Virginia: Preserving African American Civil War History in Tidewater, Virginia

Due to the impending landfall of Hurricane Florence, we’re not sure how long we’ll have access to the internet (or power for that matter), and when those services will be restored. However, we’re happy to report that two of the thirteen remaining replacement headstones for local African American Civil War veterans have finally been installed. Most of the headstones were delivered between July and September of 2017, with the installations delayed due to extended periods of rain in the Mid-Atlantic region, and other factors.

 

Pvt. Richard Reddick (ca. 1847-1896*)
Company F, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Cavalry
Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex, est. 1879)

 

Original gravestone of Pvt. Richard Reddick. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 11, 2010.

Replacement gravestone, installed August, 2018. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, September 1, 2018

 

Pvt. Richard Reddick (sometimes spelled “Riddick”), was born enslaved in Perquimans County, North Carolina (some documents note Camden County). He escaped slavery and enlisted in the Union Army on February 22, 1864, at Norfolk, Virginia. He mustered out on February 4, 1866, at Brazos Santiago, Texas. According to military records, Pvt. Reddick passed away on July 10, 1896, though Portsmouth City death records note his date of death as July 10, 1895. His wife, Mary, passed away in 1940, and may be buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery along with several of their children.

 


Pvt. Austin Smallwood (ca. 1845-1894)
Company I, 14th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery
Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex, est. 1879)

 

Austin Smallwood USCT Copyright Nadia K. Orton

Original gravestone of Pvt. Austin Smallwood. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 11 , 2010

Austin Smallwood replacement gravestone Copyright 2018 Nadia Orton

Replacement gravestone, installed August, 2018. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, September 1, 2018

 

Pvt. Austin Smallwood was born enslaved about 1845 in Bertie County, North Carolina. In 1863, Austin’s owners vowed to shoot and kill any of their slaves that “ran away to the Yankees.” Cognizant of the deadly threat, Austin remained on the plantation to look after his mother, Nancy, and three younger brothers. However, in early 1865, he escaped, and made his way to New Bern, North Carolina, where he enlisted in the Union Army on February 23rd. After his discharge in December, 1865 at Fort Macon, North Carolina, Austin moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, where he soon became an influential member of his community, a devoted husband, and a loving father of four. Although he’d made Portsmouth his new home, Austin never forgot his roots, and kept in close contact with his family in North Carolina. Pvt. Austin Smallwood passed away in 1894 at his home on Columbia St., Portsmouth, from complications of “phthisis pulmonalis,” a term once used to describe the debilitating effects of tuberculosis. His wife, Martha Brown Smallwood, a Franklin, Virginia native, passed away in 1932, and is most likely buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Portsmouth.♥

 

Portsmouth, Virginia: Eight local heroes to receive new headstones

Eight more local heroes to receive new headstones. They were all born enslaved, and risked all in their collective escape to freedom to fight against the institution of slavery. Over the years, their gravestones have become weathered, vandalized, and nearly forgotten. The replacement gravestones for Pvt. Arthur Beasley, Pvt. David Bailey, and Cpl. George Baysmore, have already been approved and delivered to a local monument company for installation. Now, five others join them, and will be installed soon, weather permitting. They are:

 

Pvt. Austin Smallwood (ca. 1845-1894)

Bertie County, North Carolina

Co. I, 14th Regiment, U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery

Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex)

Smallwood USCT Copyright Orton 2010

Pvt. Austin Smallwood. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 25, 2010

 


 

Pvt. Richard Reddick (ca. 1847-1896)

Perquimans County, North Carolina

Co. F, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry

Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex)

 

Pvt Reddick Copyright 2010 Nadia Orton

Pvt. Richard Reddick. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 25, 2010

 


 

Pvt. Thomas Reddick (ca. 1838-1901)

Suffolk, Virginia

Co. K, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry

Mount Olive Cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex)

 

Pvt Reddick Copyright 2014 Nadia Orton

Pvt. Thomas Reddick. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, May 24, 2014

 


 

Pvt/Landsman Samuel Morris (1839-1902)

Suffolk, Virginia

Co. A, 30th Regiment, U. S. Colored infantry

Landsman, USS Allegheny

USS North Carolina, USS Cyane, USS Independence

Mount Olive Cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex)

 

Morris USCT Copyright 2011 Nadia K. Orton

Pvt/Landsman Samuel Morris. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, November 5, 2011

 


 

Sgt. Lewis Rodgers (1844-1884)

Gates County, North Carolina

Co. G, 28th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Lincoln Memorial Cemetery

 

Sgt. Rodgers Copyright 2012 Nadia Orton

Sgt. Lewis Rodgers. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 22, 2012

 

 

 

 

On Memorial Day, Reflecting on African-American History – The National Trust for Historic Preservation

First Memorial Day plaque Charleston SC Copyright Nadia Orton 2015

Plaque honoring the first Memorial Day in the United States. Hampton Park, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, September 6, 2015

 

Every May, the nation marks Memorial Day, the longstanding tradition we use to recognize fallen veterans. The holiday has its origins in “Decoration Day,” originally held in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, when thousands of former slaves, Union soldiers, and missionaries honored Union soldiers who had died in a Confederate prison and were subsequently buried in a makeshift mass grave.

Historian David Blight recounts that after the soldiers’ proper burials, a massive parade followed. Participants decorated the graves with flowers, and clergy delivered speeches to commemorate the fallen.

My personal introduction to Decoration Day began with oral histories provided by my family’s elders. In rural Tidewater, Virginia, they told stories of Decoration Day commemorations stretching back to the 1880s. Parades began in African-American communities and ended at local black cemeteries. Families and friends honored their ancestors through song and praise, while their graves were cleaned and re-decorated.

They had good reason to pay homage: Many veterans had returned from the front lines of war to become leaders in their communities, forming masonic lodges, burial societies, schools, churches, and cemeteries. These institutions formed the foundations of post-Civil War African-American communities, giving their communities potential for the very type growth and development African-Americans had been denied in slavery. READ MORE…