Wednesday, July 8, 2015

BUFFALO SOLDIERS

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.
I KNEW I'D FIND A USE FOR THIS PHOTO SOME DAY.
THIS IS ABOUT FIVE YEARS AGO IN DOWNTOWN SAN MARCOS
AT WESTERN SWING DAY.
THE MEN ARE RE-ENACTORS, BUT HERE THEY HAVE A BOOTH
WITH ARTIFACTS AND MORE PHOTOS. THEY TRAVEL AS A
GROUP TO FAIRS AND FESTIVALS.
 

 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, 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.
~*~*~*~Thank  you for visiting Sweethearts of the West.
Celia Yeary
"Romance, and a little bit of Texas"
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20 comments:

  1. Celia, this is so interesting! I've read a little about the buffalo soldiers, and it seems they often were sent on the most dangerous assignments -- probably because black soldiers were deemed "more expendable" than white soldiers.

    Thank you for sharing this with us this morning. I love it when I learn something new, and I always learn something new from your posts. :-)

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    1. You're probably right in that these four regiments were often sent into the most dangerous areas. Even though the had the least drop-out rate of any regiment, they were not allowed to lead themselves. A white officer was always assigned to lead each regiment. I think they could have done a fine job by themselves. I love that photo take in Montana. Don't they look self-assured and fearless? Love it. Thanks, Kathleen.

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  2. My husband and I visited Fort Concho where some of the buffalo soldiers were quartered--along with their white officers. I didn't know about Cathay Williams, and found that interesting. We also read the book BUFFALO SOLDIERS.

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    1. I need to do more research on Cathay Williams. I've only heard about her through the articles about the soldiers. I laughed when she got sick and left the regiment, they charged her with desertion, but she simple donned a dress and went on her way. They never suspected. Very cool.

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  3. We have a contingent of men who represent the Buffalo Soldiers here and they do events at Evergreen Cemetery and speak at countless other events. Their history is one that should not be lost. Thank you for continuing their story. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

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    1. I'm sure there are numerous reenactment groups. This group I visited with on our courthouse square during Western Swing Day were very friendly and answered my question very politely, and readily agreed to be photographed with me. I love the photo.

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  4. Celia, That was interesting about the one woman in the Buffalo Soldiers. Good post!

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    1. I should find out more about Cathay Williams.
      Thanks, Paty.

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  5. Celia, I had read about Cathay Williams before--so interesting. When I worked at the Nat'l. Cowboy Museum, there was a display there honoring the Buffalo Soldiers. What a hard life that must have been! Very interesting post! I really loved that picture of you and the re-enactors.
    Cheryl

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    1. I've heard about them for many years, but never stopped to think much about them..but surely they have colorful tales to tell.

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  6. Our country's soldiers are all heroes. Yes, it does seem they had a hard life. These days, if the power goes out, I moan.

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    1. I know what you mean. I am such a patsy.

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  7. I've written about the long history of the Buffalo Soldiers at Ft Huachuca, AZ; from the camp days of 1877 to mid-20th century, doing border control, chasing Geronimo, charging up San Juan Hill before the photo of whites taking it in the Spanish-American war. Recently heard Ranger Fredrick Penn talk about their days at the San Francisco Presidio and their stints as the original rangers at Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks...Cathays' story is awaiting novel form, don't you think?

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    1. Yes, they do have an intriguing history. The vintage photo was taken in Montana, so the four regiments were widespread. Surely someone will write a novel using Cathay as a model!

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  8. I didn't know any of this great history. Thanks, Celia. BTW, you look mighty cool in that picture.
    Wonderful blog.

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    1. I look like a cold old lady, Sarah! This festival is held in the fall, and that year October was very chilly. I'm holding a plastic bag filled with something--cannot recall what I bought that day.
      Thanks for your comment!

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  9. Fascinating post, Celia! I read about the Buffalo Soldiers while researching one of my books but never found any mention of Cathay Williams. She must have been one brave, determined woman. Great photo of you with the re-enactor soldiers!

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    1. Thanks, Lyn. Cathay is not mentioned much, although someone wrote a book about her.

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  10. hi Celia, what terrific information about Buffalo Soldiers. I remember seeing a historic regiment riding in the Rose Parade this year. I so appreciate learning about Cathay. Another amazing woman of the west.

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    1. Tanya..don't you love historic reenactments, whether it's in a parade or a "show," I think they're great. There is more to Cathay than meets the eye. I should study her a bit more.

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