Battle of Island Mound
This illustration from the March 14, 1863, issue of Harper’s Weekly magazine — titled “A Negro Regiment in Action” — depicts the Battle of Island Mound, Missouri, in October 1862.
This series of skirmishes with Confederate guerrillas was unremarkable in terms of casualties (on the Union side only eight were killed and 11 wounded) but the incident marked the first time in the Civil War that African American soldiers engaged in combat. The bravery shown by the troops of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry received national coverage in the newspapers of the day and undermined the widespread belief that Blacks were incapable of fighting. The success of the 1st Kansas Colored helped convince President Abraham Lincoln that the time was right to issue his Emancipation Proclamation.