(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.