1st Kansas Colored Troops
Elk Creek, Shaw's Inn Civil War Oklahoma
American Civil War
July 17, 1863
On the same day that the 54th Massachusetts was being repulsed at Battery Wagner, another African American regiment, the 1st Kansas Infantry (Colored), was contributing to the greatest Union victory of the Trans-Mississippi Theater, at Honey Springs in the Indian Territory. The 1st Colored Kansas Infantry was probably the best-trained unit on either side. Raised in 1862 from runaway slaves from Missouri, owing to politics and a mistrust of the reliability of blacks it trained until committed to service in early summer 1863.
In the center of the Union line, exposed to enemy fire, the men were ordered to lie down in the tall grass. The officers remained standing to direct the battle. Several were injured. When a Union Indian Cavalry regiment in reserve behind their line began redeploying, the Confederate assumed the Union was retreating. Anxious to destroy the Yankees, the Confederates, a mixed force of Texas and Confederate Indian cavalry regiments, charged.
As the charge began, the 1st Kansas, on orders from their officers, stood. They fired three volleys in quick succession, shredding the charging cavalry. The picture (below) depicts the 1st Kansas (colored) as they rose from the grass. The color guard, a picked force of NCOs that guarded the regimental colors, can be seen. The flags shown still exists and are on display in the Kansas State Capitol, with many more battle honors than they had on July 17, 1863.
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