Nearby were the homes of three Afro-Virginians who served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War. Sgt. March Corprew, Co. I, 2nd USCT Cavalry, and his brother Pvt. Daniel Corprew, Co. D, 1st USCT Cavalry, lived on a plantation here before enlisting. Pvt. Samuel Hopper, Co. C, 38th USCT Infantry, also lived nearby. He was killed in action on September 29, 1864, at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm (New Market Heights), just east of Richmond.
Three other USCT veterans are buried in the Northwest Bethel Baptist Church cemetery: Cook Wilson Nixon, Co. G, 155th Regiment New York Infantry, Under-Cook Pati Creekman, Co. D, 81st Regiment New York Infantry, and Pvt. Lewis Deford, Co. E, 10th USCT. Pvt. Adda Smith, Co. I, 10th USCT, is buried about 5 miles south of here in a cemetery at the intersection of St. Bride’s Rd. and Battlefield Blvd.
Although many blacks volunteered to fight for the Union and for freedom as soon as the war began, they were turned away until President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Lincoln authorized the raising of USCT regiments on May 22, 1863, under General Orders No. 143. At first relegated to non-combat duties, USCTs had to “fight for the right to fight.” Eventually, more than 200,000 African Americans, many of them formerly enslaved, served in the U.S. Army and Navy during the major campaigns and battles of the second half of the war. Sixteen black soldiers and four sailors received the Medal of Honor for valor in combat.