Today the First Kansas Colored Infantry, the first African Americans recruited in the Northern states for service in the Civil War, experience their first battlefield engagement. At Island Mound in Missouri’s Bates Country, a detachment of some 225 Kansas African American soldiers clash with five hundred Confederates. Although ten Kansas soldiers are killed and twelve wounded, the Confederates are driven off. The regiment’s first taste of action is a success.
Among the Kansas troops are Baptists, a faith well-represented in African American populations North, South and West. Preceding the formation of the First Kansas Colored Infantry in August, the Kansas Emancipation League had been founded in February by both black and white abolitionists during a meeting held at the First Colored Baptist Church in Leavenworth.
One year from this month, the first Kansas State Colored Convention assembles in Leavenworth’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. Twenty-three delegates, representing 7,000 black Kansans, discuss issues of freedom, including the current denial of the right to vote or sit on juries.
Meanwhile, the First Kansas Colored Infantry serves with distinction during the war, in the face of Confederate laws prescribing harsh punishment for captured black troops. On July 26, 1863, Union Major General James G. Blunt praises the valor of the men of the First Kansas Colored Infantry during a recent engagement:
“The First Kansas (colored) particularly distinguished itself, they fought like veterans and preserved their line unbroken throughout the engagement. Their coolness and bravery I have never seen surpassed.”
Sources: “First Kansas Colored Infantry” (link); “First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry” (link); “Kansas: The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed” (link); “Kansas State Colored Convention, 1863” (link)