This Saturday afternoon Private James Elbert of the United States Colored Troops was in Dover talking about the burdens for Delaware’s African American soldiers during the Civil War. The 24-year old farmer from Polktown enlisted with C Company of the 8th United States Colored Troops in September 1863. After leaving his home just outside Delaware City, he trained at Camp William Penn and fought in many battles during the conflict.
In an engaging hour-long presentation, the group of mostly twenty-somethings in the audience felt as if they’d been transported back through time to the Civil War as the soldier, following orders from his sergeant-major, unexpectedly arrived in the state capital. Along the way, the private shared stories about the fears, the courage, and the extraordinary achievement of the state’s African-American Soldiers. But that didn’t stop the group from peppering the young militiary man with lots of questions as he shared his amazing tale.
This outstanding dramatic portrayal, presented in character by Willis Phelps, was brought to Dover by the Delaware Humanities Forum’s speaker’s bureau. It’s an excellent program and we thank the Delaware Humanities Forum and Mr. Phelps for sharing a powerful educational narrative about the First State’s Heritage with the crowd. Mr. Phelps also works as a historical interpreter at Fort Delaware during the summer tourist season.