Archives for : slavery

Traveling Exhibit: Fighting for Freedom

Museum-quality prints of 22 Images of African American Civil War soldiers pictured in a gallery published in last summer’s issue of MI and elsewhere were displayed in our first-ever traveling exhibit. The first stop for this unique group was the last stop for slaves fleeing to freedom along the Underground Railroad to Canada—the Hubbard House in Ashtabula, Ohio. Located along Lake Erie is northeast Ohio, the town marked the opening of the exhibit with a two-day event last weekend. Music, dramatic readings, a visit from Buffalo Soldiers bikers, and of course the portraits, each with a caption that tells the soldier’s story. Many thanks to all the collectors who shared their images for this event. They include Kevin Canberg, Greg French, Chuck Joyce, Paul Loane, Steve Meadow and Paul Russinoff.

Special thanks to Lisa Burroughs, who played a leading role in conceiving and organizing the event, the staff and volunteers of the Hubbard House, and the city of Ashtabula for turning out to see these powerful photographs that are such an important part of our nation’s story.

Read coverage from the Ashtabula Star Beacon.

Images from the exhibit will be on display for the next year.


Confederate Soldier, Family Slave


One of the most unique Civil War images to surface in recent years is now part of the Liljenquist Family Collection at the Library of Congress. According to Tom Liljenquist, the sixth-plate tintype of Sgt. Andrew Martin Chandler of the 44th Mississippi Infantry and his family slave, Silas, was delivered to the Library this afternoon.

Liljenquist, accompanied by Chandler Battaile Jr., a descendent of Sgt. Chandler, were met by senior staff and other Library employees to receive the photo about 3 pm today.

The image has been a focus of attention since it was shown on PBS in a 2009 episode of Antiques Roadshow, and again in a 2011 segment of History Detectives. The photo has been put forth by some as proof that Silas was a “Black Confederate” who fought for the South, while others have provided primary research that establishes Silas was no more than a slave who served two of his master’s soldier sons during the war.

The Chandler story has been the subject of numerous books and articles. Battaile has requested that the version included in my 2012 book, African American Faces of the Civil War, be posted with the image on the Library’s site along with the image. I wrote another version that appeared as part of the New York Times Disunion series, “A Slave’s Service in the Confederate Army.”

The image included here was taken from a scan that I made from the original tintype with permission of Chandler Battaile Jr. in 2009.

USCT Album Donated to Smithsonian


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.