Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Kansas Colored Volunteers' recruiter helped make Civil War about ending slavery

Flag of the First Kansas Colored Volunteers at Find A Grave 
The First Kansas Colored Volunteers were the first African Americans to be enlisted by the Union Army to serve in the Civil War and to engage in combat and die.  Their recruiter, United States Senator James H. Lane, was a forward thinker. He developed his ideas about slavery and war strategy long before President Lincoln.

Slaves, strength of Confederate Army

Most officers in the Union Army were very conservative, according to John Speer in "The Life of General James H. Lane (Book is included below).  They saw slavery as an acceptable institution. Lane believed African Americans should not be subjected to slavery and should be educated.

The North entered the war with the strong intent of preserving the Union, but they failed to recognize the Achilles' heel of the South.  They sought to appease slaveholders by upholding slavery in the states where it currently existed.  The Confederate Army relied heavily on the menial tasks of slaves in battle, in the fields, and in other arenas for forced labor. Slaves were caretakers over families while the slaveholder was away fighting.  They were a strong support under the enemy's subjection.

Lane's progressive thinking

Lane sought early to cut off the strength of the Confederate Army. He was not about to defend a country who upheld slavery. A story he often sold illustrates his understanding of military strategy:

"In the school of Kentucky on the line of the Hoosiers and Corncrackers, when I was a boy, we fought prize fights at the country schools for the mastery. I had practiced till I was proud and vain of my proficiency; but there was one Joe Darrah, a boy of my age, whose skill and muscle I had failed to overcome. One Saturday night, when we boys were in swimming, poor Joe knocked his shin upon a rock, and I had him show his sore, and I marked well the spot that was wounded, and was ready whenever he should have the temerity to enter the contest. The time came the next Saturday night; up came Joe and the combat commenced. The first opportunity. I kicked Joe on the shin, and he fled the field bellowing like a calf. I tell you, comrades and fellow-citizens, that slavery is the sore shin of the Confederacy, and you miss the opportunity of your lives, if you fail to kick it whenever and wherever you can. When the slaveholder comes into camp whining about his constitutional rights, and begging you to help catch his slaves, kick him on his sore shin."  See Life of Gen. James H. Lane: "the liberator of Kansas.
Enemies in the Union

Unionist began to turn against one another.  Many became vehement enemies of Lane and sought his life.  Some believed that to put guns in the hands of former slave would destroy the Union.  In reality, the Union had already been compromised with secession and seizure of Federal property.

In the next post, we will examine the steps Lane took in helping to free slaves and formed the first African American infantry amid great protest between August and October of 1862.

1 comment:

  1. BLESSED, or BLESSING ? This is such a great additional educational learning TOOL, my biggest regret with this, I am just now today visiting this page.
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    Marvin S. Robinson, II
    Quindaro Ruins / Underground Railroad- Exercise 2015


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