I’ve been anticipating the publication of this book for several months, and today Ian Michael Spurgeon’s, Soldiers In The Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, The Civil War’s First African American Combat Unit, arrived in my mailbox. The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry was indeed the first African American regiment to see combat during the war in spite of what Hollywood has told you. The regiment compiled a fine combat record stretching from Island Mounds (Missouri), First Cabin Creek (Indian Territory), Honey Springs(Indian Territory), and Flat Rock (Indian Territory), to Poison Spring (Arkansas). It is the only regiment that served solely in the trans-Mississippi to be selected as one of Fox’s “300 Fighting Regiments.”
The book, part of the “Campaigns and Commanders” series produced by the University of Oklahoma Press, looks like a high quality production. Writing about African American units is challenging due to the paucity of letters and diaries written by enlisted personnel, but Spurgeon has made good use of newspapers and pension records. An added bonus in the book is a comprehensive roster. Spurgeon is currently working as a historian in the World War II Division of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office.