Portsmouth, Virginia: When Decoration Day Parades led to the cemeteries…

Mount Calvary Cemetery Memorial Day Program, May 30, 1935. The Virginia Historical Society

Reflecting back on some of Portsmouth, Virginia’s early Decoration Day parades, when they led to the city’s oldest extant African American cemeteries: the historic Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex (est. 1879) and Lincoln Memorial Cemetery (est. 1912)…

The Memorial Day observance in Portsmouth greatly eclipsed the former celebrations. Promptly at 10:30 a.m., the procession headed by the Municipal Bank, followed by a firing squad of U. S. sailors, the Uniformed Rank of Pythians under command of Major J. T. Fisher, I. B. P. O. of Elks and other secret fraternities. A striking feature was the large number of females in the parade – the Woman’s Relief Corps, the Patriotic Daughters of the G. A. R. and about six hundred school children dressed in white middie suits. A company of boys carried a massive blanket of flowers which was later placed upon the grave of their former chiefton, Prof. Israel Chas. Norcom, this silent tribute attesting the fact that though he sleeps his memory still is green. Floral tributes were also placed upon the grave of Miss Serena A. Moseley.

The program was very impressive. Dr. W. B. Anderson, preside

Dr. E. H. Hunter delivered the principal address in which he extolled the deeds of the old soldiers and plead for a continued loyalty and patriotism for the American flag.

The singing of the patriotic choir was an enjoyable feature.

After taps were sounded the mounted section of the parade was driven to the Lincoln Cemetery, where the G. A. R. carried on appropriate exercises around the monument.

The Daughters of the G. A. R. received much praise for the splendid granite curbing which they had placed around the monument at a cost of $150.00.

The School Children Honor the Memory of Their Dead

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Portsmouth, Virginia: Honoring Civil War Veterans of Virginia and North Carolina

Photos: Nadia K. Orton, 2010-2019. All rights reserved

So pleased that Rev. Ashley H. Lewis has a new headstone! Photo: Dennis E. Orton, December 8, 2018.

In the summer of 2007, I began a family history project to document all interments in the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex. Established in 1879, it is the oldest, extant African American cemetery in Portsmouth, Virginia. It’s a historic site near and dear to our family’s heart, having over forty-eight ancestors buried there, although most are without visible gravestones.

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Voices of Liberation and Freedom: The Fall of Richmond, April 3rd, 1865

Richmond, the Confederate capital, entered by the Union army. nypl.org https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-ff22-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Today is the 153rd anniversary of the liberation of Richmond, Virginia, by Union forces during America’s Civil War, 1861-1865. The first soldiers to enter Richmond were the “colored” regiments of the Union Army, ranks formed of free and formerly enslaved African-Americans.

Our own ancestors were a part of this collective sacrifice and struggle for freedom, escaping slavery where they were held in bondage, and serving with the 1st, 2nd, 10th, 36th, and 37th Regiments of the United States Colored Infantry, the 1st and 2nd Regiments of the United States Colored Cavalry, and as domestics, laundresses, and messengers in and around Union camps and hospitals. This post reflects just a few of the sites I’ve visited over the years that chronicle the long road to freedom.

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