First Kansas (Colored) Volunteer Infantry

Military History

Official Military History of Kansas Regiments
During the War for the Suppression of
The Great Rebellion
p. 246-256 MILITARY HISTORY OF THE FIRST KANSAS (COLORED) VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

     On the 4th day of August, 1862, Captain James M. Williams, Co. F, 5th Kansas Cavalry, was appointed by Hon. Jas. H. Lane Recruiting Commissioner for that portion of Kansas lying north of the Kansas River, for the purpose of recruiting and organizing a regiment of infantry for the U. S. service, to be composed of men of African descent. He immediately commenced the work of recruiting by securing the muster-in of recruiting officers with the rank of 2d Lieutenant, and by procuring supplies form the Ordinance, Quartermaster and Commissary departments, and by establishing in the vicinity of Leavenworth a camp of rendezvous and instruction.

     Captain H. C. Seaman was about the same time commissioned white like authority for that portion of Kansas lying south of the Kansas River. The work of recruiting went forward with rapidity, the intelligent portion of the colored people entering into the work heartily, and evincing by their actions a willing readiness to link their future and share the perils with their white brethren in the war of the rebellion, which then waged with a such violence as to seriously threaten the nationality and life of the Republic.

     Within sixty days five hundred men were recruited and placed in camp, and a request made that a battalion be mustered into the U. S. service. This request was not complied with, and the reasons assigned were wholly unsatisfactory, yet accompanied with assurances of such a nature as to warrant the belief that but a short time would elapse ere the request would be complied with.

     In the meantime complications with the civil authorities in the Northern District had arisen, which at one time threatened serious results. These complications originated from the following causes, each affecting different classes:

     1st. An active sympathy with the rebellion.

     2d. An intolerant prejudice against the colored race, which would deny them the honorable position which every soldier is entitled to, even though he gained that position at the risk of his life in the cause of the nation, which could ill afford to refuse genuine sympathy and support form any quarter.

     3d. On the part of a few genuine loyalists, who believed that this attempt to enlist colored men would not be approved by the War Department, and that the true interests of the colored man demanded that their time should not be vainly spent in the effort.

     4th. A large class who believed that the negro did not possess the necessary qualifications to make efficient soldiers, and that consequently the experiment would result in defeat, disaster and disgrace.

     Col. Williams, action under the orders of his military superiors, felt that it was no part of his duty to take counsel of any or all of the classes. He saw no course for him to pursue but to follow his instructions to the letter. Consequently, when the civil authorities placed themselves in direct opposition to those of the military, by arresting and confining the men of the command on the most frivolous charges and indicting ther commanders for crime, such as unlawfully restraining persons of the liberty, &c., by enforcing proper military discipline, he ignored the right of the civil authourties to interfere whth his military actions in a military capacity and under proper authority.

     All the classes above enumerated joined in the opposition, which, if successful, could only have inured to the interests of those persons properly coming under the head of the 1st class enumerated or mentioned. The result has undeceived those persons who acted from honest convictions embraced in the 3d and 4th classes, and to the other two classes no apologies are necessary nor intended.

     On the 28th of October, 1862, a command, consisting of detachments from Capt. Seaman's and Capt. Williams' recruits, were moved and camped near Butler. This command --about two hundred and twenty-five men, under Capt. Seaman--was attacked bya rebel force of about five hundred, commanded by Col. Cockrell, but after a sever engagement the enemy was defeated with considerable loss. Our loss was ten killed and twelve wounded, including Capt. A. J. Crew amongst the first mentioned, a gallant young officer. The next morning the command was reinforced by a few recruits under command of Capt. J. M. Williams, and pursued the enemy a considerable distance, but with our further action. This is supposed to have been the first engagement in the war in which colored troops were engaged.

     The work of recruiting, drilling and disciplining the regiment was continued under the adverse circumstances until the 13th of January, 1863, when a battalion of six companies, formed by the consolidation of Col. Williams' recruits with those of Capt. Seaman, was mustered into the U. S. Service by Lieut. Sabin of the regular army. Between January 13th and May 2d. 1863, the other four companies were organized, when the regimental organization was completed, as will appear by the muster in rolls of the regiment.

