In Their Own Words: Pvt. Samuel Dyes, 36th U. S. Colored Infantry, Portsmouth, Virginia

Copyright 2010 Nadia K. Orton
Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 25, 2010. Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex)

Pvt. Samuel Dyes, of Company G, 36th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry, was born enslaved about 1835 on St. Julian’s Creek, Norfolk County, Virginia, the son of James and Rosetta Dyes.1 He enlisted at the age of twenty-eight, on December 9, 1863, at Portsmouth, Virginia, and mustered in a few weeks later at Norfolk, on December 28, 1863. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as five feet, seven and a half inches tall, with a “dark” complexion, eyes and hair. As Samuel enlisted on December 9th, 1863, he was not a part of General Edward Wild’s famed expedition to North Carolina, but did engage in the Battle of New Market Heights (Deep Bottom), September 29, 1864.

Norfolk, Virginia: Revelations at West Point Cemetery (1827)

West Point Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Suffolk, Virginia: The 2nd U. S. Colored Cavalry at Suffolk, March 9, 1864

Contemporary news accounts of the men of the 2nd U. S. Colored Cavalry in the Engagement at Suffolk, Virginia, March 9, 1864.

Our Troops in Suffolk – The Union forces, after quite a hard struggle, drove the rebels from Suffolk this morning, and we are now in possession of the town. The casualties are not as yet fully known.

The skirmish yesterday, March 9th, took place near Suffolk, between three companies of Union cavalry, colored, and a superior force of the enemy. The facts of the case, as near as we can learn, are as follows:

Three companies of our cavalry, Col. Cowles, set out yesterday morning for the purpose of making a reconnaissance by the enemy, (the third company being held in as reserve.) It seems that the rebels were lying in ambush waiting for them. The reserve hearing the firing, came up, but seeing the men surrounding, did not make a charge, as was expected, but dismounted, sent their horse to the rear, and then went into the fight on foot. They succeeded in cutting their way through the rebel lines, with the loss of only ten men, taken prisoners. It Is reported that the rebels shot the ten prisoners taken. Suffolk is about twenty miles from Portsmouth. The aim of the rebels is robbery. They are after horses, forage and old clothes.

The National Republican, 12 March 1864
A new county map of Virginia, O. N. Snow & Co. (ca. 1861). Source: Fold3.

Suffolk, Virginia: Historical Marker, Oak Lawn Cemetery (est. 1885)

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, November 5, 2019. All rights reserved.

I finally had a chance to swing by and see the historical marker for Oak Lawn Cemetery. I first pitched the idea to the other members of the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation late last year, and once approved by the existing members (3), quickly got to work on writing the text for the marker. With the assistance of the representative from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR), a working text was hammered out over the early months of this year. It’s wonderful to see this project come to fruition, with the added bonus of the marker being located just across the way from Suffolk’s City Hall (read: lots of traffic!)