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The First Kansas Colored Infantry

Wichita Monrovians

The First Kansas Colored Infantry*

Also known as the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Miesner, 1981), the First Kansas Colored Infantry was organized in August, 1862 to assist Union troops in fighting the Civil War. For over a year, there was resistance to use of Black troops in the so-called war between the states. One argument against the use of Blacks was that the war would be short-lived and thus negating the need for Black intervention. Another argument was that use of Black troops by the North might be offensive to southern or Confederate sympathizers. A third argument against use of Blacks to help the North is that Black aid might be viewed among northern whites as a sign of admission of failure (Miesner, 1981). However, the tide began to change with the sentiments of people like Senator James H. Lane, Kansas, and others, when he suggested that a Black man can serve as cannon fodder just as well as his son can (The Leavenworth Daily Conservative, January 29, 1862). Comprised of Black volunteers, Home Guard units were organized in Kansas under Colonel Charles R. Jennison (Cornish, 1953; The Leavenworth Daily Conservative, September 24 and October 8, 1861). Lane was made a Brigadier General by the Secretary of War and charged to organize two regiments of volunteers to aid the Union army (Cornish, 1953), although it appears that Lane’s charge did not include authority to recruit Black volunteers. Nonetheless, Lane did advocate recruitment of Black volunteers to serve in the Union army. And serve they did!

During October, 1862, a segment of the First Kansas Black Regiment engaged a large rebel force near Butler, Missouri in Bates County (Cornish, 1953). Related to the question of whether Blacks have courage and whether Blacks can fight, a news correspondent (The Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1862) reports that they “fought like tigers….” Yet relative to Black volunteers, white Union soldiers received three times or more pay (Cornish, 1953). On May 18, 1863, the First Kansas Colored Volunteers suffered a casualty list of 20 men killed in action and several were taken prisoner at an outpost in Baxter Springs, Kansas. After being attacked by a substantial force of Texans and Indians at Cabin Creek, Indian Territory on July 2, 1863, the Union troops forged a counterattack against a numerically superior enemy and drove them with considerable losses from their position (Cornish, 1953; Miesner, 1981). Cornish (1953) reports that Cabin Creek may be the first engagement during the Civil War in which Black and white Union troops fought side by side. This would appear to be a milestone! It may also have implications for the ROBW project. Miesner (1981) comments that the “coolness under fire displayed by the” Black troops earned them much respect from their white Union counterparts at the Cabin Creek battle.

The success at Cabin Creek notwithstanding, Cornish (1953) posits that it was the battle at Honey Springs, Indian Territory (July, 1863) in which the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment achieved its military prominence. Citing an Union Cavalry officer who fought at the battle in Honey Springs, Cornish (1953) captures this graphic statement: “I never believed in niggers before, but by Jasus, they are hell for fighting” (The Leavenworth Daily Conservative, July 17, 1863). Miesner (1981) observes that Major General Blunt held all of his command in high esteem, although he particularly had kind remarks for the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment to wit:

The First Kansas (colored) particularly distinguished itself; they fought like veterans, and preserved their line unbroken throughout the engagement. Their coolness and bravery I have never seen surpassed; they were in the hottest of the fight and opposed to Texas troops twice their number, whom they completely routed. One Texas regiment (the Twentieth Cavalry) that fought against them went into the fight with 300 men and came out with only 60. It would be invidious to make particular mention of any one where all did their duty so well (Official Records, Ser. I, Vol. XXII, pt. 1, 558; Blunt to Schofield, July 26, 1863).

Along with the Second Kansas Black Regiment, the First Kansas Black Regiment was mustered-out of military service in October, 1865 (Cornish, 1953).


*Note: Dr. D. T. Cornish indicates that there were four Kansas Negro military organizations that served during the Civil War. The discussion herein is limited for the most part to the First Kansas Colored Infantry.


Cornish, D. T. (1953/May). “Kansas Negro Regiments in the Civil War.” Kansas Historical Quarterly, 20, 417-429.

Miesner, W. H. (1981/Spring). “The First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War.” The Oklahoma State Historical Review, 2, 13-26.

The Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1862 (from a dispatch by the Leavenworth Conservative).

The Leavenworth Daily Conservative.

Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865.


Wichita Monrovians

The Wichita Monrovians (1922) were an all-Black professional baseball team named for the capital city of Monrovia, Liberia on the continent of Western Africa.  Not only did the Monrovian organization have its own baseball park (located at 12th and Mosley streets), it used its enormous success on the ball field (regularly defeating both Black and white teams) and at the box office to help raise funds for the *Phyllis Wheatley Children’s Home (Wichita).  Wichita, like most of this society, was a predominantly racially segregated environment for well over half of the Twentieth Century.  An important exception to this statement is the fact that a Ku Klux Klan baseball team, known as the Wichita Klan Number 6, played the Wichita Monrovians in June of 1925.  The final score was Wichita Monrovians 10 and the Wichita Klan Number 6 8.  The fact that the game was played at all could have far reaching implications for this research.  At least the ROBW investigators think so!  We believe that the story of the Wichita Monrovians, the First Kansas Colored Infantry and other important self-initiatives (strength perspectives) such as these could possibly have useful educational, sociocultural, economic, political, and spiritual implications for this investigation.  Please see this website periodically as the ROBW evolves.

 Sources: Pendleton, J. (1997/Summer).  Jim Crow strikes out: Interracial baseball in Wichita, Kansas 1920 – 1935.  Kansas History, 20, 86-101; Dreifort, J.E. (Editor). (2001). Baseball history from outside the lines: A reader.  University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, NE.

* Note: Several sources indicate that the poet's first name is spelled "Phillis" after the slave ship The Phillis on which she arrived in America. The children's home in Wichita, Kansas spells Phyllis with a "y" as cited. (update 9/26/2008)