     Immediately after its organization the regiment was ordered to Baxter Springs, where it arrived in May, 1863, and the work of drilling the regiment was vigorously prosecuted.

     Parts of two companies of the regiment, and a small detachment of cavalry and one piece of artillery, made a diversion on Shawnee, Mo., attacked and dispersed a small rebel force and captured five prisoners.

     While encamped here, on the 18th of May, a foraging party, consisting of twenty-five men form this regiment and twenty men of the 2d Kansas Battery, Maj. R. G. Ward commanding, was sent into Jasper county, Mo. This party was surprised and attacked by a force of three hundred rebels commanded by Major Livingston, and defeated, with a loss of sixteen killed and five prisoners, three of which belonged to the 2d Kansas Battery and two to this regiment. The men of the 2d Kansas Battery were afterwards exchanged under a flag of truce for a like number of prisoners captured by this regiment. Livingston refused to exchange the colored prisoners in his possession, and gave as his excuse that he should hold them subject to the orders of the rebel War Department. Shortly after this Colonel Williams received information that one of the prisoners held by Livingston had been murdered by the enemy. He immediately sent a flag of truce to Livingston demanding the body of the person who committed the barbarous act. Receiving an envious and unsatisfactory reply, Colonel Williams determined to convince the rebel commander that that was a game at which two could play, and directed that one of the prisoners in his possession be shot, and within thirty minutes the order was executed.

     He immediately informed Major Livingston of his action, sending the information by the same party that brought the dispatch to him. Suffice it to say that this ended the barbarous practice of murdering prisoners of war, so far as Livingston's command was concerned.

     Colonel Williams says: "I visited the scene of the engagement the morning after its occurrence, and for the first time beheld the horrible evidences of the demoniac spirit of these rebel fiends in their treatment of our dead and wounded. Men were found with their brains beaten out with clubs, and the bloody weapons left by their sides, and their bodies most horribly mutilated."

     It was afterwards ascertained that the force who attacked this foraging party consisted partially of citizens of the neighborhood, who, while enjoying the protection of our armies, had collected together to assiste the rebel forces in theis attack. Col. Williams directed that the region of country within a radius of five miles from the scene of conflict should be devastated, and is of opinion that this effectually prevented a like occurrence in the same neighborhood.

     Subsequently, while on this expedition, the command captured a prisoner in arms who had upon his person the evidence of having been paroled by the commanding officer at Fort Scott, Kansas who was shot on the spot.

     The regiment remained in camp at Baxter Springs until the 27th of June, 1863, when it struck tents and marched for Fort Gibson in connection with a large supply train form Fort Scott en route to the former place.

     Colonel Williams had received information that satisfied him that the train would be attacked in the neighborhood of Cabin Creek, Cherokee Nation. He communicated this information to Lieut. Colonel Dodd, of the 2d Colorado Infantry, who was in command of the escort, and volunteered to move his regiment in such manner as would be serviceable in case the expected attack should be made. The escort proper to the train consisted of six companies of the 2d Colorado Infantry, a detachment of three companies of cavalry from the 6th and 9th Kansas, and one section of the 2d Kansas Battery. This force was joined, on the 28th of June, by three hundred men from the Indian Brigade, commanded by Major Forman, making altogether a force of about eight hundred effective men.

     On arriving at Cabin Creek, July 1st, 1863, the rebels were net in force--about twenty-two hundred strong--under command of Gen. Cooper. Some skirmishing occurred on that day, when it was ascertained that the enemy occupied a strong position on the south bank of the Creek, and upon trial it was found that the stream was not then fordable for infantry, on account of a recent shower; but it was supposed that the swollen current would have sufficiently subsided by the next morning to allow the infantry to cross. The regiment then took a strong position on the north side of the stream and camped for the night. After a consultation of officers, it was agreed that the train should be parked in the open prairie and guarded by three companies of the 2d Colorado and a detachment of one hundred men of the 1st Colored, and that balance of the troops, Col. Williams commanding, should engage the enemy and drive him from his position.

     Accordingly, the next morning, July 2d, 1863, the command moved, which consisted of the 1st Kansas Volunteer Colored Infantry, three companies of the 2d Colorado Infantry, commanded by the gallant Major Smith of that regiment, the detachments of cavalry and Indian troops before mentioned and four pieces of artillery, making altogether a force of about twelve hundred men.

