Civil War Sesquicentennial Projects
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Civil War Sesquicentennial Projects

The Civil War Round Table of Wilmington, Delaware, Inc. will mark the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War with a series of special projects starting in April, 2011 and ending in June, 2015.
                           2011 Project Escape From Ft. Delaware


The Civil War Round Table of Wilmington, Delaware, is sponsoring the production of a one act play called "Escape from Fort Delaware" as part of its contribution to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The play will be performed at least three times in 2011. The first performance will be held on Pea Patch Island, Ft. Delaware, in mid-June 2011. Two other performances will be held in Kent (September 2011) and in Sussex (October 2011). Other performances may be scheduled for schools and organizations who request that the play be performed.

Auditions will be held Saturday 9 April 2011 from 10:00 A.M. to noon at Widener in Room 237University School of Law, 4601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE

Although this is an amateur theatrical event, it is possible that a grant in aid for the play may include a modest honorarium for each speaking player.

Rehearsals will begin in late April in Room 237 Widener University School of Law on Saturdays from 10:00 A.M. to Noon.

If you are interested in any of these parts, please contact Tom Reed or Jack Witzman by phone or e-mail. Scripts are available in PDF format before audition time as e-mail attachments.

Tom Reed                                    Jack Witzman

TEL: 302-328-3511                       TEL: 302-994-2626

CELL: 302-545-3169          


                             CAST FOR THE ARCHER CONSPIRACY

                                          SPEAKING PARTS

                                       ROLE DESCRIPTION

Gen James Archer CSA A short (under 5'7") wiry individual about 40-45, not particularly likable, personality of a trial lawyer. Serves as narrator.

Gen. Albim Schoepf Post Commandant Ft. Delaware, tall ( 6') dark haired speaks with a German accent.

Capt George Ahl Post Adjutant Ft. Delaware, a supercilious young officer

The Major A Confederate officer, any age and size

Rev. Isaac Handy An elderly civilian with long shoulder length hair, a Presbyterian minister and political prisoner at Ft. Delaware because he expressed sympathy for the Confederacy.

Tom Price A Confederate who turns coat and enlists in the Connecticut Cavalry to get out of Ft. Delaware

Aneas Brooks Confederate escapee and ring leader

Clint Fuller Confederate escapee

John Marion Confederate escapee

John Dorsey Confederate escapee

John McKinney Confederate escapee ringleader of second group

Clarissa Delaware teen ager who helps escapees

                                   NON SPEAKING PARTS

Two Union soldiers from guard detachment who escort Archer to Schoepf’s office and also escort Price to the Confederate barracks to recruit more Galvanized Yankees

Four Confederate escapees, the party of John McKinney of Tennessee

                                  ESCAPE FROM FORT DELAWARE



Fort Delaware, a coastal defense fortress on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, was a Union prisoner of war facility that also housed incarcerated Union bounty jumpers and deserters and civilians arrested by the Provost Marshall for disloyalty. In 1863, after the Battle of Gettysburg, thousands of Confederate prisoners, including a number of high-ranking officers, were sent to Ft. Delaware. Brigadier General James Archer, a Maryland Confederate, captured at Gettysburg set out to organize an insurrection and mass escape at Ft. Delaware in August, 1863. His plot was detected and he was removed from the officer population and confined in a gun room in solitary confinement for the remainder of his incarceration. Archer eventually was exchanged and died from the effects of his imprisonment.

In the summer of 1863 12 Confederates successfully escaped from Ft. Delaware by jumping into the Delaware River with home made floats tied to their bodies made out of canteens. Contemporary with this escape, and tightening security at Ft. Delaware Capt. George Ahl was permitted to recruit galvanized Yankees from the prison population for a heavy artillery company. At the same time the 5th Connecticut Cavalry recruited men from the prison and a detachment of the 5th Connecticut Cavalry including galvanized Yankees were put on guard duty, the only known incident where ex-Confederates who had taken the loyalty oath at Ft. Delaware were given muskets and sent to guard their former comrades. The Archer conspiracy and the mass escape from Ft. Delaware are well documented in Untying the Political Knot: Delaware During the War Between the States published in 2001.

                                         THE ARCHER PLOT

SCENE I Officer’s Quarters Fort Delaware

Gen James Archer and other officers plan a mass breakout from Fort Delaware to coincide with the arrival of steamers at the post. They confer on the date and time of the escape, and identify who will lead the enlisted men in a general prison riot, while the escapees led by Gen. Archer will seize muskets from the guard rooms and hold the post commander and other others prisoners and hostages for the escape. The plot is detected and Archer is arrested by Capt. George Ahl, post adjutant.


(Office of the Post Commander Ft. Delaware, August 1863)

Capt. Ahl bring Gen. Archer to post commandant Brig Gen. Albin Schoepf, who confronts Archer during his interrogation with the facts about his plot. Archer is sent to a gun room under solitary confinement. (The true identity of the informer who reported the Archer conspiracy is unknown to this day).


[A walkway between the main for and the enlisted men’s barracks Ft. Delaware]

August 1863

Rev. Isaac Handy, a political prisoner, has permission to circulate among the Confederate officers and enlisted men for "spiritual guidance." He has a conversation with Aneas Brooks and four other Confederate soldiers outside the earshot of Union guards about escaping from the fort. Handy, in his off-hand style, describes how a soldier could lash two canteens together for floats and slip through one of the sinks after dark and float to the Delaware mainland. Handy mentions in an off-hand manner that many Delawareans were Secessionist in spirit and if an escape were made and the local copperheads were advised in advance, the escapees could be fed and sent on the reverse underground railroad to Richmond.

The plotters are detected by Price a galvanized Yankee who enlisted in the 5th Connecticut Cavalry and Handy manages to convince Price that the men were seeking spiritual guidance from him.


[The Delaware riverbank summer 1863]

Five men led b Aneas Brooks , escapees from Ft. Delaware, in civilian clothes, soaked to the skin, look for a lantern light. The escapees were given directions to look for the man with a lantern after crossing the river who would give them shelter, food and help them on their way south via the reverse Underground Railroad. A woman with the lantern advises the escapees to follow her to a barn where they will be fed and met by a guide who will take them to the next stop on the reverse Underground Railroad. She has already made contact with another group of five escaped prisoners of war led by John McKinney of Tennessee. They agree to travel together,


[Somewhere on Maryland’s Eastern Shore late summer 1863]

The ten escaped prisoners reach the Chesapeake. They discover a large canoe that would hold six people. Brooks and McKinney toss a coin to see which party will get the canoe. Brooks wins and McKinney’s group leaves them to find their way to the Confederacy by a different route.


General Archer describes how the escaped prisoners arrive in Richmond and then explains the Johnson’s Island conspiracy to the audience.

Escape From Fort Delaware will cost about $3,000 to produce and to perform throughout Delaware.   The project is partially supported by aid from the State of Delaware, but we need $2,500 in order to cover the cost of production by June, 2011.
The Civil War Round Table of Wilmington, Delaware, Inc. is a tax exempt charitable and educational corporation recognized as tax exempt by the Internal Revenue Service. If you wish to make a contribution to this cause, send your check or money order made out to "Civil War Round Table of Wilmington, Delaware" to
Gregory Vavroch, Treasurer Civil War Round Table of Wilmington, Delaware
217 Meeting House Ln.
Aston, PA 19014