By Soumya Sathyanarayana, Co-Webmaster Hiram White, Isaiah White and Christopher Wilson were three native Pennsylvanian men who fought in the United States Colored Troop’s 25th regiment. Their stories as Black soldiers from Pennsylvania fighting for the Union in the Civil War are now on display in the “17 Men” exhibit in the Chester County History...
By Soumya Sathyanarayana, Co-Webmaster
Hiram White, Isaiah White and Christopher Wilson were three native Pennsylvanian men who fought in the United States Colored Troop’s 25th regiment.
Their stories as Black soldiers from Pennsylvania fighting for the Union in the Civil War are now on display in the “17 Men” exhibit in the Chester County History Center. The center opened the traveling exhibit to the public on Feb. 10 and it will continue to be on display until July 1.
The 25th USCT trained at Fort William Penn near Philadelphia with soldiers from around the Mid-Atlantic region. During the Civil War era, Black men were not allowed to enlist in the military. So, they formed the USCT which fought for the Union war effort and placed troops throughout the North.
Ellen Endslow, Director of Collections and Curator at the center, believes that the contribution of the USCT during the war was vital to the Union.
“It was an invaluable resource to help aid in the push for freedom and the abolition of slavery. It took everybody to make that effort succeed,” Endslow said. “I think that the USCT were as valued as any soldier on the field and proved themselves very worthy of their military.”
This exhibit only scratches the surface of local involvement in the Civil War, according to Endslow.
“I hope visitors come and take time to appreciate learning how these men served,” Endslow said. “It gives you some sense of the variety of people who participated in a Civil War and why it had such an impact on the community.”
Shayne Davidson, a professional illustrator, created the exhibit by adding color to old black-and-white pictures and using genealogy to trace the soldiers’ heritage. Even with such technology, some men remain unidentified.
The Chester County History Center also used some of its previously-owned historical objects from other USCT regiments from Pennsylvania to enhance the exhibit, such as a letter from Dr. E. Chandler Oxford, who petitioned for a deceased soldier’s family to receive aid and relief. Other objects include death certificates, letters that soldiers sent home and certificates of their achievements.
The center’s goal is to educate people about the U.S. Colored Troops and its many achievements during the war as well as emphasize its local connection to Chester County.
“I think a part of the exhibit that makes it important is the fact that these soldiers become really individual,” Endlsow said. “It delves into a topic that a lot of people don’t know. Few people know that there were United States Colored Troops who served in the Union army.”
Soumya Sathyanarayana can be reached at [email protected].
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