"A Soldiers Play".
Captain Richard Davenport, a black lawyer and military officer attached to the 343d Military Police Corps Unit. Davenport investigates the murder of Tech/Sergeant Vernon C. Waters. Ignoring the prejudiced statements and threats of Captain Charles Taylor, Davenport dispassionately fulfills his job and discovers that Private First Class Melvin Peterson murdered Waters while Private Tony Smalls watched. After the discovery, Davenport returns to his unit while the other men prepare to go to the front.
Captain Charles Taylor
Captain Charles Taylor, a white man in his mid-to late thirties who resents Davenport’s assignment and rank. Taylor wants Davenport taken off the murder investigation because he does not believe that a black man can accuse white men or solve the case. After interrogating white soldiers Byrd and Wilcox, Taylor orders that they be arrested; however, Davenport proves that they are not guilty. When Davenport discovers the truth, Taylor admits that he was wrong about African Americans being able to be in charge.
Tech/Sergeant Vernon C. Waters
Tech/Sergeant Vernon C. Waters, a well-built African American with light brown skin who manages the baseball team and is disliked by his men. Waters believes that black men must overcome their ignorant status and harasses his men who match the stereotype of being foolish. Waters belittles C. J. Memphis until Memphis attacks Waters. Feeling guilt after Memphis’ death, Waters drinks too much; he is beaten by Byrd and Wilcox after insulting them, but the two men leave him alive. Peterson and Smalls find Waters lying in the road, and after beating him, Peterson murders him.
Corporal Bernard Cobb
Corporal Bernard Cobb, a black man in his mid-to late twenties who defends Memphis when he hits Waters. Cobb relives the scene between Waters and Memphis. He visits Memphis in the brig, and after Memphis’ death, he helps throw the last baseball game. Cobb reports that Peterson and Smalls were on guard duty and the last ones in the barracks the night of Waters’ death.
Private Louis Henson
Private Louis Henson, a thin black man in his late twenties or early thirties who does not like to talk to officers and is the pitcher on the baseball team. Henson tells Davenport about the shooting at Williams’ Golden Palace and that he saw someone run into the barracks and put something under Memphis’ bed.
Private James Wilkie
Private James Wilkie, a black man in his early forties, a career soldier. Wilkie reveals his anger over losing his stripes. Waters removed his stripes after Wilkie drank on guard duty. Wilkie was ordered to place the murder weapon under Memphis’ bunk. Davenport places Wilkie under arrest.
C. J. Memphis
C. J. Memphis, a young, handsome, and superstitious black man from Mississippi who plays an excellent game of baseball. A likable man and the best hitter on the team, Memphis also plays the guitar and works harder and faster than anyone else, but Waters does not approve of him because he thinks that Memphis represents the honky-tonk side of the black man. When Memphis hits Waters and is put in the brig, he decides that he will not be caged like an animal. He commits suicide.
Private Anthony Smalls
Private Anthony Smalls, a black career soldier in his late thirties who is afraid of Peterson. Accused and arrested for going absent without leave (AWOL), Smalls claims that he did not go AWOL but got drunk and fell asleep in the bus depot. After Davenport’s interrogation begins, Smalls admits that he did go AWOL and that he watched Peterson shoot and kill Waters.
Private First Class Melvin Peterson