Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit

Article excerpt

Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit. By Ian Michael Spurgeon. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 456. Illustrations, acknowledgments, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95.)

In this excellent treatment of the First Kansas Colored Infantry, historian Ian Michael Spurgeon follows this African-American regiment from enlistment through the aftermath of the Civil War, offering a nuanced portrayal of black troops' significance in the trans-Mississippi theater. The First Kansas Colored was the first black regiment raised in the North, and it also had the distinction of being the first such regiment to see combat during the Civil War, at the battle of Island Mound, Missouri, on October 28-29, 1862. Although interest in African-American soldiers' experiences during the Civil War has grown, other United States Colored Troops (USCT) units have received more attention from scholars, making Spurgeon's work a significant contribution to the historiography. He convincingly argues for the First Kansas Colored's key role in protecting Union interests on the frontier and, more broadly, seeks to "bring long overdue recognition to those who broke a key color barrier in American society" (p. 6).

Soldiers in the Army of Freedom begins with historical background, considering the mentalité of nineteenth-century Americans to contextualize how African Americans fit into white notions of military service and paying special attention to Bleeding Kansas and the chaos surrounding the Kansas-Missouri border. Spurgeon begins his discussion of the regiment in chapter two, where he outlines its recruitment. White recruiters, including the infamous James Lane, exemplify the intricate politics of the region, where recruiting stations first began accepting enlistees in 1862, only one year after Kansas entered the Union as a free state. Many recruits were escaped slaves from Missouri, which remained a slave state until 1865. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.