     With this force, after an engagement of two hours duration, the enemy was dislodged and driven from his position in great disorder, with a loss of one hundred killed and wounded and eight prisoners. The loss on our side was eight killed and twenty-five wounded, including Maj. Foreman, who was shot from his hours while attempting to lead his men across the creek under the fire of the enemy, and Capt. Ethan Earl, of the 1st Colored, who was wounded at the head of his company.

     This engagement was the first during the war in which white and colored troops were joined in action, and to the honor and credit of the officers and men of Col. Dodd's command be it said they allowed no prejudice on account of color to interfere in the discharge of their duty in the face of an enemy alike to both races.

     This was the first battle in which the whole regiment had been engaged, and here they evinced a coolness and true soldierly spirit which inspired the officers in command with that confidence which subsequent battle scenes satisfactorily proved was not unfounded.

     The road being now open, the entire command proceed to Fort Gibson, where it arrived on the evening of the 5th of July, 1863. On the 16th of July the entire force at Fort Gibson, under command of Gen. Blunt, moved upon the enemy, about six thousand strong, commanded by Gen. Cooper, and encamped at Honey Springs, twenty miles south of Fort Gibson. Our forces came upon the enemy on the morning of the 17th of July, and after a sharp and bloody engagement of two hours duration, the enemy was totally defeated, with a loss of four hundred killed and wounded and one hundred prisoners.

     At the hight of the engagement, Gen. Blunt ordered Colonel Williams to move his regiment against that portion of the enemy's line held by the 29th and 30th Texas regiments and a rebel battery, with directions to charge them if he thought he could carry and hold the position. The regiment was moved at a shoulder arms, pieces loaded and bayonets fixed, under a sharp fire, to within forty paces of the rebel lines, without firing a shot. The regiment then halted and poured into their ranks a well-directed volley of "buck and ball" from the entire line, such as to throw them into perfect confusion, from which they could not immediately recover. Col. Williams' intention was, after the delivery of this volley, to charge their line and capture their battery, which the effect of this volley had doubtless rendered it possible for him to accomplish. But he was at that instant rendered insensible from gunshot wounds, and the next officer in rank, Lieut. Colonel Bowles, not being aware of his intentions, the project was not fully carried out. Had the movement been made as contemplated, the entire rebel line must have been captured. As it was, most of the enemy escaped, receiving a lesson, however, which taught them not to despise on the battle field the race they had long tyrranized over as having "no rights which a white man was bound to respect."

     Col. Williams says: "I had long been of the opinion that this race had a right to kill rebels, and this day proved their capacity for the work. Forty prisoners and one battle flag fell into the hands of my regiment on this field."

     The loss to the regiment in this engagement was five killed and thirty-two wounded. After this, the regiment returned to Fort Gibson and went into camp, where it remained until the month of September, when it again moved with the Division against the rebel force under General Cooper, who fled at our approach.

     After a pursuit of one hundred miles and across the Canadian River to Perryville, in the Choctaw Nation, all hopes of bringing them to an engagement was abandoned, and the command returned to camp on the site of the rebel Fort Davis, situated on the south side of the Arkansas River, near its junction with Grand River.

     The regiment remained in this camp, doing but little duty, until October, when orders were received to proceed to Fort Smith, where it arrived during the same month. At this point it remained until December 1st, making a march to Waldron and returning via Roseville, Arkansas, and in the same month went into winter quarters at the latter place, situated fifty miles east of Fort Smith, on the Arkansas River.

     The regiment remained at Roseville until March, 1864, when the command moved to join the forces of Gen. Steele, then about starting on what was known as the Camden Expedition. Joining Gen. Steele's command at the Little Missouri river, distant twenty-two miles northeast of Washington, Arkansas, the entire command moved upon the enemy, posted on the west side of Prairie de Anne, and within fifteen miles of Washington. The enemy fled, and our forces occupied their works without an engagement.

     The pursuit of the enemy in this direction was abandoned, and the command marched upon Camden via the Washington and Camden road, which was struck at Moscow, distant five miles from the works abandoned by the enemy. At this point, the Division, commanded by Gen. Thayer, was attacked in the rear by a large force of the enemy, but after a spirited engagement of an hours duration, they were effectually repulsed, the regiment sustaining no loss in the action.

