Saturday, September 11, 2010

Buffalo Soldiers

In 1866, through an act of Congress, legislation was adopted to create six all African American Army units. The units were identified as the 9th and 10th cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st infantry regiments. The four infantry regiments were later reorganized to form the 24th and 25th infantry regiments.

These fighting men represented the first Black professional soldiers in a peacetime army. The recruits came from varied backgrounds including former slaves and veterans from service in the Civil War. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, coming to be known as Buffalo Soldiers, these Black-Americans were assigned to the harshest and most desolate posts in the West and Southwest.

The nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" began with the Cheyenne warriors in 1867. The actual Cheyenne translation was Wild Buffalo. The nickname was given out of respect and the fierce fighting ability of the 10th Cavalry. Overtime, Buffalo Soldiers became a generic term for all African American soldiers. Some attribute the name “Buffalo Soldiers” to the Indians likening the short curly hair of the black troopers to that of the buffalo. Another possibility for the nickname was the heavy buffalo robes the soldiers wore on winter campaigns.

During the 1870-1880’s, the Buffalo Soldier wore a flannel shirt, and a blouse of dark blue with light blue trousers tucked into over-the-knee boots. Also, civil war kepi (hat) adorned with crossed sabers bearing regimental and troop designation. He was armed with a 45-70 Springfield carbine (rifle), a Colt Army .45 (1873 model) caliber pistol and a saber. He was outfitted with a slouch ‘campaign’ hat, black at first and a light grayish-brown by 1874, with a four way crease that became known as the Montana crease. The Buffalo Soldiers were not issued a neckerchief but generally wore one of his own color of choice anyway. Sometimes yellow was worn more often red or white. These were real necessities, especially for the men riding further back in the column needing protection from the thick clouds of dust kicked up by the front ranks.

1866-1891, The Indian Wars
- The 5,000 blacks who served in the all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments constituted about 10% of the total troops who guarded the Western Frontier for a quarter century. The 10th Cavalry Regiment is one of the unique regiments in U.S. Military history. Moving west from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas within a year after its activation in 1866, the 10th began its march into immortality becoming the original Buffalo Soldiers.

Locations like the Great Plains and in the mountains and deserts of New Mexico and Arizona were a formidable challenge. Ten years of near constant campaigning were required before conflicts with numerous Indian nations subsided. Buffalo Soldiers were also assigned to the Texas border in harsh and desolate posts, where they also subdued Mexican revolutionaries and Outlaws. Buffalo Soldier on Horseback from the 9th Cavalry below.

1898, The Spanish-American War
- The four regular regiments fought in Cuba , making up about 12% of the forces on the Island. The 10th Cavalry regiment distinguished itself in Cuba at Santiago and Las Guasimas, and in the famous charge up San Juan Hill . What most people do not know is that the brunt of the fighting was borne by the soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments. One eyewitness has written: "If it had not been for the Negro Cavalry, the Rough Riders (and future President Teddy Roosevelt) would have been exterminated." The 10th Cavalry fought for 48 hours under fire from Spaniards who were in brick forts on the hill. Photo below depicts Buffalo Soldiers in Cuba.

An interesting fact is that then First Lieutenant John Pershing fought with the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) on Kettle and San Juan Hills in Cuba and was cited for gallantry, later known as “Black Jack” Pershing, given his nickname because of his service with Buffalo Soldiers, and becoming a famous General while leading a Expeditionary Force against the Mexican Rebel Pancho Villa, as well as leading troops during World War I.

1899-1902, The Philippines War
- In addition to the four Black regular regiments, two volunteer regiments composed of Blacks help wage this colonial campaign.

1916, The Mexican Punitive Expedition - The all-black 10th Cavalry comprised 12% of the forces sent in pursuit of Pancho Villa. The regiment suffered over half (10 men killed) of the casualties sustained against the Villistas.

Note: This post is focused on the African –American service members during the Indian Wars until The Mexican Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa. It is not intended to convey that the only African American military service worthy of mention was the aforementioned time periods. Black service members contributed as fighting men as early as the American Revolution and continued to this day fighting against Islamic fundamentalist and terrorists in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. I am lucky and proud to have served with, and under, some of these modern day “Buffalo Soldiers.”

1 comment:

  1. Great history stie...keep telling that history:

    Read the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge, where Buffalo Bill Cody meets a Buffalo Soldier. A great story of black military history...the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers. Five stars Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the youtube trailer commercial...and visit the website

    How do you keep a people down? ‘Never' let them 'know' their history.

    The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry.

    I know you’ll enjoy the novel. I wrote the story that embodied the Native Americans, Outlaws and African-American/Black soldiers, from the south to the north, in the days of the Native American Wars with the approaching United States of America. This story is about, brutality, compassion, reprisal, bravery, heroism and gallantry. The story shows the truism to the fullest of a PG-14 perspective...with a DVD release to show the fullest reality of war. Read the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge, the story of the rescue of the famed 7th Cavalry by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers.

    Also the novel was taken from my mini-series movie of the same title, “RaPR” to keep my story alive. Hollywood has had a lot of strikes and doesn’t like telling our stories…its been “his-story” of history all along…until now. The movie so far has attached, Bill Duke directing, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with…see at;

    When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for Wells Fargo in Montana, in the 1890's, “spread the word”.