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OR XLII P1 #245: Report of Captain Lemuel B. Norton, Signal Corps, Chief Signal Officer, AotJ, August 1-31, 1864

Numbers 245. Report of Captain Lemuel B. Norton, Signal Corps, U. S. Army, Chief Signal Officer, Department of Virginia and North Carolina, of operations August 1-31.1



During the month of August the same signal stations and lines were operated that were worked through the month of July, and the following new ones opened: On the 5th a line of sight was cut through the


+For portion of report here omitted, see Vol. XXXVI, Part II, p. 20, and Vol. XL, Part I, p. 681.


woods and signal communication established by direction of General Harland, between his headquarters in New Berne, N. C., and the headquarters of his cavalry picket at Camp Palmer, near Harrison’s house, on Trent road. In the Army of the James, on the 1st of August, a signal officer was placed on lookout at Mill’s house, on the south bank of the Appomattox, two miles above Spring Hill. He was to carefully watch the enemy’s signal stations and works, and report anything of importance that he night observe. On the 2nd general Birney’s signal officer commenced the building of a tower near the Sawyer battery, on the James River, from which, when finished, it is thought will be obtained a view of the Petersburg and Richmond and turnpike opposite our right, Drewry’s Bluff, and the pontoon bridge near it, and other points of importance. On the 10th a signal party was sent to open a station at Dutch Gap, where a force, under Major Ludlow, was engaged digging a canal across the neck. Communication was established between that point and gun-boats, Crow’s Nest, and Battery Spofford (or Water Battery), through which latter communication was had with general headquarters. A station was placed at the Crow’s Nest for the convenience of Major Ludlow, and to give warning to the working party at the gap and to the gun-boats of the approach of the rebel rams, and to direct the fire of our gun-boats upon them. On the 13th enemy opened fire upon our working party from the Howlett and Signal Hill batteries and the rams, but the signal communication between the aforesaid points was maintained uninterruptedly. On the 14th the signal officers who accompanied the Tenth Corps to Deep Bottom opened communication by signals between General Birney’s headquarters, on the west side of Four-Mile Creek, and the headquarters of General Hancock, east of the creek. On the 15th, by direction of General Birney, the same party established communication between the gun-boats Agawam and Mendota, and a signal officer placed on shore to direct the fire of those boats upon the enemy in case he attacked. During the latter part of the month the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps exchanged positions, and the signal officers of those corps also exchanged stations.

On the 31st of August the following signal stations and lines remained in good working order, and almost constantly employed:


Station at General Harland’s headquarters, New Berne, N. C., communicating with stations at Fort Anderson, Fort Gaston, and Camp Palmer (headquarters cavalry picket); station at Batchelder’s Creek (headquarters colonel commanding outposts) communicating with Red House (headquarters officer commanding left of outposts), with Harrison’s house on Neuse road (picket reserve), land through the latter station with Beech Grove (the right of picket-line).


Station at Fort Pocahontas, communicating with one at Forth Powhatan, on James River, seven miles distant; stations at general headquarters, Cobb’s Hill tower, Battery Anderson (or Numbers 3), General Carr’s headquarters, Hatcher’s house (headquarters Eighteenth Corps), Water Battery (or Spofford’s), Dutch Gap, and flag-ship Onondaga, forming a line of signals around the front of the intrenchments between the general commanding, the officer commanding Eighteenth Corps, the commander of the James River flotilla, and Major Ludlow’s working party at Dutch Gap; station of observation at Crow’s Nest,

James River, communicating with flag-ship Onondaga and Dutch Gap. Station at General Graham’s headquarters, near pontoon bridge, communicating with general headquarters through the Cobb’s Hill tower; station of observation at river-bank, Spring Hill, communicating with Cobb’s Hill tower, and through the latter with general headquarters Tenth Corps, in front of Petersburg, communicating with station of observation (officers watching enemy’s movements) at Avery’s house and Friend’s house.

A map is herewith inclosed showing by the signal flags placed upon it where the stations now in operation are located, and by deterred red lines those with which they communicated. In reviewing the operations of the signal detachment in this department for the four months and a half herein recorded, I find that seventy signal stations were established and operated, and of those twenty-seven were worked under the fire of the enemy, and twenty-four still remain in operation. Of the importance of the information of the enemy’s movements given by the detachment, and of the information of the enemy’s movements given by the detachment, and of its other labors, the commanding general, of course, is best able to judge. Although nearly all of our signal officers and flagmen have been freely exposed to the severest fire of the enemy in the performance of their various duties, I am happy to be able to state that the casualties have been small; we have lost but 1 officer and 2 men killed, and 2 men were slightly wounded.

All of the officers of the detachment have performed their duties to my entire satisfaction, but the following are especially mentioned as having made them conspicuous for gallantry, uncommon zeal, and close attention to duty, viz: First Lieutenant H. W. Benson, signal officer on the flag-ship of the James River flotilla, frequently under fire. First Lieutenant W. Bruyn, signal officer of the Water Battery, who remained at his post making observations of the rebel rams and directing the fire of our gun-boats upon them, himself under a severe cross-fire from the roams and the Howlett and Signal Hill batteries. First Lieutenant C. F. Cross, signal officer at Dutch Gap, who maintained constant communication with the gun boats and the Water Battery during the severe fire of the enemy upon Dutch Gap, August 13, 1864. His flagman was wounded by his side. Second Lieutenant O. B. Ireland, signal officer at Crow’s Nest, who made the important discoveries of the enemy’s movement across the James, and maintained his post under severe fire from the enemy. Second Lieutenant J. M. Swain, signal officer at Fort Pocahontas (Wilson’s Wharf), who directed by signal the fire of our gun-boats upon the enemy during the attack upon Wild’s colored brigade and whilst he himself was under the fire of the rebels. Second Lieutenant W. W. Clemens, signal officer on the iron-clad steamer Onondage, frequently under fire. Second Lieutenant D. L. Craft, signal officer at Cobb’s Hill tower, who bravely maintained his position although the enemy for several days endeavored to knock down his tower with solid shot. Second Lieutenant A. G. Simons, acting signal officer at river-bank station, Spring Hill, through whose vigilance the commanding general was furnished with information of the enemy’s movements upon the railroad and turnpike.

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.

In the Field, September 15, 1864.

Report accepted; approved.

The signal corps of this department, under charge of Captain Norton, has rendered important and excellent service, and Captain Norton has at all times shown himself prompt, intelligent, and efficient.


Major-General, Commanding.


  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 649-652
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