Virginia: Preserving African American Civil War History in Tidewater, Virginia

Due to the impending landfall of Hurricane Florence, we’re not sure how long we’ll have access to the internet (or power for that matter), and when those services will be restored. However, we’re happy to report that two of the thirteen remaining replacement headstones for local African American Civil War veterans have finally been installed. Most of the headstones were delivered between July and September of 2017, with the installations delayed due to extended periods of rain in the Mid-Atlantic region, and other factors.

 

Pvt. Richard Reddick (ca. 1847-1896*)
Company F, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Cavalry
Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex, est. 1879)

 

Original gravestone of Pvt. Richard Reddick. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 11, 2010.

Replacement gravestone, installed August, 2018. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, September 1, 2018

 

Pvt. Richard Reddick (sometimes spelled “Riddick”), was born enslaved in Perquimans County, North Carolina (some documents note Camden County). He escaped slavery and enlisted in the Union Army on February 22, 1864, at Norfolk, Virginia. He mustered out on February 4, 1866, at Brazos Santiago, Texas. According to military records, Pvt. Reddick passed away on July 10, 1896, though Portsmouth City death records note his date of death as July 10, 1895. His wife, Mary, passed away in 1940, and may be buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery along with several of their children.

 


Pvt. Austin Smallwood (ca. 1845-1894)
Company I, 14th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery
Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex, est. 1879)

 

Austin Smallwood USCT Copyright Nadia K. Orton

Original gravestone of Pvt. Austin Smallwood. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 11 , 2010

Austin Smallwood replacement gravestone Copyright 2018 Nadia Orton

Replacement gravestone, installed August, 2018. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, September 1, 2018

 

Pvt. Austin Smallwood was born enslaved about 1845 in Bertie County, North Carolina. In 1863, Austin’s owners vowed to shoot and kill any of their slaves that “ran away to the Yankees.” Cognizant of the deadly threat, Austin remained on the plantation to look after his mother, Nancy, and three younger brothers. However, in early 1865, he escaped, and made his way to New Bern, North Carolina, where he enlisted in the Union Army on February 23rd. After his discharge in December, 1865 at Fort Macon, North Carolina, Austin moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, where he soon became an influential member of his community, a devoted husband, and a loving father of four. Although he’d made Portsmouth his new home, Austin never forgot his roots, and kept in close contact with his family in North Carolina. Pvt. Austin Smallwood passed away in 1894 at his home on Columbia St., Portsmouth, from complications of “phthisis pulmonalis,” a term once used to describe the debilitating effects of tuberculosis. His wife, Martha Brown Smallwood, a Franklin, Virginia native, passed away in 1932, and is most likely buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Portsmouth.♥

 

Perquimans County, North Carolina: Gravestone of Pvt. Josephus Riddick, Co. E, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry, Belvidere

Pvt. Josephus Riddick Perquimans NC Copyright Nadia Orton 2017

Gravestone of Pvt. Josephus Riddick, Co. E, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry

A few days ago, our family visited the grave of Pvt. Josephus Riddick (1844-1925), of Company E, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry. The concrete headstone stands about three feet tall, and contains the inscription, “husband of Mary Riddick,” perhaps carved by hand or pressed into the cement before it set. The marker is in very good condition considering its age, and was most likely made by someone skilled in working with the material. I wanted to take a picture of the gravestone without the vine obscuring the inscription, so we wet the stone face with a few bottles of water to loosen the vine’s roots, then carefully snipped it away. Due to the heat, it didn’t take long for the stone to dry. As a rule, we generally try to do as little as possible to a gravestone, but may return soon to remove the rest of the biological growth, as it contains acids that may further damage the stone.

Gravestone of Pvt. Josephus Riddick, Co. E, 1 USCC, with vine removed. Biological growth (i.e. lichen), remains.

In military records, Josephus is listed as “Joseph Redick.” He enlisted at the age of 21 on March 25, 1864, at Norfolk, Virginia under Capt. Charles W. Emerson (d. December 17, 1905), formerly of the 3rd New York Cavalry. Josephus was born in Nansemond County (City of Suffolk), Virginia, and was described as five feet, six inches tall, with the occupation of “general laborer.” He mustered in at Camp Hamilton, in Hampton, Virginia. After a term of about two years, he mustered out on February 11, 1866 with the surviving members of his regiment at Brazos Santiago, Texas.

After returning to Perquimans County, North Carolina, Josephus married Harriett Ann Turner, daughter of Eliza Turner, on January 12, 1878. The ceremony took place at the home of Rev. Willis Whitehead. The young couple resided in Belvidere Township, where Josephus worked primarily as a farmer. According to census records, five children were born to Josephus and Harriett Ann, sons George, Henry, and James Herman, and daughters Josephine and Wincy.

Belvidere Perquimans Co. Sign - Copyright 2012 Nadia Orton

Belvidere Township sign, December 15, 2012. Photo: Nadia K. Orton

Harriett Ann Riddick passed away in 1914. Josephus later married Mary Riddick, daughter of Noah and (Harriett) Ann Riddick, on November 18, 1915, in Belvidere. Josephus died on October 15, 1925.

It’s exciting to discover and document a “new” U. S. Colored Troop, but I can’t take credit for finding his headstone; that honor goes to my father. He’d spotted it almost immediately. Josephus is a “Riddick,” and the surname is common on the paternal side of our family tree. Perhaps Josephus is another long-lost relative? Only time will tell…♥