Question of the Week

What was the name of the only Civil War camp created exclusively for training African American soldiers?

Sunday, 2/13/11


Camp William Penn.

Issued January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation declared that African Americans would “be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.”  Camp William Penn, located just outside of Philadelphia in Cheltanham Township, was the first Union Army training camp exclusively for African American troops.  The original camp site was established at the junction of Church Road (now Route 73) and Washington Lane on the estate of wealthy landowner Jay Cooke, a national celebrity most recognized for his generous efforts to finance the Civil War.

On June 30, 1863, several hundred African Americans marched up Sixth Street towards the newly established training camp.  They were not armed and wore no uniforms; but were led by fife and drum and inspiring banners.  The camp, fully operational from the summer of 1863 through the end of the war in 1865, was one of eight Union camps created specifically for the training of African American troops.  Under the command of German-born Lieutenant Colonel Louis Wagner, Camp William Penn accepted recruits from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, and trained eleven regiments of U.S. Colored Troops, numbering more than 10,000 soldiers.


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