The state has acquired the site of a small but nationally-significant Civil War site.
About 30 volunteer members of a Kansas regiment were patrolling the land about five miles southwest of Butler, in western Missouri’s Bates County that October day in 1862 when they were ambushed by about 130 rebel horsemen near Island Mound, a low hill near the Marais-des-Cynges River. The Kansas soldiers drove off their attackers in a brief skirmish.
The significance is that this was the First Kansas COLORED Infantry. This fight was the first time that black soldiers went into combat on behalf of the Union during the Civil War.
The unit had been organized the previous August, more than two months before the United States accepted black troops into the regular Union Army. Some sources say they were former slaves from Missouri and Arkansas, and freedmen.
They were sent to western Missouri to confront a Confederate force near the farm of John Toothman, reportedly a guerilla who had been imprisoned in Kansas. The confrontation came on October 29, 1862.
The state parks division has acquired 40 acres where their "Fort Africa" stood, adjacent to the privately-owned hill where these men fought. State Parks Director Doug Eiken says seven to 12 of those soldiers might still be there. Archaeologists will try to find the location of their fort and maybe evidence of their burials. He says the site of the skirmish is about a mile away in a privately-owned pasture. However, he says the landowner will allow archeologists to work there to find the site of the battle or, ore appropriately, the skirmish.
The state will develop the 40 acres as a state historic site. The adjacent landowner will allow archaeological studies to be done that could pinpoint exactly where the historic battle happened. Eiken hopes the site can be developed for public access in time for the start of the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 20-11.