     The command arrived at Camden on the 16th of April, 1864, and occupied the place with its strong fortifications without opposition. On the day following Col. Williams started with five hundred men of the 1st Colored, two hundred Cavalry, detailed from the 2d, 6th and 14 Kansas regiments, and one section of the 2d Indiana Battery, with a train to load forage and provisions at a point twenty miles west of Camden, on the Washington road. On the 17th he reached the place and succeeded in loading about two-thirds of the train, which consisted of two hundred wagons. At dawn of the 18th the command moved towards Camden, and loaded the balance of the wagons from the plantations by the way side. At a point fourteen miles west of Camden the advance encountered a small force of the enemy, who, after slight skirmishing, retreated down the road in such a manner as to lead Col. Williams to suspect that this movement was a feint intended to cover other movements or to draw the command into an ambuscade.

     Just previous to this he had been reinforced by a detachment of three hundred men of the 18th Iowa Infantry, and one hundred additional cavalry, command by Capt. Duncan, of the 18th Iowa.

     In order to prevent any surprise, all detached foraging parties were called in, and the original command placed in the advance, leaving the rear in charge of Capt. Duncan's command, with orders to keep flankers well out and to guard cautiously against a surprise. Col. Williams at the front, with skirmishers and flankers well out, advanced cautiously to a point about one and a half miles distant, sometimes called Cross Roads, but more generally known as Poison Springs, where he came upon a skirmish line of the enemy, which tended to confirm his previous suspicion of the character and purpose of the enemy. He therefore closed up the train as well as was possible in this thickly timbered region, and made the necessary preparations for fighting. He directed the cavalry, under Lieut. Henderson, of the 6th, and Mitchell, of the 2d, to charge and penetrate the rebel line of skirmishers in order to develop their strength and intentions. The movement succeeded most admirably in its purposes, and the development was such that convinced Col. Williams that he had before him a struggle of no ordinary magnitude.

     The cavalry, after penetrating the skirmish line, came upon a strong force of the enemy, who repulsed and forced them back to their original line, not, however, without hard fighting and sever loss on our part in killed and wounded, including in the latter the gallant Lieut. Henderson, who afterwards fell in to the hands of the enemy.

     The enemy now opened on our lines with ten pieces of artillery--six in front and four on the right flank. From a prisoner, Col. Williams learned that the force of the enemy was from eight to ten thousand, commanded by Gens. Price and Maxy. These developments and this information convinced him that he could not hope to defeat the enemy; but as there was no way to escape with the train except through their lines, and as the train and its contents were indispensable to the very existence of our forces at Camden, who were then out of provisions, he deemed it to be his duty to defend the train to the last extremity, hoping that our forces at Camden, on learning of the engagement, would attack the enemy in his rear, thus relieving his command and saving the train.

     With this determination, he fought the enemy's entire force from 10 A. M. until 2 P. M., repulsing three successive assaults, and inflicting upon the enemy sever loss.

     Col. Williams says: "The conflict during these four hours was the most terrivic and deadly in its character of any that has ever fallen under my observation."

     At 2 P. M. nearly one-half of our force engaged had been placed hors du combat , and the remainder were out of ammunition. No supplies arriving, the Col. Was reluctantly compelled to abandon the train to the enemy and save as much of the command as possible to the swamps and canebrakes and making for Camden by a circuitous route, thereby preventing pursuit by cavalry. In this manner most f the command that was not disabled in the field reached Camden during the night of the 18th. For a more specific and statistical report of this action, in which the loss to the First Colored alone was 187 men and officers, the official report of Colonel J. M. Williams is herewith submitted:

"CAMDEN, ARKANSAS, April 24, 1867.

     "Captain ---I have the honor to submit the following report of a foraging expedition under my command:

     "In obedience to verbal orders received from Brigadier General Thayer, I left Camden, Arkansas, on the 11th instant with the following forces, viz:

     "Five hundred of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, commanded by Major Ward.

     "Fifty of the 6th Kansas Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Henderson.

     "Seventy-five of the 2d Kansas Cavalry, commanded by Lieut. Mitchell.

