Sumner Hall: Last Two Weeks for Exhibit of Black Civil War Soldiers’ Portraits



Portraits of 17 men from the 25th US Colored Troops – portraits with accompanying book by Shayne Davidson

Sumner Hall has had the privilege of hosting a special exhibition of portraits of Black Civil War soldiers.  The portraits, all by artist Shayne Davidson, show seventeen members of the 25th US Colored Troops.  Drawn from tiny “gem”  (locket-sized)  photographs, the portraits gleam with life and vitality–so life-like that you can easily imagine these soldiers stepping down out of their frames.

The pictures will be on display until at least the end of November.  That means there are just two more weekends that you can be sure of getting to see them.  Sumner Hall is open every Saturday from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm.  You can also contact the museum to arrange a visit.  You can even take a chance of just dropping by.  If someone is there working on one of the many projects, they can often let visitors in for a little while. To arrange a guided tour, please contact Sumner Hall by phone at 443.282.0023 or by email at  The museum is located at 206 S. Queen St. in Chestertown, MD.

Davidson is a professional artist, medical illustrator, and genealogist.  in 2012, she was shown a tiny album of Black soldiers from the Civil War.

The tiny originals were locket-sized, not even 2 inches tall.

According to Shayne’s artist’s statement, on Sumner Hall’s website, “after she examined the locket-sized photographs of these American heroes, she felt compelled to learn more about the individuals featured in the collection. Captain William A. Prickitt, the white commander of the 25th United States Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops, Company G, had noted the names of the men and Davidson used this information to study military and census records, birth, death and marriage licenses, as well as news articles to compose family trees. By the time she had immersed herself in their individual stories, she wanted to share them with others. In her words, it was a privilege to bring this exhibition to life and she hopes that “the Civil War Soldiers” Project conveys part of the story of a group of men who bravely participated in a pivotal event in our nation’s history.”

The Tin Type album held 18 photos of 17 men. It had been saved for over 150 by the Captain Prickett’s family.

The American Civil War was one of the first conflicts that was extensively photographed.  Yet among the thousands of photos of battles, soldiers, military scenes and equipment, there were very few photos of Black soldiers.  This photo album has turned out to be a veritable treasure-trove for Civil War historians.

Private James Tall – 1845-1932 (aged 87) from Tennessee

Private James Henry Hovington (1829-1907) from Kent County, Delaware

Captain Prickett and his wife. Prickett was the white officer in charge of the 25th Colored Troops, Co. G. During the Civil War, all the Colored Troops had white commanding officers though there were lower-rank black officers.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see the  Seventeen Men of 25th United States Colored Troops while the exhibit is still here in Chestertown at Sumner Hall.  The original, two-inch high tin-type album with the photos has been donated to the Museum of African American History in Washington, DC.  But this is the only place that you can really see the men come alive in the color -pencil renditions by Shayne Davidson.









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