Portsmouth, VA: Restoring dignity to a Civil War veteran’s gravesite

Gravestone Brinkley Portsmouth Copyright Nadia Orton

I first documented Pvt. Henry Brinkley’s gravesite in 2010. Born enslaved in Suffolk, he enlisted on January 1, 1864 at Fort Monroe, and engaged in action at various sites in Tidewater including Petersburg, part of the campaign that led directly to the liberation of Richmond on April 3, 1865. He mustered out in 1866. I always felt a connection to Pvt. Brinkley, and wanted to take care of his grave; he’d survived the Siege of Petersburg, while some of our USCT ancestors had not. Sadly, during a 2013 research visit, I noticed his headstone had been hit by a car (the cemetery gates can’t be locked at night.) Horrified, I made an attempt to find a descendant (current rules stipulate that a living descendant’s permission is required), but in this instance, made glacial progress. Over time, I got really tired of seeing Henry’s broken headstone. It looked terrible, and I didn’t want to fail him, so I contacted the Dept. of Veterans Affairs with a humble plea…and the gravestone was replaced! Lookin’ good, Pvt. Brinkley! RIP

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September 16, 2016 · 5:39 pm

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