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Museum - Civil War Exhibit

Civil War section in the main gallery of the Kansas Museum of History

Hear the sounds of battle reverberate at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.

You'll see:

Kansas was the center of attention during the tense years leading up to the Civil War.

The whole nation knew that when Kansas became a state it would alter the balance of power between North and South. Hundreds of people came to the territory in the 1850s to fight for either the proslavery or antislavery causes.

Bleeding Kansas and the Civil WarThe territory became known as "Bleeding Kansas" because of the violent clashes between these factions. Some settlers in Missouri, the neighboring slave state, crossed the line into Kansas and attacked residents who spoke out against slavery. Kansas settlers, too, conducted bloody raids into Missouri.

After years of bloodshed and political bickering, Kansas finally entered the Union as a free state in January 1861. The first shots of the Civil War were fired about three months later.

Many Kansans answered the call to volunteer, and the state provided the greatest number of soldiers per capita in the Union. Most saw fighting near or west of the Mississippi River.

Noteworthy service came from the state's two African American regiments. The First Kansas Colored Infantry was the first such regiment raised in the northern states, and the first to see fighting. Six flags from the First and Second Kansas Colored infantries—one of the largest collections in the country—are rotated on and off display at the Kansas Museum of History.

"Sadly they marched up the aisle. Father Fairchild, who had prayed over them and sent them to battle such a short time ago, received them with tears rolling down his wrinkled cheeks. They placed the flag in his hands. He unfolded it. We saw it full of bullet holes, ragged and battle-stained. He pointed to the dark stains on the staff where the blood of our young soldier had trickled down, and told us how even in the struggle of death he had borne it up until a comrade could take its place. It was the target for the whole Rebel army. . . . We sobbed and cried aloud. It was our first experience of the horrors of war."
—Anna Watson Randolph, Emporia

Learn more about Kansas's war in Keep the Flag to the Front: Battle Flags of Kansas.