Black History

How Black Soldiers Saved the Union in the Forgotten Battle of Island Mound

In October 1862, a group of formerly enslaved and vastly outnumbered African American troops soundly defeated Confederate guerrilla fighters during the Battle at Island Mound in Bates County, Missouri.

It marked the first time that Black soldiers were engaged in Civil War combat, and it remains a victory that’s mostly been ignored.

“It was the first time the public had seen black soldiers marching,” said Peggy Buhr, director of the Bates County Museum in Butler. “Word about this spread across the county quickly.”

When the American Civil War began in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln said he wouldn’t allow former slaves and freed Blacks to serve in the military. The president was frightened that his supporters would turn against him for allowing African Americans to take up arms and potentially kill White men.

According to several historians, even as the South appeared to gain advantages during the war, Lincoln still held firm against allowing Blacks to fight mostly out of fear of backlash from slave owners in border states.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis demanded that if Blacks were allowed to fight and were caught, they would either be enslaved or immediately killed.

To dissuade both sides from enlisting African Americans, Davis decreed that white commanders who had Blacks in their units would also face execution for “inciting servile insurrection.”

Frederick Douglass counted among the abolitionists who championed the inclusion of African American soldiers, arguing that they would help the North with the war.

“Let him get an eagle on his button and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket,” Douglass said, according to a History Channel special on the Civil War. “And there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

Even as Douglass and others spoke out, the Union Army that bordered Kansas and Missouri gradually began to lose ground to the opposition, who were known as bushwhackers.

White soldiers defending the Union had dwindled, comprising Missouri territory. Lincoln was forced to act, and on Aug. 4, 1862, Gen. James H. Lane authorized the troops that were dubbed “The 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry.”

The 240 Black soldiers — with 12 white officers — that comprised the infantry were assigned in Fort Lincoln, Kansas, and marched into Bates County and gallantly and victoriously fought the Battle of Island Mound, destroying the guerillas.

Following the battle and, later, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, more African Americans began to enlist into service.

“The Black soldiers fought valiantly,” Buhr said in a 2015 interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal. “They were extremely courageous and brave in holding their ground. This was a life-or-death struggle for them, and they knew that.”

Show More

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Washington Informer Newspaper, 3117 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, Washington, DC, 20032, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Back to top button

My News Matters to me - Washington Informer Donations

Be a Part of The Washington Informer Legacy

A donation of your choice empowers our journalists to continue the work to better inform, educate and empower you through technology and resources that you use.

Click Here Today to Support Black Press and be a part of the Legacy!

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker