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!)

Suffolk, Virginia: Views of Oak Lawn Cemetery (est. 1885), August 9, 2019

Assisting grassroots efforts to preserve a historical, African American institution of Suffolk, Virginia

Gravestone of Pvt. Lamb Jackson, 2nd U. S. Colored Cavalry. Documented on Findagrave by Nadia K. Orton, January 2, 2013. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. August 9, 2019. All rights reserved.

Suffolk, Virginia: First view of Oak Lawn Cemetery’s highway historical marker!

I’ve written the text for two highway historical markers for African American cemeteries in Virginia: the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex (est. 1879), Portsmouth, in 2016, and Oak Lawn Cemetery (est. 1885), Suffolk, in 2019. However, I never knew how they were made. Thanks to a wonderful story about the manufacturer, Sewah Studios (Marietta, Ohio), I know the answer. The historical marker for Oak Lawn Cemetery is shown briefly in this great video courtesy of WTAP News, Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Virginia: Thirteen New State Historical Highway Markers Approved – Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR)

(Virginia Department of Historic Resources News)

The story of Oak Lawn Cemetery will be relayed in Suffolk. Established by African Americans in 1885, the cemetery now contains the graves of numerous prominent business, religious, educational, and political leaders in Nansemond County (present-day Suffolk), as well as Civil War-era United States Colored Troops, and veterans of other U.S. wars.

Full Text of Marker: (Oak Lawn Cemetery)

(Please note that some texts may be slightly modified before the manufacture and installation of the signs. Also locations proposed for each sign must be approved in consultation with VDOT or public works in jurisdictions outside VDOT authority.)

Seven African American trustees acquired land here in 1885 and established Oak Lawn Cemetery. Community leaders interred here include John W. Richardson, president of the Phoenix Bank of Nansemond; Wiley H. Crocker, founder of the Tidewater Fair Association and Nansemond Development Corporation; William W. Gaines, Baptist minister and founder of the Nansemond Collegiate Institute; Fletcher Mae Howell, Baptist missionary; Dr. William T. Fuller, physician and banker; and William H. Walker, Tuskegee Airman. Also buried here are late-19th-century local politicians, United States Colored Troops, and veterans of World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Sponsor: Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation
Locality: Suffolk
Proposed Location: 449 Market Street
Sponsor Contact: Nadia K. Orton, hamptonroadsgenealogy@gmail.com.
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