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African-Americans’ War for Freedom – From First to Last

4dred10s_showIronically, it was a losing case, and the persistence of Dred and Harriett Scott of St. Louis who brought the case in 1847, which contributed more than any other single event to the coming of war and the abolition of slavery.

The Scotts? suit, which was brought first in the Circuit Court in St. Louis, pursued the theory that they became free when they lived in a Free territory with the Army officer to whom they were bound. This was one of many such cases brought by Missouri slaves on this theory in the years before the Civil War, and most of them were successful. A true “ test case ” from the beginning, forces for and against slavery were determined to take the Scott case to the highest authority, and when Chief Justice Roger B. Taney issued an Opinion in 1857 the forces for abolition received an undesired benefit: An opinion, adverse to the Scotts, which elevated partisanship above logic as perhaps no court decision ever has, before or since. The controversy moved from a battle of words to a battle of arms. Once hostilities began, Missouri was home, literally, to the first and the last African-American military experiences of the Civil War. The first African-American fighting unit organized during the war was not a Massachusetts regiment. It was the First Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment, formed at Fort Scott, Kansas, and mustered into federal service in January 1863. Many of the enlisted men of the 1st Kansas were former Missouri slaves. In October 1862, before official enrollment in the federal service, the 1st Kansas ventured into rural Bates County, Missouri, and on a hill called Island Mound engaged a force of Confederates. The 1st Kansas left from their number seven dead and 10 wounded. This was history?s first battle engagement of an African-American unit in the uniform of the United States. At the other end of the spectrum, the First Missouri Infantry Regiment (Colored), organized in St. Louis in December, 1863 and later designated the 62nd Regiment, U. S. Colored Troops, was one of two Union regiments that fought the last battle of the Civil War, at Palmetto Ranch, Texas, on May 15, 1865. In 1866, veterans of the 62nd established the Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, now Lincoln University.

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