Portsmouth, Virginia: Update on one of Portsmouth’s “Harlem Hellfighters”

Gravestone of Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow. Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. Photo courtesy Find-a-Grave user Leslie W.

We’re pleased to report that we now have a photo of Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow’s headstone. It was taken by Find-a-Grave volunteer Leslie Wickham, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), and she graciously allowed me to use it.

Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow, a Portsmouth, Virginia native, served during World War I. He was a member of the 369th Infantry, 93rd Division, the famed “Harlem Hellfighters.” He was featured in an earlier blog from last year, “In Their Own Words: Voices of African American WWI Veterans,” in recognition of Veterans Day. At the time, Pvt. Snow wasn’t listed in the Find-a-Grave database for Cypress Hills National, so I added the listing, and sent a photo request. Leslie fulfilled the request just a few weeks later. Thanks so much, Leslie!

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Suffolk, Virginia: United States Colored Troops of Oak Lawn Cemetery (est. 1885)

(Originally posted on The Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation)

Unidentified African American soldier in Union cavalry uniform with cavalry saber. Library of Congress.

Private Moses Randall – Company A, 38th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Pvt. Moses Randall Copyright 2014 Nadia Orton
Pvt. Moses Randall, Co. A, 38th U. S Colored Infantry. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2014. All rights reserved.
  • Born about 1832, Nansemond County, Virginia
  • Enlistment: January 5, 1864, Norfolk, Virginia
  • Muster: January 23, 1864, Norfolk, Virginia
  • Discharge: January 25, 1867, Indianola, Texas
  • Spouse: Ann Eliza Randall
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In Their Own Words: Voices of African American WWI Veterans

On Sunday, November 11, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the technical end of World War I, was observed by our nation and many countries throughout the world. As with other major historical events, I viewed the day through the lens of a historian and genealogist. It can be quite an interesting enterprise; as a historian, you want to know all of the facts of an event, and as a genealogist, you’re eager to place your ancestors within the context of those events. 

Over the years, our family has located the grave sites of many of our ancestors that served in World War I. We’ve tracked them to historic African American cemeteries in Portsmouth, Richmond and Suffolk in Virginia, Buncombe, Franklin, Henderson, Hertford, and Warren counties in North Carolina, and Knoxville National Cemetery in Tennessee.

At times, whether simply visiting their gravesites, or planting flags, I’d find myself staring down at the stones, and wondering what their WWI experience was like. Sure, I could review the details of the various battles and engagements in books, or read first-person accounts from some of the more famous veterans, but those sources wouldn’t tell me what my ancestors thought, nor how they felt about the war.

That’s why I was so excited to learn about the WWI History Commission questionnaires, many of which have been or are currently being digitized by local and state libraries. A historical window into the minds and memories of long-deceased ancestors? Perfect!

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Northampton County, Virginia: United States Colored Troops of First Baptist Church, Capeville

Copyright 2014 Nadia K. Orton
First Baptist Church Capeville Cemetery. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved

I visited this church on an overcast Sunday. Thanks to all the church members who invited me to join them for service, despite my cemetery outfit of jeans and rubber boots. Thank you for the warm welcome and hospitality, I will return!

Copyright 2014 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. John Cole – Co. B, 10th USCI. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved

Pvt. John Cole – Company B, 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Born in 1838, Pungoteague, Accomack County, Virginia. Enlisted on October 30, 1863, at Craney Island, Virginia. Discharged on May 17, 1866, at Galveston, Texas

Copyright 2014 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. Henry Cypress – Company E, 1st USCC. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved

Pvt. Henry Cypress – Company E, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry

Born on March 17, 1845, Prince George County, Virginia. Enlisted on August 30, 1864 at Newport News, Virginia. Discharged on February 4, 1866, at Brazos Santiago, Texas. Died: March 13, 1906, Capeville, Northampton County, Virginia.

Copyright 2014 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. Richmond Dillard – Co. F, 23rd USCI. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved

Pvt. Richmond Dillard – Company F, 23rdRegiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Born in 1837, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. Enlisted on July 13, 1864, 3rd Sub. District, Washington D. C. Discharged on November 30, 1865, at Brazos Santiago, Texas.

Copyright 2014 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. James Douglass – Co. F, 9th USCI. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.

Pvt. James Douglas – Company F, 9th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Born about 1841, Northampton County, Virginia. Enlisted on November 16, 1863, in Worcester County, Maryland. Discharged on November 26, 1866 at New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Copyright 2013 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. Guy Downs – Co. B, 10th USCI. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.

Pvt. Guy Downs – Company B, 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Born about 1829, Eastville, Northampton County, Virginia. Enlisted on October 30, 1863 at Craney Island, Virginia. Discharged on May 17, 1866, at Galveston, Texas. Died in 1904 at Capeville, Northampton County, Virginia. African American Civil War Memorial: Plaque A-23

Pvt. Elias Fidget – Co. B, 2nd USCLA. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.

Pvt. Elias Fidget – Company B, 2nd Regiment, U. S. Colored Light Artillery

Born about 1832, Northampton County, Virginia. Enlisted on January 18, 1864, at Eastville, Northampton County, Virginia. Discharged on March 17, 1866, Brownsville, Texas. African American Civil War Memorial: Plaque A-4

Copyright 2013 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. Henry Jarvis – Co. K 55th Mass Inf. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.

Pvt. Henry Jarvis – Company K, 55th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry (Colored)

Born about 1836, Northampton County, Virginia. Enlisted on December 21, 1863, Belmont, Massachusetts. Discharged on August 29, 1865. Charleston, South Carolina. African American Civil War Memorial: Plaque E-156

Copyright 2013 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. Spencer Smaugh – Co. B, 10th USCI. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.

Pvt. Spencer Smaugh – Company B, 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Born about 1825, Eastville, Northampton County, Virginia. Enlisted on October 30, 1863, Craney Island, Virginia. Discharged on June 26, 1865, Washington D. C. African American Civil War Memorial: Plaque A-23

Copyright 2013 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. James Weeks – Co. C, 10th USCI. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.

Pvt. James Weeks – Company C, 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Born about 1818, Capeville, Northampton County, Virginia. Enlisted on October 30, 1863, Craney Island, Virginia. Discharged on May 17, 1866, Galveston, Texas. 

Copyright 2013 Nadia K. Orton
Cpl. Isaac Weston – Co. C, 10th USCI. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.

Cpl.  Isaac Weston – Company C, 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Born about 1824, Johnstown (Eastville), Northampton County, Virginia. Enlisted on October 30, 1863, Craney Island, Virginia. Discharged on May 17, 1866, Galveston, Texas. African American Civil War Memorial: Plaque A-23

Copyright 2013 Nadia K. Orton
Pvt. Jeffrey Widgeon – Co. C, 10th USCI. Photo: Nadia k. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.

Pvt. Jeffrey Widgeon – Company C, 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry

Born about 1818, Eastville, Northampton County, Virginia. Enlisted on October 30, 1863, Craney Island, Virginia. Discharged on May 17, 1866, Galveston, Texas. African American Civil War Memorial: Plaque A-23

Copyright 2013 Nadia K. Orton
First Baptist Church, Capeville, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 14, 2013. All rights reserved.