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Thursday, April 17, 2014

1861-1870: Crossroads to civil war

BY BECCY TANNER
The Wichita Eagle

Celebration was in order. As news trickled in that Kansas had been admitted to the union, people stood on street corners, dancing, cheering, and firing canons.

They are Kansans!

They are Americans!

One Kansas editor wrote: "We... (are) partners in 'Hail Columbia,' 'Yankee Doodle,' the stars and stripes, the Declaration of Independence, and the Fourth of July!"

The victory was hard won — but there was still much adversity to come.

Within months, the United States became embroiled in the Civil War.

Kansas stepped up to supply men and resources.

At the Battle of Wilson's Creek on Aug. 10, 1861, the 1st and 2nd Kansas infantries fought in the first Civil War battle west of the Mississippi.

And, in the wartime summer of 1862, a novel experiment was conducted.

Sen. James H. Lane of Kansas formed the Tri-Colored Brigade composed of white, black and American Indian regiments to fight for the Union in the Civil War.

The 1st Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first regiment of black men to fight for the U.S. Army from a northern state and the first to serve alongside whites. It suffered more casualties than any other Kansas regiment during the war.

Confederate forces clashed with Free State Kansans.

When Lawrence was attacked by William Quantrill and nearly 400 of his raiders on Aug. 21, 1863, killing 150 abolitionists, it shocked and enraged the rest of a war-torn nation.

The New York Times said of the massacre: "It is a calamity of the most heartrending kind — an atrocity of unspeakable character."

At the war's end, trading posts sprung up.

Railroads were built, cattle drives began, and the 7th Cavalry Regiment, led by Gen. George Armstrong Custer, fought Indians.

And still, there were more battles to come.

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