     "Seventy of the 14th Kansas Cavalry, commanded by Lieut. Utt.

     "One section of the 2d Indiana Battery, under Lieutenant Haynes.

     "In all, 695 men and two guns, with a forage train of 198 wagons.

     "I proceed westerly on the Washington road a distance of eighteen miles, where I halted the train and despatched part of it in different directions to load, one hundred wagons with a large part of the command, under Major Ward, being sent six miles beyond the camp. These wagons returned to camp at midnight, nearly all loaded with corn.

     "At sunrise on the 18th, the command started on the return, loading the balance of the train as it proceeded, there being but few wagons loads of corn to be found at any one place. I was obliged to detail portions of the command in different directions to load the wagons, until nearly all of my available force was so employed.

     "At a point known as Cross Roads, four miles west of my camping ground, I was met by a reinforcement of three hundred and seventy-five men of the 18th Iowa Infantry, commanded by Capt. Duncan, twenty-five men of the 6th Kansas, Lt. Phillips commanding, forty-five men of the 2d Kansas Cavalry, Lieut. Ross commanding, twenty men of the 14th Kansas Cavalry, Lt. Smith commanding, and two mountain howitzers from the 6th Kansas Cavalry, Lieut. Walker commanding--in all, 465 men and two mountain howitzers. These, added to my former command, made my entire force consist of eight hundred and seventy-five infantry, two hundred and eighty-five cavalry and four guns. But the excessive fatigue of the preceding day, coming as it did at the close of a tiresome march of twenty-four hours without halting, had so affected the infantry that fully one hundred of the 1st Kansas Colored were rendered unfit for duty. Many of the cavalry had, in violation of orders, straggled from their commands, so that at this time my effective force did not exceed one thousand men.

     "At a point one mile east of this, my advance came upon a picket of the enemy, which was driven back one mile, when a line of the enemy's skirmishers presented itself. Here I halted the train, formed a line of the small force I then had in advance, and ordered that portion of the 1st Kansas Colored which had previously been guarding the rear of the train to the front, and gave orders for the train to be parked as closely as the nature of the ground would permit. I also opened a fire upon the enemy's line from the section of the 2d Indiana Battery, for the double purpose of ascertaining if possible if the enemy had artillery in position in front, and also to draw in forme foraging parties which had previously been despatched upon either flank of the train. Nor response was elicited save a brisk fire form the enemy's skirmishers.

     "Meanwhile, the remainder of the 1st Kansas Colored had come to the front, as also three detachments of cavalry, which formed part of the original escort, which I formed in line facing to the front, with a detachment of the 14th Kansas Cavalry on my right and detachments of the 2d and 6th Kansas Cavalry on the left flank. I also sent orders to Capt. Duncan, commanding the 18th Iowa Infantry, to so dispose of his regiment and the cavary and howitzers which came out with him as to protect the rear of the train, and to keep a sharp look out for a movement upon his rear and right flank.

     "Meanwhile a movement of the enemy's infantry toward my right flank had been observed through the thick brush which covered the face of the county in that direction. Seeing this, I ordered forward the cavalry on my right, under Lieuts. Mitchell and Henderson, with orders to press the enemy's line, force it if possible, and at all events to ascertain his position and strength, fearing as I did that the silence of the enemy in front was but for the purpose of drawing me on the the open ground which lay in my front. At the juncture, a rebel rode into my lines and inquired for Col. De Morse. From him I learned that General Price was in command of the rebel force, and the Col. De Morse was in command of the force on my right.

     "The cavalry had advanced but four hundred yards, when a brisk fire of musketry was opened upon them from the brush, which they returned with true gallantry, but were forced to fall back. In this skirmish many of the cavalry were unhorsed, and Lieut. Henderson, of the 6th Kansas Cavalry, fell, wounded in the abdomen, while bravely and gallantly urging his command forward.

     "In the meantime I formed five companies of the 1st Kansas Colored, with one piece of artillery, on my right flank, and ordered up to their assistance four companies of the 18th Iowa Infantry. Soon my orderly returned from the rear with a message from Capt. Duncan, stating that he was so closely pressed in the rear by the enemy's infantry and artillery that the men could not be spared.

