During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln debated whether or not to enlist African Americans in the Union war efforts. His greatest concern stemmed from the fear that it would alienate the four Border States, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. The Emancipation Proclamation he later issued only applied to those slaves in the Confederate States, it did not lighten the bonds from those in the Border States, or within the Union.
In spite of the fact that the War Department had repeatedly disbanded attempts to create African American units, General Jim Lane of Kansas organized the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment. These men were slaves, freed or runaways, from Missouri, Kansas, and the surrounding territory. In October of 1862, this Unit entered into their first battle at Island Mound, Missouri. It wouldn’t be until January of the following year that they were finally mustered into the Union Army as the 79th United States Colored Infantry (USCT).
August of 1862, the War Department officially allowed the entrance of African American soldiers into the Union army. This resulted in the USCT organizing between 160-170 different regiments in infantry, cavalry, heavy artillery, and light artillery. Nationally, the USCT comprised nearly 10% of the entire Union forces.
By the end of the war, over 8,000 African American Missourians served in the Union forces between 1862 and 1865.
“History of the United States Colored Troops,” Missouri State Archives, September 7, 2017, www.SOS.mo.gov/archives/education/usct.
County Map of the States of Iowa and Missouri, Map 850 G143 1861 . 1 map : col., The State Historical Society of Missouri, Map Collection.