By Brad Segall
LA MOTT, Pa. (CBS) — Descendants of black soldiers who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War were in Cheltenham on Saturday sharing their stories during a commemoration to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of Camp William Penn.
Camp William Penn, located in the area of Sycamore and Willow avenues in the La Mott section of Cheltenham, was the first federal training camp for black soldiers during the Civil War. It’s believed more than 11,000 trained there during the two years it was open. Cicero Green found out about a decade ago that his great-grandfather entered the war in 1864.
“It’s hard for me to actually describe what it felt like,” Green said. “I mean it was just inspiring and it just really touched me to the point where words do not describe, but the pride was there.”
President of Citizens for the Restoration of Historic La Mott Joyce Werkman says the role of the black soldier is not really taught in many schools and the belief is those soldiers were major contributors,
“The consensus is that what they contributed led to the outcome as it is,” said Werkman, “that we are one country, not two.”
She says the outcome of the Civil War could have been much different if those troops weren’t there.
The commemoration included a parade, music, lectures, exhibits and Civil War artifacts at the Camp William Penn Museum. Werkman says it’s important to remember these soldiers and the contributions they made to American history.