An album of portraits of men from the 25th U.S. Colored Infantry has been donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The photos were published for the first time in the Winter 2014 issue of Military Images magazine.
The album was donated to the museum by a descendant of Capt. William A. Prickitt. The descendant currently remains anonymous. Prickitt started his military service in the 14th New Jersey Infantry, and became the original commander of Company G of the 25th when it was organized in Philadelphia in early 1864. The album contains 18 gem-sized photographs, almost all tintypes. Someone, perhaps Prickitt, carefully wrote the names of 17 of the 18 men on the mat below each image.
The soldiers hailed mainly from Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. One of the men, George H. Mitchell, was a slave in Delaware. His master, Caleb Layton, enlisted him in the Union army. Layton received the $300 bounty, a Mitchell received his freedom when his term of enlistment ended.
The album was brought to the attention of Military Images by Shayne Davidson, an artist and genealogist who discovered the photographs and created a series of drawings exhibited at ArtPrize 2013 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Her “Civil War Soldier” drawings were recognized in the top 25 of more than 1,500 entries.
According to a family story supported by military service records, Capt. Prickitt fell deathly ill during his service in the regiment, and noted that some of the men in his company nursed him beck to health. The men pictured in the album may have been the same soldiers that Prickitt credited with saving his life.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is scheduled to open in 2015. The album is planned to be part of two inaugural exhibits.