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13 USCT Soldiers, Cuffeytown Cemetery, City of Chesapeake
Company Descriptive Book record for Wilson Cuffey. It notes his promotion and demotion for desertion. He ends his military service listed as a sergeant.||Cornelius Smith's Enlistment record in a cavalry unit of USCT. ||The Enlistment record for Bluet Cuffey notes he is "Free born."||Grave markers for Cornelius Smith, Pvt. Co. H, 10th USCI.||Bluet Cufee grave marker||Grave marker for Sergt. Wilson Cuffey, Co. H, 10 USCI.||Shows original and more recent grave markers for Lemuel Cuffey.||The 1870 census lists Walter Smith as a "laborer." ||Grave marker for Walter Smith, the only of the Cuffeytown 13 to serve in the 5th USCI. ||Document showing Lemuel Cuffey receiving military payment as an "invalid" and his widow Burnese Cuffey receiving his pension payment.||Military pension document shows Lemuel Cuffey (third from top) receiving $30.20.||Document showing Lemuel Cuffey's transfer to a military hospital in Newark, New Jersey. Dated Oct. 27, 1864.||Lemuel Cuffey’s discharge from service for a disability. Dated Dec. 29th (24th?) 1864.||Corpl. Lemual Cuffey, 10th USCI.||The grave marker for Sgt. Thomas Van of Co. C, 36th USCI.||||One of the non-military markers at Cuffeytown.||||Buffalo Soldiers plaque at Cuffeytown Cemetery.||Cuffeytown Cemetery, Chesapeake.
In January of 2020, DHR archaeologist Mike Clem traveled to Cuffeytown Cemetery, in Chesapeake, to document the number of burials dating prior to 1900, as well as those of people born before 1900 but who died in the 20th century. He did so to support the caretakers of the cemetery, who were applying for funds from the Commonwealth for the upkeep of the grounds. Certain thresholds must be met to receive such support from the African American Cemetery and Graves Fund. (Visit this webpage to learn more about the fund.) Here's Mike's report: The cemetery is not easy to find. Cuffeytown is a small community about nine miles from the North Carolina border. After a few passes, I eventually saw a distant flagpole way out in the field. Entering what seemed to be the only access point, I parked and made the long walk across soggy agricultural fields. The markers in the cemetery include a number of handmade stone and concrete memorials with unique decorations carved into them. There are also some less conventional markers such as pipes in the ground or just a simple fieldstone. Most striking of all were the 13 markers dedicated to U.S. Colored Troops buried there. This is the largest number of USCT graves in any cemetery in Virginia. They mark the resting place of men who had been relatives, friends, and neighbors. Most of these men were free men of color and always had been. According to several sources, Cuffeytown was established as a free community in the late-18th century and remained so. Indeed, the enlistment records for many of the men list them as “free born.” Following my visit to the cemetery, I searched to find what documents I could about these soldiers (and found the richest trove of documents on Ancestry.com). The records are spotty but I was able to find a little something online for each of them. These veterans seem to have generally stayed close to home following the Civil War, returning as well to their old livelihoods. Most were listed in the Federal Census as farmers or laborers before the war and similarly listed in census records after the war. The 1870 federal census shows many of the men still living within the community. Scrolling through the records is almost like walking Butts or Cuffee Roads in what was then Norfolk County. One house of Cuffeys is followed by another (spelled Cuffee), and then a Whitehurst or a Smith house. Between what small details these official records tell us of these 13 men, we can only wonder at the lives they lived and their bravery. Here are the men that served:
- 5TH USCT: Private Walter Smith, Company I
- 10TH USCT: Sergeant William Cuffey, Company G; Private Bluet Cuffey, Company H; Corporal Emerson Cuffey, Company G; Private Lemuel Cuffey, Company F; Sergeant Wilson Cuffey, Company H; Sergeant William Cuffey, Company F; Corporal Levi Sevils, Company H; Private Cornelius Smith, Company F; Private James W. Smith, Company F; Private Samuel Smith, Company H; Private John Whitehurst, Company H.
- 36TH USCT: Sergeant Thomas Van, Company C.
–Mike Clem Eastern Region Archaeologist, DHRRead other blogs about Virginia's historic cemeteries