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Remembering The Buffalo Soldiers this Veterans Day

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Buffalo Soldiers of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment who were taken prisoner during the Battle of Carrizal, Chihuahua, Mexico in 1916.

African-Americans have served proudly in every great American war. Over two hundred thousand African-American servicemen fought bravely during the Civil War. 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 units were reorganized in 1868 as the 24th and the 25th infantry. Black soldiers enlisted for five years and received $13.00 a month, far more than they could have earned in civilian life.

Sources disagree on how the nickname “Buffalo Soldiers” began. According to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, the name originated with the Cheyenne warriors in the winter of 1877, the actual Cheyenne translation being “Wild Buffalo.” However, writer Walter Hill documented the account of Colonel Benjamin Grierson, who founded the 10th Cavalry regiment, recalling an 1871 campaign against Comanches. Hill attributed the origin of the name to the Comanche due to Grierson’s assertions. The Apache used the same term (“We called them ‘buffalo soldiers,’ because they had curly, kinky hair…like bisons”) a claim supported by other sources. Some sources assert that the nickname was given out of respect for the fierce fighting ability of the 10th Cavalry.[5] Still other sources point to a combination of both legends. The term Buffalo Soldiers became a generic term for all African-American soldiers. It is now used for U.S. Army units that trace their direct lineage back to the 9th and 10th Cavalry units whose service earned them an honored place in U.S. history.

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Sgt. John Harris of the 10th U.S. Cavalry with a Sharps repeating rifle, c. 1868.

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Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston, Texas

In September 1867, Private John Randall of Troop G of the 10th Cavalry Regiment was assigned to escort two civilians on a hunting trip. The hunters suddenly became the hunted when a band of 70 Cheyenne warriors swept down on them. The two civilians quickly fell in the initial attack and Randall’s horse was shot out from beneath him. Randall managed to scramble to safety behind a washout under the railroad tracks, where he fended off the attack with only his pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition until help from the nearby camp arrived. The Cheyenne beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind 13 fallen warriors. Private Randall suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and 11 lance wounds, but recovered. The Cheyenne quickly spread word of this new type of soldier, “who had fought like a cornered buffalo; who like a buffalo had suffered wound after wound, yet had not died; and who like a buffalo had a thick and shaggy mane of hair.”

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Buffalo Soldier Monument on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

During the American Civil War, the U.S. government formed regiments known as the United States Colored Troops, composed of black soldiers. After the war, Congress reorganized the Army and authorized the formation of two regiments of black cavalry with the designations 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry, and four regiments of black infantry, designated the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry Regiments (Colored). The 38th and 41st were reorganized as the 25th Infantry Regiment, with headquarters in Jackson Barracks in New Orleans, Louisiana, in November 1869. The 39th and 40th were reorganized as the 24th Infantry

Buffalo Soldier Memorial of El Paso, in Fort Bliss, depicting CPL John Ross, I Troop, 9th Cavalry, during an encounter in the Guadalupe Mountains during the Indian Wars

Buffalo Soldier Memorial of El Paso, in Fort Bliss, depicting CPL John Ross, I Troop, 9th Cavalry, during an encounter in the Guadalupe Mountains during the Indian Wars

Regiment, with headquarters at Fort Clark, Texas, in April 1869. All of these units were composed of black enlisted men commanded by both white and black officers. These included the first commander of the 10th Cavalry Benjamin Grierson, the first commander of the 9th Cavalry Edward Hatch, Medal of Honor recipient Louis H. Carpenter, Nicholas M. Nolan, and the first black graduate of West Point, Henry O. Flipper.

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About Damon K. Jones (218 Articles)
Damon K. Jones is an Activist, Author, and Publisher of Black Westchester Magazine, a Black-owned and operated newspaper based in Westchester County, New York. Mr. Jones is a Holistic Health Practitioner, First Aid in Mental Health Practioner, Diet, and Nutrition Advisor, and Vegan, Vegetarian Nutrition Life Coach. Mr. Jones is a 31 year Law Enforcement Practioner, New York Representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Mr. Jones has been a guest commentator on New York radio stations WBLS (107.5 FM), WLIB (1190 am), WRKS (98.7 FM), WBAI (99.5 FM), and Westchester's WVOX (1460 am). Mr. Jones has appeared on local television broadcasts, including Westchester News 12 “News Makers” and Public Television “Winbrook Pride. You can now hear Damon every Wednesday at 830 AM on WFAS 1230 AM, Morning with Bob Marone Show.
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