African-American Cavalrymen were known as Buffalo Soldiers. Black soldiers fought in Washington’s Army during the War of Independence, and served with Andrew Jackson at New Orleans in 1815. Late in 1861, Colonel T. W. Higginson took command of the First Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, the first Black regiment in the service of the United States. On June 28, 1866, an Act of Congress authorized the creation of six regiments of Black troops, two of Cavalry and four of infantry (many of whom had served in the U.S. Colored Troops). These troops went on to play a major role in the history of the West, as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” Many of the original members of the African American 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 INDIAN WARS (1866-91): 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. 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. MEXICAN PUNITIVE EXPEDITION (1916): 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 In this desert expedition.
For more than 20 years, the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments served on the frontier from Montana to Texas, along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and the Dakotas. They built forts and roads, strung telegraph lines, protected railroad crews, escorted stages and trains, protected settlers and cattle drives, and fought Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache warriors, among others. Dangers such as cholera and rabid wolves sometimes took more lives than Indian warfare. The Plains Indians began to call the Black cavalrymen “Buffalo Soldiers” and the troopers accepted the title and wore it proudly. To be associated with the fighting spirit of the Indian’s sacred buffalo was a measure of respect. No one really knows how or why the Indians nicknamed the African American cavalrymen “buffalo soldiers.” Some say it was because the men were rugged as buffalo and others believe 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 noted that many black soldiers favored the long buffalo-robe coats.
Although the name was primarily applied to the Cavalry, it was also sometimes extended to include the black infantry. In 1875-76, the 9th Cavalry Regiment was transferred to the New Mexico District, under command of Colonel Edward Hatch. Two companies were stationed at Fort Bayard, one at Fort McRae, two at Fort Wingate, three at Fort Stanton, one at Fort Union, one at Fort Selden, and one at Fort Garland. In New Mexico, the Buffalo Soldiers participated in campaigns against Victorio, Geronimo, and Nana. In 1877, a scouting party from Fort Bayard commanded by Lt. Henry Wright, with six men of Company C and three Navajo scouts, was surrounded by a party of 40 to 50 Chiricahuas in the Florida Mountains, near Deming, New Mexico.
"Weapons were fired and then used as clubs. In the center of the melee Corporal Clifton Greaves fought like a cornered lion and managed to shoot and bash a gap through the swarming Apaches, permitting his companions to break free...Corporal Greaves was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.” (From The Buffalo Soldiers by William H. Leckie, Univ. of Oklahoma Press)
The conditions the Buffalo Soldiers fought in, while pursuing the Apache, are described in a letter from Colonel Hatch to General Pope, “…the work performed by these troops is most arduous, horses worn to mere shadows, men nearly without boots, shoes and clothing. That the loss in horses may be understood when following the Indians in the Black Range the horses were without anything to eat five days except what they nibbled from piñon pines, going without food so long was nearly as disastrous as the fearful march into Mexico of 79 hours without water, all this by forced marches over inexpressably rough trails…It is impossible to describe the exceeding roughness of such mountains as the Black Range and the San Mateo. The well known Modoc Lava beds are a lawn compared with them.” (Hatch to Pope, February 25, 1880) On September 18, 1879, troopers from Companies B, C, E and G of the 9th Cavalry were ambushed by Victorio, War Chief of the Warm Springs Apaches, at Las Animas Creek in the Black Range of New Mexico. Conflicting reports put the number of troopers killed at either five or six, along with either two or three Navjo scouts. Several troopers were awarded Congressional Medals of Honor, after saving wounded troopers. (From Ambush In Massacre Canyon by Gene Ballinger, The Courier, July 29, 1993).
Congressional Medals of Honor
9th Cavalry Regiment
Lieutenant George Burnett, Troop I
First Sergeant Moses Williams, Troop I
Sergeant Thomas Boyne, Troop C
Sergeant John Denny, Troop C
Sergeant George Jordan, Troop K
Sergeant Henry Johnson, Troop D
Sergeant Thomas Shaw, Troop K
Sergeant Emanuel Stance, Troop F
Sergeant Brent Woods, Troop B
Corporal William Wilson, Troop I
Corporal Clinton Greaves, Troop
C Private Augusus Walley, Troop I
10th Cavalry Regiment
Captain Louis Carpenter, Troop H
Lieutenant Powhattan Clarke, Troop K
Sergeant Major Edward Baker
Sergeant William McBryar, Troop K
Private Dennis Bell, Troop H
Private Lee Fitz, Troop M
Private William Thompkins, Troop G
Private George Wanton, Troop M
Elements of the 9th and 10th went on to fight in Cuba, and took part in the charge up San Juan Hill. The 10th Cavalry took part in the expedition against Pancho Villa, with General Pershing. The two regiments were formed into the 4th Cavalry Brigade in 1941, commanded by General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., at Camp Funston, Kansas. The horse cavalry regiments were disbanded in 1944, and with them, the long and proud history of The Buffalo Soldiers.
Captain B. O. Davis – 9th U. S. Cavalry
For more information
9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association P. O. Box 475 Junction City, Kansas 66441 http://www.9thcavalry.com/
BUFFALO SOLDIERS NATIONAL MUSEUM, Houston, Texas
- BUFFALO SOLDIERS
- SECOND LIEUTENANT HENRY O. FLIPPER
- Buffalo Soldiers – Washington DC Chapter
- BUFFALO SOLDIERS & INDIAN WARS
- 24th U. S. Infantry at Fort Davis, Texas
- Texas Buffalo Solders History
- BUFFALO SOLDIERS & INDIAN WARS
U. S. COLORED CAVALRY REGIMENTS Organization Location and Original Designation Compiled by Bennie J. McRae, Jr.
- 1ST U.S. COLORED CAVALRY – Camp Hamilton, Virginia
- 2ND U.S. COLORED CAVALRY – Fort Monroe, Virginia
- 3RD U.S. COLORED CAVALRY – Vicksburg, Mississippi – 1st Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent)
- 4TH U.S. COLORED CAVALRY – New Orleans, Louisiana – 1st Corps de Afrique Cavalry
- 5TH U.S. COLORED CAVALRY – Camp Nelson, Kentucky
- 5TH MASSACHUSETTS COLORED CAVALRY – Readville, Massachusetts
- 6TH U.S. COLORED CAVALRY – Camp Nelson, Kentucky