Civil War  |  Historic Site

The Cuffeytown Thirteen


2216 Long Ridge Rd
Chesapeake, VA 23323
United States

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This heritage site is a part of the American Battlefield Trust's Road to Freedom Tour Guide app, which showcases sites integral to the Black experience during the Civil War era. Download the FREE app now.

A portion of the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
A portion of the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, later re-designated the 5th USCT, in Delaware, Ohio Ohio Historical Society

Historic Cuffeytown is one of the earliest free Black communities in the United States. 

The nearby Cuffeytown Historic Cemetery is the largest private cemetery for Black veterans of the Civil War in Virginia, representing the significant and distinct impact of Cuffeytown residents on the Commonwealth’s history. The federal government did not initially permit Black men to enlist during the Civil War. Following the Emancipation Proclamation, the army began to formally recruit and enlist Black soldiers into segregated regiments as United States Colored Troops (USCTs), led by white officers. Black soldiers faced racial discrimination, unequal pay, inferior medical care, and limited opportunities for promotion or combat.

The thirteen Black men interred at Cuffeytown – known as the “Cuffeytown Thirteen” – chose to enlist in the U.S. Army despite these obstacles. Today, many local individuals and organizations work together to preserve their legacy and remember their service to the nation. After historian Dr. E. Curtis Alexander brought renewed public attention to the cemetery in the 2000s, the town held a Veteran’s Day ceremony to rename the path leading to the cemetery “Cuffeytown Road” and to recognize six of the oldest descendants of the Cuffeytown Thirteen. The Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of Hampton Roads sponsored the dedication of a flagpole at the cemetery in 2007.

The names of the Cuffeytown Thirteen are:

5th USCT

The 5th USCT was organized in Ohio in August 1863. They fought in North Carolina and Virginia, including the Battles of the Crater (Petersburg), New Market Heights, and Fair Oaks. 

  • Pvt. Walter Smith, Co. I

10th USCT

The 10th USCT was organized in Virginia in November 1863. They fought in the Battle of Wilson’s Wharf (Fort Pocahontas). After the war, they were ordered to Texas where they mustered out in 1866.

  • Sgt. William Coffey, Co. G 
  • Pvt. Bluet Cuffey, Co. H
  • Corp. Emerson Cuffey, Co. G
  • Pvt. Lemuel Cuffey, Co. F
  • Sgt. Wilson Cuffey, Co. H 
  • Sgt. William Cuffey, Co. F
  • Corp. Levi Sevils, Co. H 
  • Pvt. Cornelius Smith, Co. F
  • Pvt. James W. Smith, Co. F 
  • Pvt. Samuel Smith, Co. H
  • Pvt. John Whitehurst, Co. H

36th USCT

The 36th USCT was organized from the 2nd North Carolina Colored Infantry in February 1864. They fought in North Carolina and Virginia, including the Battle of New Market Heights and the Appomattox Campaign. After the war, they were ordered to Texas where they mustered out in 1866.

  • Sgt. Thomas Van, Co. C

After the war, veterans and other Cuffeytown residents founded the church that stands before you today. Though it was rebuilt following a fire in August 2020, Gabriel Chapel A. M. E. Zion Church has continuously served the community for over 150 years. 


Marker: Civil War Trails

The Cuffeytown Thirteen: What's Nearby

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