Friday, November 18, 2011

Buffalo Soldiers on the Texas Frontier

By Celia Yeary
Buffalo Soldiers  originally were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

"Buffalo Soldiers" was the name given by the Plains Indians to the four regiments of African-Americans and more particularly to the two cavalry regiments, that served on the frontier in the post-Civil War army. White officers commanded the black enlisted men, with the exception of one African American commander, Henry O. Flipper.
RE-ENACTMENT AT FORT DAVIS, TEXAS
 From 1866 to the early 1890s the buffalo soldiers served at a variety of posts in Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains. They overcame prejudice from within the army and from the frontier communities they were stationed in, to compile an outstanding service record. Often  they performed routine garrison chores, patrolled the frontier, built roads, escorted mail parties, and handled a variety of difficult civil and military tasks.
They also distinguished themselves in action against the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Sioux, and Arapaho Indians.

 In 1997, a movie made for TV titled "Buffalo Soldiers, starred  Danny Glover. The fact based story told about the all-black US Cavalry Troop H which protected the Western territories in post Civil War times. The story focuses on the troops' attempts to capture an Apache warrior named Vittorio who slaughters the settlers in New Mexico. The film examines the racial tensions that existed between the black soldiers and some of the white soldiers and the truths about the Indian invaders.
BOOK
At the end of the Civil War, thousands of black soldiers who had participated faced unemployment and homelessness. The most intriguing black who looked at the military as a source of income and security happened to be a woman. Cathay Williams , the future female Buffalo Soldier, decided it was much better than infrequent civilian unemployment. She said, "I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends."

Cathay Williams  caught a break when recruiting efforts concentrated on filling quotas with little regard for the recruit's capability and soldiering skills. The army surgeon might have examined Cathay superficially, or not at all. William Cathay, the new recruit, was declared "fit for duty", thus giving assurance of her place in history as the only documented female Buffalo Soldier, and as the only African-American woman who served in the U.S. army prior to the 1948 law allowing women to serve.
CATHAY WILLIAMS
Cathay became ill and left her regiment. When she learned she was being hunted for desertion, she simply donned dresses and changed her name back to Cathay Williams.
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The Buffalo Soldiers had the lowest desertion rate in the army, though their army posts were often in the worst part the west. Official reports show these soldiers were frequently subjected to the harshest of discipline, racist officers, poor food, equipment, and shelter.
Regiments of Buffalo Soldiers fought in the country's wars until 1951 when the last African American unit was desegregated.
~*~*~*~Thank  you for visiting Sweethearts of the West.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas    
http://www.celiayeary.blogspot.com
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http://sweetheartsofthewest.blogspot.com
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27 comments:

  1. Celia--this is so interesting. I never heard about the Buffalo Soldiers. What a woman that Cathay.

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  2. Celia,interesting post! I've heard of the Buffalo Soldiers but not that a female was part of the regiment.

    Always nice to read about a strong woman for the past.

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  3. Thanks for that great glimpse into our American history.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  4. Very intriguing. I like the fact that this gal had the gumption to stand up for herself and say - yes I want to support myself. But I imagine and illness would knock the legs off anyone and I don't blame her for returning to her true identity. Its like she went undercover - something reporters, cops, and investigators do all the time now for a story, except she was doing it for her life.

    Enjoyed the read!

    Maggie
    http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/

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  5. Celia, interesting post! I've heard of the Buffalo soldiers, but never knew there was a woman in the ranks. It's funny that she joined the same way women did during the Civil War. Lack of any real physical by army physicians.

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  6. That's a fun fact about a female buffalo soldier.

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  7. Celia,
    Out here in my part of Texas, we're well aware of the Buffalo soldiers' invaluable contribution to the settlement of the west. There's a wonderful sculpture of a Buffalo soldier at full gallop at the east entrance to Fort Bliss. One of my Texas grandmother's aunts was married to the commander of the Famous 10th cavalry. My grandmother was a night owl like me. She told us when we were growing up of her experiences at the Fort where her aunt lived with her husband, the commander. At night she would listen to one of the Buffalo soldiers play his guitar and sing softly outside the dwellings. She enjoyed staying there with her aunt very much. This was in the early 1900s when she would travel by herself to visit family.

    The Buffalo soldiers were the brave souls who won the west.
    Thanks for your blog about this, and about Cathay.

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  8. Celia, we have Elmer Kelton's book on the Buffalo Soldiers. This was very interesting. I wonder how Cathay handled bathroom/shower needs?

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  9. Fantastic post, Celia. I never heard of Cathay before. What a story she told. I too share Caroline's questions LOL.

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  10. Mona--yes, she was quite a woman.Her life turned tragic as she grew older--all kinds of horrible things happened to her. Sad.

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  11. Jerrie--one of my...and the Sweethearts here...favorite thing, besides vintage photos, are stories about strong women.There are endless stories.

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  12. Maggie--she happened to enlist at a time the Army was recruiting like crazy, and had few restrictions.
    I laughed when I read that to escape capture, she just put on a dress and went home.

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  13. SUSAN--there are Buffalo Soldier units through WWI--but when desegregation of the Army occurred, that ended the Buffalo Soldier regiments.

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  14. Jeanmarie--what a wonderful past your ancestor had. And wouldn't that make a good story? It's so fortunate you heard the stories she told you...and I know where Ft. Bliss is. Thanks for your memories!

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  15. Caroline--that book, then, is a real treasure, a keepsake.
    Cathay was in a regiment with two of her relatives--a brother and a cousin. They protected her and helped her conceal her identity. Interesting, huh?

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  16. Tanya...I hadn't heard of her either! I answered the question Caroline also had in my reply

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  17. I've always been interested in the Buffalo Soldiers, Celia and have visited the ruins of Fort Bliss and Fort Davis. I had forgotten about the woman. Thanks for reminding me.

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  18. I remember learning about Buffalo Soldiers as a kid from an episode of Bonanza which made me hungry for any history about Blacks and the west. Thanks for sharing about Cathay. She and stagecoach Mary are characters I long to include in the series of historicals I'm writing.

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  19. Linda--I love to visit Fort Davis and read the women's letters under glass inside some of the barracks buildings. The last time I was there we had a Blue Norther, high winds, cold, and dust. Ugh. I'd love to go back.

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  20. Michal..oh, good! Both those women would be great characters. Good luck and best wishes for your series. Thanks for stopping by.

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  21. You really have to respect these men for their honor and dedication. I love that a woman was also part of this group. It's what makes history so darn interesting.

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  22. PAISLEY--you are so right-history is fascinating, and I, too, love a story about a strong woman. I know you're a master at research!

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  23. Celia,
    I loved how you used the pictures to frame your post and really give it perspective. I knew nothing about Buffalo soldiers so this was great overview. Thanks for sharing.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  24. Thanks, Steph. Yes, you might now know this unless you were a Texan or lived in the Southwest. But they were "Army" just as you were.

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  25. Celia, thanks for the history lesson on the Buffalo Soldiers. They've always fascinated me since I learned about them.

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