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Civil War History - July 13, 2012

Q: The “First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry” was the very first unit of black Union soldiers to go into battle during the Civil War. In which state did this unit first see action?

1st-colored-regiment-infantry KHSBlue silk regimental flag of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, the first African American regiment from a northern state in the Civil War. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society /



A: Missouri (near Butler, Mo., in October 1862)

William-Matthews KHS

The First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry was the first unit of black Union soldiers to go into battle during the Civil War. These African-American troops engaged rebel forces at the Battle of Toothman’s Mound (or Island Mound), near Butler, Mo., in October of 1862. That was nine months before the better-known “54th Massachusetts” unit saw action. (The 54th Massachusetts was the subject of the 1989 Oscar-winning film “Glory.”) The First Kansas Colored regiment was organized by U.S. Senator James Lane, of Kansas, who was an adamant abolitionist.


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