Saturday, January 22, 2011

First Kansas Colored Volunteers: "...not a single coward among them."

The following account appeared in the Daily National Republican. (Washington, D.C.) on November 10, 1862. 

Gen. Lane's Black Troops---They Fight Bravely.

The courage of the blacks, as fighting men, on land and water, has been illustrated in all our wars.  Their first fight in this war, which is described below, seems to have been a brave and successful affair:

Special correspondence of Chicago Tribune.

Leavenworth, Nov. 3 1862---The Kansas colored regiment had a fight with a guerillas commencing on Tuesday last and continuing several days in which the blacks were victorious.  The facts (as related as related to me by Lieut Lyon, of company A, First Kansas, colored.) are as follows:  The rebels, under Jackman and Cockrell, occupied and held an island at the head of the Osage river, at the junction of the Mari-de-zene and Mill Creek.  These two combining form the Osage river near Butler, Bates county, Missouri.  At this point the secesh keep a large quantity of stock guarded by these guerillas.  Major Henning, commander of Fort Scott, and provost marshal of Southern Kansas, ordered from Fort Lincoln a detachment of the colored regiment, (the regiment is stationed at Fort Lincoln,) 160 men from the First, Colonel Williams, and seventy men from the battalion of colored troops from Southern Kansas, under Captain Leamen, making 230--all under Captain Ward, acting commander of the regiment for the time being, the colonel being absent.

Arriving at the island, they found about 400 guerillas--the blacks took possession of Tootman's house, a noted guerilla by that name residing there---they surrounded the house and yard with a wall of rails, and named it Fort Africa.  The enemy were all mounted, and they made frequent attacks on the blacks.  The guerillas were reinforced with 200 men, and the blacks sent to Fort Scott for reinforcements and ammunition, meanwhile the 200 men, and the blacks were fighting the 600 secesh.  Up to Thursday night seven blacks were killed and eight wounded.  Capt. Crew, (white,) of Company A, was killed and his body was brought to Leavenworth yesterday.  Lieut. Gardner, (white,) the fighting Quaker, so-called, was wounded on our side, and up to the same time from fifteen to twenty of the guerillas were killed.  The number of wounded not known to my informant.  On Thursday night, the reinforcements from Fort Scott came on the ground, consisting of 150 cavalry and two pieces of artillery.  The guerillas immediately commenced retreating to the island, and down the river. It was the intention to attack them on the island the next morning, and break of the nest.  The final result I will send you when I get it.  Thus the first black blood has been spilled in fighting with the enemies of the Union.  I have several accounts from the scene of action, and they all agree that the blacks fought well--and not a single coward among them; but they were rather hard to handle and keep back, and they had to be held with a tight rein, like a pair of young fed horses, anxious to go--and go at the guerillas!

 "Daily National Republican. (Washington, D.C.) 1862-1866, November 10, 1862, Image 4." Chronicling America - The Library of Congress. The Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities. Web. 22 Jan. 2011. <>.
Account of first battle of First Kansas Colored Volunteers, column 1.

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