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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Site to mark regiment's anniversary

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ramon Taylor, a seasonal park guide at the Fort Scott National Historic Site, portrays William Matthews, an officer in the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, during a program last summer at the site.
(Submitted Photo)
The 150th anniversary of the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which mustered in on the grounds of Fort Scott National Historic Site on Jan. 13, 1863, will be commemorated in a special program Saturday.

The free program, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. in the site's library, will feature a series of activities to acknowledge the sesquicentennial of the federal muster of the regiment into Fort Scott, the first African-American unit to be recruited from a northern state and the first to meet and defeat the Confederates in combat, which it did in a October 1862 battle at Island Mound, Mo.

The program includes a keynote address from retired National Park Service historian Arnold Schofield about the formation of the regiment, and will also honor Capt. William D. Matthews, an African-American officer with the unit, with a dramatic reading of events from Matthews' life story. A reenactor will portray Matthews.

Park volunteer Matthew Wells will play period music. Additionally, Ranger Barry Geertsen will give a presentation on the Emancipation Proclamation, which became official Jan. 1, 1863, and paved the way for the mustering in of the unit on the grounds of the fort 12 days later, a news release said.

Geertsen said he has put together a podcast on the regiment that will be played during the program.

The program is expected to last about one hour and is open to the public. There is no fee for the program or to visit the site, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

During the Civil War, Kansas was the first Union state to recruit, train, muster and send African-American soldiers into combat. The First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry was sworn into service 150 years ago on the parade grounds at Fort Scott, the release said.

The unit compiled a proud combat record during the war, according to the historic site's website, www.nps.gov/fosc.

The story of the regiment convinced Congress to authorize funding for the Fort Scott National Historic Site in 1965, the same year that civil rights legislation was passed. This story will also be briefly addressed during the program, the release said.

The Saturday program is one of many planned to commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial, the release said.

For more information, contact the historic site at (620) 223-0310, or visit the park's website.

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