San Francisco Civil War Round Table Meeting
                           Thursday 19th January 2017
                       at the United Irish Cultural Center
                       2700 45th Avenue, San Francisco
                        Fighters for Freedom:  
    The First Kansas Infantry (colored) in the Civil War
                                       presented by
                                  Charles Pfister       

The 1st Kansas Infantry (colored), later the 79th Regiment Infantry USCT, was the
first African American regiment formed in a northern state.  The unit saw its first
combat action six months before the 54th Massachusetts (of the film “Glory”) was
formed.  The story of the 1st Kansas is not widely known – in part because there
were no memoirs from the mostly illiterate veterans, most of whom enlisted soon
after escaping slavery.  

The unit was initially formed as a political stunt by Kansas abolitionist senator Jim
Lane against the express orders of the War Department.  The unit trained for many
months without official standing or pay and was eventually assigned to guard the
frontiers of Indian Territory.  The 1st Kansas was engaged in protecting convoys,
securing forts, and fighting Confederate guerillas.  The unit was instrumental in the
Union victory at the Battle of Honey Springs (1863), which secured the Union flank
from invasion through the Indian Territory.  The unit participated in the ill-fated
Red River Campaign of 1864 and the Battle of Poison Spring.  The soldiers of the
1st Kansas fought against Confederate forces flying the “black flag” – the
Confederate threat to take no prisoners when fighting black soldiers.  Poison Spring
along with the Battle of Fort Pillow and the Battle of the Crater appear to be the
worst cases of the “black flag” policy in action.  The 1st Kansas suffered severe
casualties at Poison Spring and suffered the most casualties of any Kansas Civil
War unit.

Most of the approximately 175 African American Civil War regiments were formed
late in the War and received minimal training.  Many were relegated to support
duties.  The 1st Kansas, however, was recognized by commanders of the western
frontier as a crack combat unit and was given very difficult assignments.  The unit
received long overdue recognition in a superb 2014 scholarly regimental history,
Soldiers in the Army of Freedom written by Ian Michael Spurgeon, PhD.    

Charles Pfister has a M.A. from Indiana University and a M.S. from Duke
University.  For over 20 years he has been a private investigator in the San
Francisco Bay Area primarily working for attorneys in legal investigations.  Along
with an overview of the regimental history of the 1st Kansas (colored) Infantry, he
will present results from years of research on veterans from Company B of the first
Kansas who formed a small agricultural colony after the War in Brown County
Kansas and how their fate reflects the postwar history of Kansas and the U.S.