17The Museum of the Cape Fear is currently showcasing a unique exhibition titled "Seventeen Men: Portraits of the Men of the 25th US Colored Troops." This display narrates the tale of 17 soldiers from the 25th USCT Regiment, depicted through an array of portraits and life histories, masterfully crafted by artist and genealogist Shayne Davidson.
A tiny pocket-sized photo album was the inspiration for this project and led Davidson on a months-long research project. Each life-sized portrait of the 17 men is accompanied by a short biography of the man's life and a reproduced image of the original albumen print or tintype the portrait is based on.
Davidson, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, earned her BFA from the California Institute of the Arts and an MFA in Medical and Biological Illustration from the University of Michigan.
Post-retirement from her commercial illustration career, she shifted her interests toward genealogy. During the creation of a friend's family tree, she was introduced to an album held by Captain William Prickitt, which housed miniature photographs of 17 Civil War soldiers who were under Prickitt’s command in the USCT. Intrigued by these images, she delved into detailed research about these men’s lives and created life-sized portraits of them.
This led to the creation of a mobile display known as Seventeen Men.
Besides the Seventeen Men exhibit, the gallery also showcases details about the US Colored Troops who were actively involved in the Cape Fear region's Wilmington Campaign. The USCT regiments played crucial roles in the Fort Fisher battles and confronted the Confederate soldiers as the Union army advanced from Fort Fisher to seize Wilmington, the Confederacy's final significant supply route.
Particularly, during the Forks Road battle, the 5th USCT led an aggressive frontal attack against a firmly fortified enemy. Over half of the Union's losses in the campaign to retake Wilmington were men from the USCT Regiments. Without their valiant efforts, it is quite likely that Wilmington would have remained under Confederate control, prolonging the Civil War.
The exhibit can be seen through June 2, during regular museum hours, Tues. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Museum of the Cape Fear is located at 801 Arsenal Ave. Admission is free.

(Photos courtesy of Museum of the Cape Fear)

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