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First Indian Home Guard Regiment

Image Ownership: Public Domain
The First Indian Home Guard Regiment was a tri-racial Union regiment first organized in Kansas in May 1862. The regiment was made up of Creek and Seminole Indians, African Creeks and African Seminoles with white officers commanding the unit.  Though their numbers were few, the blacks in the unit played a key role in the regiment. Because most of the Indians did not speak English, the bilingual blacks served as interpreters and provided a cultural bridge between the white officers and the Indian soldiers. The unit had its origins among those in the Creek and Seminole nations who opposed the signing of treaties with the Confederacy, and followed the Creek chief Opothlayahola on his exodus from the Indian Territory to Kansas in November-December 1861.

Along the way they fought the first three battles in the Indian Territory of the Civil War. The African Creeks and African Seminoles who joined the exodus were the first black men in America to raise arms against the Confederacy. With the official organization and mustering of the First Indian in May 1862, the African Creeks and African Seminoles became the first blacks to be mustered into the Union Army. During the Indian Expedition into the Indian Territory in the summer of 1862 they became the first blacks to participate in combat. At the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, on December 7, 1862, they were the first black soldiers to participate in a major battle. The First Indian saw action on the battlefields of Missouri, Arkansas and the Indian Territory and were mustered out in May 1865.

Sources:
Gary Zellar, African Creeks: Estelvste and the Creek Nation (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007).

Contributor:

University of Saskatchewan

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