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.
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.
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 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, and blended into the community.
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.