Buffalo Soldiers History Information
Following the U.S. Civil War, African American men known as buffalo soldiers served on the western frontier, battling Indians and protecting settlers. The buffalo soldiers included two regiments of all-black cavalry, the 9th and 10th cavalries, formed after Congress passed legislation in 1866 that allowed African Americans to enlist in the country's regular peacetime military. The legislation also brought about four black infantry regiments, eventually consolidated into the 24th and 25th infantries, which often fought alongside the 9th and 10th cavalries. Many of the men in these regiments, commanded primarily by white officers, were among the approximately 180,000 African Americans who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
For more than two decades in the late 19th century, the 9th and 10th cavalries engaged in military campaigns against hostile Native Americans on the Plains and across the Southwest. These buffalo soldiers also captured horse and cattle thieves, built roads, and protected the 13.5. mail, stagecoaches, and wagon trains, all while contending with challenging terrain, Inadequate supplies, and discrimination. It is unclear exactly how the buffalo soldiers got their nickname. Archivist Walter Hill of the National Archives has reported that, according to a member of the 10th Cavalry, in 1871, the Comanche bestowed the name of an animal they revered, the buffalo, on men of the 10th Cavalry because they were impressed with their toughness in battle. (The moniker later came to be used for the 9th Cavalry as well.) Other sources theorize the name originated with the belief of some Native Americans that the soldier's dark, curly, black hair resembled that of a buffalo. Whatever the case is, soldiers viewed the nickname as one of respect, and the 10th Cavalry even used a figure of a buffalo in Its coat of arms.
When the Indian wars ended in the 1890s, the buffalo soldiers fought in Cuba in the 1898 Spanish-American War, participating in General John J. Pershing's 1916-1917 hunt for Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa; and even act as rangers in Yosemite and Sequoia national parks. In 1948, President Harry Truman issued an executive order eliminating racial segregation and discrimination in America's armed forces; the last all-black units were disbanded during the first half of the 1950s. The nation's oldest living buffalo soldier, Mark Matthews, died at age 111 in Washington, D.C., in 2005.