the 18th of June one at General Smith’s headquarters, which communicated with the station at these headquarters until the Eighteenth Corps moved to a line half a mile east of Petersburg, when the station was abandoned and another opened at General Smith’s subsequent headquarters at Fried’s house.

On June 23, by direction of General Smith, two signal stations were placed along the line of battle of the Eighteenth Corps, one was placed near General Stannard’s headquarters and the other near General Martindale’s headquarters, and both communicated with corps headquarters at Fried’s house.

On June 26 by direction of General Smith, a station was established at the 20-pounder battery, near the Walthall house, on the right of the Eighteenth Corps, communicating with the headquarters of the corps, and designed to enable General Smith to direct by signals the fire of the above mentioned battery.

During the month of July no new stations were established, but all of those operated during the month of June were continued, except the following: That a Fort Chase near New Berne, N. C., which was temporarily vacated, it being of little importance, except in the event of an attack by the enemy, upon the anticipation of which a signal party could be readily sent there. The stations at Battery Numbers 6, Spring Hill fort, and City Point, in the Army of the James, were also discontinued, the former in order to shorten the line of signals between the Appomattox and the James. The station at Battery Numbers 3 having become visible from Cobb’s Hill tower by the cutting of timber communication was opened (over Battery 6) directly between those two points. The station at Spring Hill fort was abandoned, because the fort itself had become of little immediate importance, from the fact that our army had advanced beyond it. The City Point station was, on July 30, turned over to the signal detachment with the Army of the Potomac, to be operated by its officers, for the reason that said station at that date communicated but with different parts of that army and was of no importance to this.*

I have the honor, to be, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain and Chief Signal Officer, Dept. of Va. and N. C.

Major R. S. DAVIS,

Asst. Adjt. General, Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina.


*For continuation of report, see Vol. XLII, Part I.



  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XL, Part 1 (Serial Number 80), pages 681-682
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  • james booth November 10, 2013, 11:32 am

    lemuel bratcher norton my grand father , is he related to signal corp lemuel norton civil war

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