KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An amateur military historian from Butler on Friday kicked off a campaign to preserve what he says is a little known gem of United States history.
For years, Chris Tabor has recognized the significance of Island Mound, 480 acres of land in Bates County, about 60 miles south of Kansas City. Now, he says, it's time for others to know about the place where the first black soldiers, assembled from Kansas, fought and died during the Civil War.
The 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, made up of fugitive slaves recruited by U.S. senator and abolitionist James H. Lane, fought for the Union on Oct. 29, 1862 in the battle at Island Mound, historians say.
"Sadly, this historic event has been all but forgotten, and the bravery and sacrifice of the former slaves who fought and prevailed at Island Mound overlooked for too long," Tabor said during a press conference at the offices of The Kansas City Call newspaper.
"We intend to rectify these wrongs by preserving, protecting and interpreting the Island Mound Battlefield for our generation and all future generations."
Land purchase sought
Tabor said his organization, the Island Mound Battlefield Preservation Foundation, wants the state's help to purchase and preserve a portion of the site. Forty acres of the land, which is on personal property, is being sold. It would take about $60,000, to acquire the site, which is thought to include the graves of some of the former slaves who fought, Tabor said.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is aware of the significance of site, said Sue Holst, a spokeswoman for the department. In fact, the department is planning to place a historical marker there, she said.
As far as making it a historic landmark, Holst said the department first needs more details from Tabor about his intentions. Even then, there are a lot of factors to consider, she added.
"To acquire a state historic site is a pretty major effort ... For it to become a state historic site, we would actually have to own and operate it. Right now, this is on private property," Holst said.
Tabor acknowledged that he has yet to give the Department of Natural Resources detailed information about his plan, but he said he has been in touch with the department and intends to follow up with details in January.
"I encourage and welcome the state's help," Tabor said.