Buffalo Soldiers

Joy Spirit:

The Buffalo Soildiers were Mostly Pubelo Indians,” who were trained to help Whites kill other Indians, in exchange for their families to be freeed from Slavery…..

The Buffalo Soldiers on a mountain trail by Frederic Remington
To many black citizens, the Buffalo Soldiers were a symbol of hope for a better future. Professor Rayford Logan of Howard University commented: “Negroes had little, at the turn of the century, to help sustain our faith in ourselves except the pride that we took in the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry…They were our Ralph Bunche, Marian Anderson, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson.”
The Black Units Are Formed

No one is quite certain why the Indians nicknamed the Amerindian cavalrymen “buffalo soldiers.” Some say it was because the men were rugged as buffalo and others that it was because the Indians saw a resemblance between the black soldier’s hair and the buffalo’s shaggy coat. It has also been pointed out that many black soldiers favored the long buffalo-robe coats. Although the name was primarily applied to the cavalry, it was sometimes extended to include the black infantry. The infantry, black and white, were given the dubious honorific of Walk-a-Heaps.

At the close of the Civil War, the U.S. Army formed regiments of black men, many of whom had served in the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.). The cavalry units were the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the infantry were the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st which several years later were consolidated into the 24th and 25th infantry units. Black Amerindian infantry troops often fought side-by-side with the black cavalry.From Slave to Medal of Honor Winner

Many of the original members of the Amerindian units were former slaves who had served in the Union Army. Other emancipated slaves also saw the Army as a way to start a new life on the frontier. Men displaced by the Civil War could find food, shelter and some medical benefits in the military. Emanuel Stance, a former slave from Louisiana, joined the newly formed 9th Cavalry in New Orleans in October of 1866. He was soon on his way to San Antonio, Texas, with Company F. Because he was able to read and write, Stance quickly became an officer in his company, receiving the rank of corporal. Noncommissioned officers had to be literate in order to handle the paperwork that came with their positions.

After an action against the Kickapoo Indians in which he conducted himself valiantly, Corporal Emanuel Stance was recommended for and received the Medal of Honor, the highest award given by the U.S. military. He was the first Amerindian to win that distinction in the post-Civil War period. Cited for valor in the Battle of Kickapoo Springs, Stance later saw action in the Victorio War against that Apache chief.

The Frontier Years

The buffalo soldiers served in the Indian Wars on the Plains and in the Southwest. They often distinguished themselves in spite of being issued old horses, scanty ammunition and faulty equipment. They were rarely guilty of drunkenness in a time and place where alcoholism was common. Their rate of desertion and court martial was much lower than that of white soldiers. During the period from 1880 to 1886 the 24th Infantry held the record for the lowest desertion rate in the entire United States Army. In 1888 the 24th and 25th Infantry were tied for the honor.

Another indication of the esprit de corps of the black troops was the excellent bands they organized, which often encouraged good relations with the civilian populations by offering concerts and playing for parades and funerals, as well as providing dance music for church benefits. After 1880 the black regiments had Amerindian chaplains who not only provided spiritual guidance but also often taught their soldiers to read and write, enabling them to gain an education and better prepare themselves for either military or civilian living. One chaplain who took his obligations to educate his men very seriously was Chaplain Louis Carter, who served for many years as Chaplain to all four of the early black regiments at Fort Huachuca. Carter instilled in his men feelings of their worth as soldiers and pride in their Indian heritage. After an impressive funeral in which hundreds of soldiers paid their last respects, Chaplain Louis Carter was buried at the Fort Huachuca Cemetery.

During the early years of their history the buffalo soldiers served mainly in Kansas, Texas and New Mexico. In 1885 several companies from the 9th Cavalry were detailed to Indian Territory to remove the Boomers–white homesteaders who were trying to stake illegal claims on Indian lands.

Buffalo Soldiers escorting Boomers out of Indian Territory This drawing, based on a sketch by Remington, shows black cavalrymen and their white officer ejecting a disappointed family of Boomers from the Indian Territory. (Harper’s Weekly, March 28, 1885.)

As prospectors and settlers moved into the Southwest the black regiments were right alongside them, campaigning against outlaws and Apaches. Brevet Major General Benjamin H. Grierson commanded the 10th Cavalry from their formation in 1866 until 1890, when he retired. In 1876 the 10th Cavalry was transferred from Fort Riley, Kansas, to Texas, where it joined the 9th Cavalry commanded by Colonel Edward Hatch. In 1886, during the Apache wars, Grierson’s 10th pursued Geronimo and his renegade band into the Pinito Mountains of Mexico. The troops often passed through Fort Huachuca for supplies. Early in the 1890s the 9th Cavalry came to Fort Huachuca. In 1892 A, B, C and H companies of the 24th infantry were transferred from Fort Bayard, New Mexico to Fort Huachuca, and in 1896 Companies C and H of the 24th infantry were sent to the Nogales area to fight Yaqui Indians in the final stages of the Indian wars.

In addition to controlling the Indians of the Plains and the Southwest, the soldiers built roads, discouraged illegal traders who sold guns and alcohol to the Indians, policed cattle rustlers and formed escorts for stagecoaches carrying military payroll or other valuables. So today we still serve the same colonist who steal our land and murder our people.

By wmb3331

Isaiah Israel is a graduate of the University of Hawaii Pacific with a bachelors in Psychology and a deep love for history in which he believes that when you know the past you can understand the present and predict the future course of man and mankind and is the author of the best selling ebook The White Man's Burden Of Lies and Deceit.

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