Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Report of Wesley Norris

Today at Germantown, Headquarters, Army of the Potomac: September 6, 1863

Today's entry is from Series I, Vol. 29, Part II, pp 158-159, of the War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, affectionately known as the OR. It is a message from General George Meade to General-in-Chief, Henry Halleck.

"Wesley Norris, a free negro, came into our lines from Culpeper yesterday about sunset. He states he was formerly the property of Geroge Washington Custis, who died at Arlington, Va., about six years ago. By his will he as made free, after having served five years for General Lee. He has been hired out of late to Alexander Dudley, superintendent of the York River Railroad, who discharged him a few days before he left Richmond.

"He states that he left Richmond on Friday last, with a pass form General Custis Lee, to go through our lines via Culpeper. He took the Central cars via Gordonsville, and arrived in Gordonsville about noon and staid there two hours. Saw no troops on the move or march. Saw some men in camp, to the right of Gordonsville, perhaps 4,000 or 5,000, just out of the town; looked as if they had been in the camp some little time. The Charlottesville cars run into the same depot.

"He states that if any troops had been moving from or toward Charlottesville he would have known it. He talked with several persons at Gordonsville. They said nothing about the movement of troops anywhere. He saw more troops in camp at Orange Court-House. All in camp; none on the march. He had to get off there to get a pass, when the cars left him and he walked to Culpeper. Got to Culpeper on Saturday. Yesterday morning saw troops in several places between Orange Court-House and Culpeper. Went all the way on the railroad, showing his pass only once. Saw no troops at Culpeper, but some wagons and a few ___. Went to the provost-marshal, who examined his passes and made some objections to his coming through. Was put on a horse in the afternoon, blindfolded, and sent through our pickets at Rappahannock Station." GEO G. MEADE, Major-General

First off, wouldn't it have been amazing to converse with Wesley, and hear some of stories of pre-war Arlington House. And then listen to him talk about Robert E. Lee.

But for the Union, most likely first with the Bureau of Military Intelligence, what a windfall of information:

--able to travel from Richmond by rail
--the lines from Richmond to Gordonsville & Charlottesville and Gordonsvilles are running
--no movement of troops
--four to five thousand in Orange
--troops in several places (probably identified) between Orange and Culpeper
--no troops on the march (either to Tennessee (yet) or heading towards the Rappahannock)
--some wagons and a few___. Whatever the few was, it wasn't many
--he was blindfolded from Culpeper forward. At least someone had a sense of operational security

This is just a brief summary of Norris's report. I wonder how many historians and researchers overlook correspondence such as this, because it isn't part of a bigger, better, more important campaign or event. How much more has yet to be discovered.

No comments:

Post a Comment