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Keep the Flag to the Front - Part 1

Regimental flag of the First Kansas Colored Infantry, the first  African American regiment recruited in the Northern states.

The Civil War, 1861-1865

"I shall never forget the morning when I lifted my hand under the folds of the starry flag and swore to defend it and the constitution. . . . Then, it was the morning of our lives, nothing had aged, our wrinkles and scars were yet unrecorded on the fair scrolls of our hopes and ambitions. . . . No wonder the flag laughed and only we were solemn, all ignorant of coming events."
-Unidentified Pennsylvania veteran, quoted in Indiana (Pa.) Progress, March 10, 1897

The Civil War split the nation into two warring camps. The issues that divided North and South included:

  • States' Rights, the philosophy that the federal government had limited power over the states.
  • Economics, the clash of policies between an industrial North and an agricultural South.
  • Slavery, which underlay both of the above and went beyond them. Could the country survive if it allowed the enslavement of African Americans to continue?

Many of us were taught that the Civil War took place east of the Mississippi River. After all, the East was the most populated part of the country and the capitals of the Union and the Confederacy were less than 125 miles apart, adding to the intensity of the fighting.

But there also was a war west of the Mississippi, and it was just as brutal as anything that happened in the East. Some believe that the Civil War actually began in the West in 1854, when Kansas became a territory and debate started as to whether it would become a free or slave state. This period is known as Bleeding Kansas.

Actual declaration of war came shortly after Kansas was admitted to the Union on January 29, 1861. The young state provided the greatest number of soldiers per capita of any Union state. Most Kansans saw fighting near or west of the Mississippi.

Search for your Kansas ancestor in our Civil War database (Kansas Adjutant General's Report).


Keep the Flag to the Front: Battle Flags of Kansas is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. The Civil War, 1861-1865
  2. Rally 'Round the Flag
  3. Stories From the Front Lines
  4. The "Colored" Soldiers
  5. On the Border
  6. Chickamauga
  7. The Confederacy
  8. Save the Flags!
  9. Glossary and Explanation of Flag Types

Contact us at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov