From staff reports
FORT SCOTT, Kan. —
By the time Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, soldiers of the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry already had fought in the hope of securing their freedom.
Raised in the summer of 1862 by U. S. Senator James H. Lane, the First Kansas Colored consisted mostly of able-bodied black refugees from Missouri. The moving story of one formerly enslaved African American, Private Thomas Brown, will be the focus of activities at Fort Scott National Historic Site on Saturday, July 20.
According to historical sources, in August 1862, Brown willingly answered the call to serve by enlisting in Company F. Within months of being organized, the First Kansas Colored was engaging guerrilla forces at Island Mound, Mo. It remained a front-line combat unit for the duration of the war. Many soldiers fell taking the fight to the enemy, including Brown, who received a mortal wound in March 1863. He is buried in the Fort Scott National Cemetery.
Brown's story, with some variation, is part of the larger story of the nearly 200,000 black soldiers and sailors who served with Union forces. While many died, many more lived to pursue their dreams of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
During the event at the fort, reenactors will create five different scenes following Brown from recruitment through his untimely death. Scenes will include Brown's enlistment; women of the Hospital Aid Society providing gifts to soldiers; camp life along the Marmaton River; Brown's care at the field hospital; and final words of comfort offered over the loss of Brown.
The tour begins at 6:30 p.m. outside the site's visitor center. There is no admission charge for the tour. Another evening program featuring a different topic will be offered on August 17.
Fort Scott National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.