     "At this moment the enemy opened on me with two batteries---one, of six pieces, in front, and one, of three pieces, on my right flank--pouring in an incessant and well-directed cross fire of shot and shell. At the same time he advanced his infantry both in front and on my right flank.

     "From the force of the enemy--now for the first time made visible--I saw that I could not hope to defeat him, but still resolved to defend the train to the last, hoping that reinforcements would come up from Camden.

     "I suffered them to approach within on hundred yards of my line, when I opened upon them with musketry charged with buck and ball, and after a contest of fifteen minutes duration, compelled them to fall back. Two fresh regiments coming up, they again rallied and advanced upon my line, this time with colors flying and continuous cheering, so loud ad to drown even the roar of the musketry. Again I suffered them to approach even nearer than before, and opened upon them with buck and ball, their artillery still pouring in a cross fire of shot and shell over the heads of their infantry, and mine replying with vigor and effect. And thus, for and other quarter of and hour, the battle was waged with desperate fury. The noise and din of this almost hand-to-hand conflict was the loudest and most terrific it has ever been my lot to listen to. Again were they forced to fall back, and twice during this contest were their colors brought to the ground, but as often raised.

     "During these engagements fully one-half of my infantry engaged were either killed or wounded. Three companies were left withour any officers, and seeing the enemy again reinforced with fresh troups, it became evident that I could hold my line but little longer. I now directed Maj. Ward to hold the line until I could ride back and form the 18th Iowa in proper shape to support the retreat of the advanced line.

     "Meanwhile, so many of the gunners having been shot from around their pieces as to leave too few men to serve the guns, I ordered them to retire to the rear of the train and report to the cavalry officer there. Just as I was starting for the line of the 18th Iowa my horse was shot, which delayed me until another could be procured, when I rode to the rear and formed a line of battle facing in the direction the enemy was advancing.

     "Again did the enemy hurl his columns against the remnant of men that formed my front and right flank, and again were they met as gallantly as before. But my decimated ranks were unable to resist the overpowering force hurled against them, and after their advance had been checked, seeing that our lines were completely flanked on both sides, Maj. Ward gave the order to retire, which was done in good order, forming and charging the enemy twice before reaching the rear of the train.

     "With the assistance of Maj. Ward and the other officers, I succeeded in forming a portion of the 1st Kansas Colored in rear of the 18th Iowa, and when the enemy approached this line, they gallantly advanced to the line of the 18th and with them poured in their fire. The 18th maintained their line manfully, and stoutly contested the ground until nearly surrounded, when they again retired across a ravine which was impassable for artillery, and I gave orders for the piece to be spiked and abandoned.

     "After crossing this ravine I succeeded in forming a portion of the cavalry, which I kept in lin in order to give the infantry time to cross the swamp which lay in our front, which they succeeded in doing. By this means nearly all, except the badly wounded, were enabled to reach camp Many wounded men belonging ti the 1st Kansas Colored fell into the hands of the enemy, and I have the most positive assurances from eye witnesses that they were murdered on the spot. I was forced to abandon everything to the enemy, and they thereby became possessed of the large train.

     "With two six pounder guns and two twelve pounder mountain howitzer, together with what force could be collected, I made my way to this post, where I arrived at 11 P. M. of the same day.

     "At no time during the engagement, such was the nature of the ground and the size of the train, was I obliged to employ more than five hundred men and two guns to repel the assaults of the enemy, whos force, frrom the statements of prisoners, I estimate at te thousand men and twelve guns. The columns of assault which were thrown against my front and right flank consisted of five regiments of infantry and one of cavalry, supported by a strong force which operated against my left flank and rear. My loss, in killed, wounded and missing during this engagement was as follows:

     Killed--Ninety-two.

     Wounded--Ninety-seven.

     Missing--One hundred and six.

     "Many of those reported missing are supposed to have been killed; others are supposed to have been wounded and taken prisoners. The loss of the enemy is not known, but in my opinion it will exceed our own. The conduct of all the troops under my command, officers and men, was characterized by true soldierly bearing, and in no case was a line broken except when assaulted by and overwhelming force, and then falling back only when so ordered. The officers and men all evinced the most heroic spirit, and those that fell died the death of the true soldier. The action commenced at 10 A. M, and terminated at 2 P. M. I, have named this engagement the action of "Poison Springs," from a spring of that name in the vicinity.

