Home News Afro Briefs Originally published October 26, 2012

This Week in The Civil War: African-American Troops in Action for The Union for First Time

by Associated Press

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    Skylar Patterson, right, Christopher Develle, second from right, and Brycelynn Kelly, all 13, listen as Patrick Shell of Vicksburg, Miss., left, discusses the life of a colored Union soldier and their importance during the Civli War, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Raymond, Miss. As part of a four-day observance of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Raymond, reenactors spent the first two days teaching school children about the local historical involvement in the conflict, about the life led by a regular soldier, about firing a cannon, and provided examples of surviving in the caves that dotted the hills around Vicksburg during the siege. Photo Credit/Rogelio V. Solis (AP Photo)

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(AP) African-American troops engaged in combat as an organized fighting force for the first time this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. The 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment repelled a Confederate unit while skirmishing with the rebels at Island Mound in Missouri on Oct. 29, 1862. It was among the first of the black regiments to be organized.

Yet in a few months' time, numerous African-American regiments would be armed and poised to fight for the Union. Thousands would eventually join the Union ranks from both the population of free blacks and escaped slaves.

One of the most famous fights by African-American troops would still be months ahead in July 1863 at Fort Wagner, S.C. Formally mustered into the federal army in 1863, the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment would win praise as a disciplined and first-rate infantry unit. Authorities say that regiment saw five officers and 173 enlisted soldiers killed in action during its involvement in the war.

Another 165 enlisted soldiers and officers died from diseases contracted during the conflict. 

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