Chowan County, North Carolina: Images from Vine Oak Cemetery

Photos: Nadia K. Orton, January 19, 2013-April, 2014. Also added to FindaGrave. All rights reserved. For more information on United States Colored Troops: see Memorials to United States Colored Troops, Pt. 4 – Chowan County, North Carolina.

1st Sgt. Haywood B. Pettigrew (1845-1927), Company B, 2nd Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 19, 2013. All rights reserved.

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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Memorial Day: Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex, a photo essay

Photos: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved

I say, comrades, what caused the tide of victory to turn in the Union’s favor? Was it not that the great minds of the north were forced, by the reverses they were meeting daily, to assemble in council and decide that they needed help? Whose help did they call for? Why they called for the help of the colored volunteers. But there was some doubt in the minds of the northern statesmen and army officers as to whether the negro would fight. Well, they tried him. Not let’s see whether he fought or not. What does our national cemeteries tell? Why are over 50,000 colored soldiers laying beneath the sod to-day? Why are their bones bleaching in the dust to night? For the privileges we are enjoying to-day. Civil rights, political rights, soldiers’ and sailors’ rights, and religious rights; and we propose to protect those rights, let come what will or may. Let weal or woe, let us survive or perish, we will maintain those rights.

In 1884, Pvt. John S. W. Eagles, of the 37th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry, spoke these words in his address to members of the J. C. Abbott Post No. 15, Grand Army of the Republic, in Wilmington, North Carolina. The post membership was comprised of men who fought in regiments raised from North Carolina volunteers, who had survived the various battles of the Civil War, and returned home to become leaders in their communities, forming masonic lodges, burial societies, schools, churches, and cemeteries. These institutions formed the bedrock of the post-Civil War African American community, allowing the potential for the very type of independent social and economic development as a people that had been denied them in slavery.

This was no less true in Tidewater, Virginia, where I’ve traced my paternal ancestral roots to the early 1600s. For the military veterans in our family, the fight for true freedom did not end with their military service. They faced constant discrimination, something Pvt. Eagles knew all too well. However, they persevered despite all the obstacles placed in their path. In our area, they helped to build communities like Lincolnsville and Sugar Hill, and Norfolk’s Barboursville. These fathers, brothers, sons, and uncles became lawyers, funeral directors, grocers, doctors, and educators. They paved the way for successive generations to explore opportunities once thought impossible.

The Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex (Mt. Calvary, Mt. Olive, Fishers, potter’s field), was one of seven cemeteries we visited to plant flags, in honor of their service, their bravery in the face of conflict on and off the field of battle, and the legacies they created. To all of them, our family says, “thank you.” May they rest in peace.

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Max Orton, Landsman, USS Franklin, of Portsmouth, Va. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Pvt. Dempsey Copeland Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Pvt. Dempsey Copeland, Co. G, 1 U. S. Colored Cavalry, of Chesapeake, Va. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Harold Bough Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Harold Bough, Wardroom Steward, USN, of the U. S. Virgin Islands. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Sgt. Richard Richmond Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Sgt. Richard Richmond, Co. D, 36 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Edgecombe County, NC. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Walter Hargrave Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Walter Hargrave, PFC Co B 343 Svc Bn, of Northampton County, NC. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Pvt. Benjamin Anderson Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Pvt. Benjamin Anderson, Co. D, 1 U. S. Colored Cavalry, of James City County, Va. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Ralph Bracy Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Ralph Bracy, Landsman, USS St. Lawrence, of Virginia. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Pvt. John Anderson Mt. Olive Cemetery
Pvt. John Anderson, Co. G, 38 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Virginia. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Pvt. Esau Bowers Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Pvt. Esau Bowers, Co. B, 2 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Portsmouth, Va. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Pvt. Henry Kearney Mt. Olive Cemetery
Pvt. Henry Kearney, Co. F, 10 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Chesapeake, Va. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Israel Charles Norcom, Jr. Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Israel Charles Norcom, Jr., Cabin Steward, USN, of Portsmouth, Va. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Alexander Gordon Mt. Olive Cemetery Portsmouth
Alexander Gordon, Landsman, USS Young Rover, of Portsmouth, Va. Mt. Olive Cemetery
Pvt. George Gray Fishers Cemetery Portsmouth
Pvt. George Gray, Co. H, 6 Va. Inf., of Surry County, Va. Fishers Cemetery
Pvt. Alfred Savage Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Alfred Savage, Co. D, 2 U. S. Colored Cavalry, of Suffolk, Va. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Samuel Dyes Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
Pvt. Samuel Dyes, Co. G, 38 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Chesapeake, Va. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Jacob Hurst Charles Pierce Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
Jacob Hurst, Fireman, 2nd Class, USN, of Virginia, and Pvt. Charles Pierce, Co. I, 1 U. S. Colored Cavalry, of Suffolk, Va. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Cpl. George Baysmore Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
Cpl. George Baysmore, Co. H, 36 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Bertie County, NC. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Sgt. Peter Brown Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
Sgt. Peter Brown, 155 Depot Brig., of Petersburg, Va. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Edmond Riddick Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
Pvt. Edmond Riddick, Co. A, 36 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Southampton County, Va. He rests in an unmarked grave next to his son, educator William E. Riddick. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Andrew Nicholson John Lemuel Jones Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
Andrew Nicholson, Chief Water Tender, USN, of Portsmouth, Va., and John Lemuel Jones, Ship’s Cook, USN, of Hertford County, NC. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Alexander Faison Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
Pvt. Alexander Faison, Co. C, 36 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Southampton County, Va. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
William H. Payne Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
William H. Payne, Seaman, USS Alliance, of Washington, D.C. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Bayler Brumley Sgt. Henry White Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
Pvt. Bayler Brumley, Co. H, 1 U. S. Colored Cavalry, of King and Queen County, Va., and the sunken headstone of Sgt. Henry White, Co. A, 1 U. S. Colored Cavalry, of Accomack County, Va. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Squire Bright Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Squire Bright, Co. K, 1 U. S. Colored Cavalry, of Currituck County, NC. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
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The family plot of Pvt. Nelson Proctor, Co. C, 2 U. S. Colored Infantry, of Camden County, NC. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Ashley H. Lewis Mt. Calvary Cemetery Portsmouth
The gravestone of Pvt. Ashley H. Lewis, Co. B, 1 U. S. Colored Cavalry, of Edgecombe County, NC. Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Vernon Brown Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Pvt. Vernon Brown, Co. C, 446 Reserve Labor Bn., Quartermaster Corps, of Portsmouth, Va. Mt. Calvary Cemetery

Thank you