Key facts about the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment (later the 79th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment), the first African-American regiment to be organized in a northern state, and the first black unit to see combat during the Civil War.
- August 4, 1862 (Fort Scott Kansas)
Muster into Federal Service Date:
- January 13, 1863
On December 13, 1864, the U. S. War Department re-designated the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment as the 79th Colored Infantry Regiment (New) — aka 79th Infantry Regiment (USCT)
Muster Out Date:
- October 1, 1865 (Pine Bluff, Arkansas)
- October 30, 1865 (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas)
- Colonel James M. Williams
Regimental Service Record as 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment:
- Island Mound, Missouri: October 27, 1862
- Ordered to Baxter Springs: May 1863
- Scouting from Creek Agency to Jasper County, Missouri: May 16–19, 1863 (Detachment)
- Skirmish at Rader’s Farm, Sherwood, Missouri: May 18, 1863
- Skirmish at Bush Creek: May 26, 1863
- Skirmish near Fort Gibson: May 28, 1863
- Skirmish at Shawneetown, Kansas: June 6, 1863 (Detachment)
- March to Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation: June 27–July 5, 1863 (with train)
- First Battle of Cabin Creek, Indian Territory: July 1–2, 1863
- Battle at Honey Springs, Indian Territory: July 17, 1863
- At Fort Gibson until September 1863
- Lawrence, Kansas: July 27, 1863 (Detachment)
- Skirmish near Sherwood, Missouri: August 14, 1863
- Moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas: October 1863
- Moved to Roseville, Arkansas: December 1863, (on duty there until March 1864)
- Skirmish at Horse Head Creek, Arkansas: February 12, 1864
- Skirmish at Roseville Creek, Arkansas: March 20, 1864
- Steele’s Camden Expedition: March 23–May 3, 1864
- Battle of Prairie D’Ane, Arkansas: April 9–12, 1864
- Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas: April 1864
- Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, Arkansas: April 30, 1864
- March to Fort Smith, Arkansas: May 3–16, 1864 (on duty there until December)
- Battle of Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation: September 16–18, 1864
- Skirmish at Flat Rock Creek, Indian Territory: September 16, 1864
- Second Battle of Cabin Creek, Indian Territory: September 19, 1864
- Skirmish at Timber Hill, Indian Territory: November 19, 1864
Regimental Service Record as 79th Regiment (USCT):
- Skirmish at Ivey’s Ford, Arkansas: January 8, 1865
- Battle of Joy’s Ford, Arkansas: January. 8, 1865
- Ordered to Little Rock, Arkansas: January 16, 1865
- Battle of Clarksville, Arkansas: January 18, 1865
- Skirmish at Roseville Creek, Arkansas: March 20, 1865
- Duty at Little Rock, Arkansas, until July 1865
- Duty at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, until October 1865
- Mustered out at Pine Bluff, Arkansas: October 1, 1865
- Discharged at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: October 30, 1865
Regimental Assignments Record as 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment:
- Department of Kansas to June 1863
- District of the Frontier, Department of Missouri, to January 1864
- Unattached, District of the Frontier, VII Corps, Department of Arkansas, to March 1864
- 2nd Brigade, District of the Frontier, VII Corps, to December 1864
Regimental Assignments Record as 79th Regiment (USCT):
- 2nd Brigade, District of the Frontier, 7th Corps, Department of Arkansas, to January 1865
- Colored Brigade, 7th Corps, to February 1865
- 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 7th Corps, to August 1865
- Department of Arkansas to October 1865
- Battle of Island Mound: October 29, 1862
- First Battle of Cabin Creek: July 1–2, 1863
- Battle of Honey Springs (aka Affair at Elk Creek): July 17, 1863
- Battle of Poison Spring: April 18, 1864
No other Kansas regiment lost more men than the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry. Of the 1,192 men who served in the 1st Kansas (and 79th U. S. Colored Infantry) Regiment, during its twenty-nine months of service (state and federal), between 156 and 188 men were killed in action, ten died from wounds received in action, 166 perished from disease, and sixty-seven were discharged because of disabilities. Those numbers place the regiment twenty-first on the list of casualties of all Union regiments that served during the Civil War.
The legacy of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment is perhaps best summarized by the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, for the Year 1864. In his report, Colonel C.K. Holliday, Kansas Adjutant General wrote:
Though suffering severe losses, and fighting at great disadvantage, owing to the merciless treatment they were sure to receive if taken prisoners of war, yet they faltered not, but with a steadiness and a gallantry worthy[y] of themselves and the cause, have earned an honorable reputation among defenders of the Union.
Other Notable Facts
- Against the wishes of President Abraham Lincoln, James H. Lane, U.S. Senator from Kansas took the African American provisions of the Militia Act of 1862 one step further and authorized officials in his state to recruit African Americans for combat positions.
- Although the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment had yet to muster into the Union Volunteer Army, the Battle of Island Mound marked the first time black soldiers officially served as armed combatants in the Civil War.
- The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment was the fourth black regiment to muster into the Union Army.
- The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment’s two African-American officers, Captain William Matthews and Lieutenant Patrick Minor, were forced to give up their commissions when they entered federal service because the War Department would not commission black officers.
- Like other African-American soldiers, U. S. War Department paid black troops $10 per month for their service—$3 less than white soldiers.
- The First Battle of Cabin Creek marked the first time an entire unit of black soldiers fought alongside white soldiers in the Union Army.
- After the Battle of Poison Spring, Confederate soldiers mercilessly shot, bayoneted, and scalped the defenseless wounded and captive soldiers of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment.
- The black survivors of the massacre after the Battle of Poison Spring vowed to never again be taken alive by Confederate soldiers.
- After the Battle of Poison Spring, the battle cry of black soldiers in the Trans-Mississippi theater became “Remember Poison Springs!”
- On December 13, 1864, the War Department re-designated the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment as the 79th U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment (New). The original 79th United States Colored Infantry Regiment (Old) organized as the 7th Infantry Corps d’ Afrique in Louisiana was deactivated in July 1864.