"Very respectfully, &c.,      J. M. WILLIAMS

"Colonel 1 st. Kansas Colored Vol. Infantry Commanding Expedition

"Capt. Wm. S. Whitten, Assistant Adjutant General."

     I will simply say that in this action, although defeated and driven from the field with great loss, the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry brought no stain of dishonor upon the State it represented, but in my opinion added other laurels to the wreath of glory and honor which her sons have woven from the hear-earned garlands of many well-contested battle fields during the war of the great rebellion.

     On the 26th day of April following Gen. Steele's command evacuated Camden and marched for Little Rock. At Saline Crossing, on the 30th of April, the rear of Gen. Steele's command was attacked by the entire force of the enemy, commanded by Gen. Kirby Smith. The engagement which followed resulted in the complete defeat of the enemy, with great loss on his part. In this engagement the 1st Kansas Colored was not an active participant, being five miles from the rear and scene of the engagement. The regiment was ordered back to participate in the battle, but did not arrive on the line until after the repulse of the enemy and his retirement form the field.

     On the 26th day of April following Gen. Steele's command evacuated Camden and marched for Little Rock. At Saline Crossing, on the 30th of April, the rear of Gen. Steele's command was attacked by the entire force of the enemy, commanded by Gen. Kirby Smith. The engagement which followed resulted in the complete defeat of the enemy, with great loss on his part. In this engagement the 1st Kansas Colored was not an active participant, being five miles from the rear and scene of the engagement. The regiment was ordered back to participate in the battle, but did not arrive on the line until after the repulse of the enemy and his retirement form the field.

     On the day following, May 1st, 1864, Colonel Williams was ordered to take command of the 2d Brigade, Frontier Division, 7th Army Corps, and never afterwards resumed direct command of his regiment. It consitituted for most of the time, however, a part of the Brigade which he commanded until he was mustered out of service with the regiment.

     The Regiment remained with its Division at Little Rock until some time during the month of May, when it marched for Fort Smith--then threatened by the enemy--at which point it arrived during the same month. This campaign was one of great fatigue and privation, and accomplished only with great loss of life and material, with no adequate recompense or advantage gained.

     The regiment remained on duty at Fort Smith until January 16th, 1865, doing heavy escort and fatigue duty. On the 16th of September, 1864, a detachment of forty-two men of Co. K, commanded by Lieut. D. M. Sutherland, while guarding a hay-making party near Fort Gibson, were surprised and attacked by a large force of rebels under Gen. Gano and defeated, after a gallant resistance, with a loss of twenty-two killed and ten prisoners--among the latter the Lieutenant commanding

     On the 16th of January, 1865, the regiment moved to Little Rock, where it arrived on the 31st of the same month, where it remained on duty until July, 1865, when it was ordered to Pine Bluffs, Ark. Here it remained, doing garrison and escort duty, until October 1st, 1865, when it was mustered out of service and ordered to Fort Leavenworth for final payment and discharge. The regiment received its final payment and was discharged at Fort Leavenworth on the 30th day of October, 1865.

     Upon referring to the reports of the campaigns and battles in which this regiment was engaged, it will be evident to the reader that they neither shrank from any duty nor avoided any peril. On the contrary, it will ever be a source of gratification to the Colonel commanding to have been connected with a regiment that preformed its full share of duty and offered up in defense of the liberties of the nation, its full share of patriotic lives, laid upon the altar of freedom for the benefit of the present and future generations, again reunited and cemented with the blood of patriots, never to be dismembered by traitors without or foes within

     Citizenship in a free country amply rewards the war-worn soldier, who hails with joy the advent of peace, and turns with alacrity form the "pomp and circumstance of glorious war," once more to engage in those more congenial pursuits incident to a time of tranquillity and peace.


Transcribed by Kathy Welch Heidel Jan. 27, 2001 for the KSGenWeb Project.

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Transcribed from Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865. Vol. 1. (Reprinted by Authority) Topeka, Kansas: The Kansas State Printing Company. 1896. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Tom & Carolyn Ward
Columbus, KS

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