By Connie Egan
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – On Nov. 14 the 3rd Regiment Infantry United States Colored Troops Re-enactors visited Camden County College with a display in Civic Hall to share the history of colored men in the Civil War. What one of the re-enactors, Albert El, said he hoped to achieve from an event like this was “a lot of new history they don’t even know anything about. I’m hard core, I call it the way it is. When I walk around and people don’t even know what a Civil War uniform is, that is pretty bad.”
He then went into a story of how people have asked him if he had just returned from Iraq when they see him in uniform. Confused, he then tells people he is a re-enactor for the Civil War and often has to explain when the war was as many thought he fought in the war. “I say I look good to be 150 years old,” chuckled El.The display drew people in from the start as they wanted to see the artifacts up close – photos of real colored soldiers from the war and the things they would carry with them in battle – and learn a little about the flags on display.
The flags, both the troops’ flag and the 34-star flag, caught a lot of people’s attention and happens to be re-enactor Joe Becton’s favorite part of the display. “Not only do we bring them to our presentations, we put them on graves of the U.S. colored troops all across the area,” said Becton. Becton plans to display the flags in a couple old black graveyards in Camden that have been turned into playgrounds.
Before re-enacting and “informing the masses,” as their mission statement states, the troops had to start somewhere, as Becton explained. “We started out as four guys who were on a cannon team shooting cannons at Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia and then from there we started our own Civil War group. We expanded now to 18 people.” They participate in parades and presentations all over the area and even take the show on the road to cities such as Boston and Pensacola, Fla. “We are really interested in telling these stories about freedom.”
The lively display left many students wishing “why can’t I have a history teacher like this?” The re-enactors’ passion left many wanting more as they learned a few new facts and engaged in discussion testing their Civil War knowledge. Anyone interested in learning more about these re-enactors should go to their website at http://www.3rdusct.org, which has event calendars, history and more.