A PROFESSIONAL SOLDIER: RARE TINTYPE OF A BLACK COMPANY SERGEANT 24th OR 25TH US INFANTRY WITH LONG SERVICE, Ca. 1883

$1,750.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 302-89

This sixth-plate tintype shows a sergeant wearing the U.S. regulation 1883 pattern blouse with sergeant chevrons and four service stripes, as well as the 1880 pattern marksman’s collar buttons. He is posed before a studio painted backdrop and is seated in a photographer’s chair arranged to provide an arm rest. He clutches a paper in one hand that he holds up for the camera and must have been of some significance, perhaps a promotion, reenlistment, or certificate for the marksman’s award. Writing is visible on it, but is not legible.

During the Civil War some 175 black regiments served in the Union army and numbered roughly 178,000 men. In 1866 the army was reduced in size and included just two black cavalry regiments and four infantry regiments, the latter of which were consolidated into two, the 24th and 25th US Infantry regiments, in 1869. This sergeant wears an 1874-pattern infantry belt, with its integrally cast loops for the Palmer brace system, making him likely a member of one of these two infantry regiments. His collar buttons are in the form of targets with round bullseyes that were introduced in 1880 for qualifying marksmen and replaced in 1885 by similar buttons with oval bullseye targets. This gives a date of 1883-1885 for the photo on the basis of the uniform blouse and the marksman buttons.

This dating fits with his four service stripes. At the end of the Civil War the army reverted to five-year enlistments. If he served a three-year enlistment during the Civil War and reenlisted in the regulars in 1866, we are looking at date between 1881 and 1886 (when he would have been eligible for yet another service stripe.) It looks as if the photographer added a touch of red in his service stripes, which would fit with one of them being red-bordered for wartime service, though we see some red in the chevrons, so it might be the remnant of light gilding.

The photo has excellent clarity and detail. There are some very minor spots to the figure’s right and a little smudge at left that affects just the end of his chevrons and cuff below. The image is matted, framed and glassed, and is housed in a leatherette case with minor scuffs, but with red facing pad, etc., in place.

Both the 24th and 25th US Infantry Regiments saw action in the west during the Indian Wars and in Cuba and the Philippines in the Spanish American War. Comparison with other images of “Buffalo Soldiers” might reveal an identity, but he has great presence and character, and is plainly a mature man of long army service capable of exercising the necessary authority in an infantry company. Images of black Civil War soldiers are very scarce. Just given the reduced numbers of the U.S. Army after the war, a soldier from the Indian Wars is downright rare.  [sr]

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