by Bruce Smith
Associated Press Writer
(AP)–African-American troops engaged in combat as an organized fighting force for the first time this week 150 years ago in the Civil War.
|In this photo taken July 17, 2010, re-enactors portray members of the 54th Massachusetts regiment during a program at Fort Moultrie, on Sullivans Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
The 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment repelled a Confederate unit while skirmishing with the rebels at Island Mound in Missouri on Oct. 29, 1862. It was among the first of the Black regiments to be organized.
Yet in a few months’ time, numerous African-American regiments would be armed and poised to fight for the Union. Thousands would eventually join the Union ranks from both the population of free Blacks and escaped slaves.
One of the most famous fights by African-American troops would still be months ahead in July 1863 at Fort Wagner, S.C. Formally mustered into the federal army in 1863, the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment would win praise as a disciplined and first-rate infantry unit.
Authorities say that regiment saw five officers and 173 enlisted soldiers killed in action during its involvement in the war. Another 165 enlisted soldiers and officers died from diseases contracted during the conflict.
Elsewhere, The Associated Press reports on Oct. 29, 1862, that a fire that began in a train loaded with bales of hay threatened to burn the large train trestle bridge at Harper’s Ferry, connecting western Virginia with Maryland.
AP reported: “Some teamsters were cooking their dinner under the trestle work … where immense quantities of hay were being unloaded from the cars” when the fire erupted. In the end, the burning trainload of hay was pulled off the bridge and the bridge was saved, despite damage to the trestle.