The Buffalo Soldiers of 1866
There were two cavalry regiments of the Buffalo Soldiers, the ninth & tenth. The ninth cavalry was formed in New Orleans Louisiana, on August 3,1866. Most recruits came from Louisville Kentucky many were ex-civil war veterans. Enlistment terms were for 5 years, with recruits receiving $13 per month, plus room, board & clothing. The ninth cavalry's motto was ''We Can, We Will".
In 1866, the formation of tenth cavalry also began at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The regiments' commander set very high standards for recruitment. Within the first year, recruitment of enlisted men resulted in regiment eight companies. The motto of the tenth cavalry was "Ready Forward".
The Indians named the cavalry “Buffalo Soldier”. When asked why, the Cheyenne had given the scouts the name Buffalo Soldier; they said the buffalo fought ferociously when cornered, as did the soldiers. It was said that Indian warriors also drawn comparisons between the hair of some of the soldiers and the hair of the buffalo. At any rate, the buffalo was sacred to the Native Americans of the Great Plains, and it is highly unlikely they would have given its name to soldiers they did not respect. The troopers of the tenth cavalry proudly accepted their new name. Soon afterwards, the warriors they fought also called other companies of the regiment "Buffalo Soldiers." Eventually this term was used to refer to men of the ninth cavalry as well, in the beginning it applied only to those of the tenth Calvary. When they designed their regimental flag, they placed a buffalo at the top.
The occupations of recruits were soldiers who served in the union army, laborers, farmers, teamsters, a painter, cook, sailor, a miller and even a hostler. The largest group of men came from Louisiana and Kentucky but there were also men from Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Their age ranged from 18 to 34 and many had once been slaves.
A similar group of 100 recruits in the tenth showed a wider diversity, both geographically and in occupations. This group consisted of boatmen, engineers, cooks, barbers, servants, and masons. The group consisted of the of the men from Virginia, Kentucky, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York and New Jersey (the list goes on and on).
From 1866 to the early 1890s, the buffalo soldiers served at a variety of posts in Texas, including the southwest and the Great Plains. The Buffalo Soldiers overcame prejudice from both within the army and from communities where they were stationed. They were often divided into small companies and troop-sized detachments stationed at isolated posts. They performed routine chores, patrolled the frontier, built roads, escorted mail parties, and handled a variety of difficult civil and military tasks. The soldiers participated in most of the major frontier campaigns of this period and distinguished themselves in action against several Indian tribes.
They had outstanding officers such as Henry O. Flipper, the first black man to graduate from West Point; Sergeant Benjamin Brown assigned to escort stagecoaches carrying army pay roll, George Washington Williams was a minister and Buffalo Soldier. Benjamin Grierson, a white man who fought hard for equal provisions and respect for the Buffalo Soldiers. He often went against his white counterparts to defend them. This was only a mention of some of the great men of the Buffalo Soldiers that are a part of our great history. Thirteen enlisted men from four regiments and six officers earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian war.
The Buffalo Soldiers found themselves facing increasing racial prejudice at the turn of the century. Law officers cut them off and segregated them in towns where stationed; victims of racial slurs, beatings, harassment and on several occasions sniper attacks. As armed veterans of active service, the soldiers occasionally responded with acts of violence.
During World War II, during the war the United States disbanded the ninth and tenth cavalries and transferred personnel into service units. The deactivation of the last segregated black regiment to see combat occurred in 1951; its personnel were used to integrate other units serving in Korea. This was the effort of the United States Army to desegregate its units.
Popular interest in the Buffalo Soldiers began to grow in the 1960's by films, publications, historians and a reenactment group within the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who offered a number of informational programs on the Buffalo Soldiers as well as performed at state parks and other venues.
On July 26, 1992 on the 126th anniversary of the day, congress authorized the creation of the Buffalo Soldiers Regiment and the Buffalo Soldier monument was unveiled at Fort Leavenworth. General Colin Powell, black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and highest black ranking officer in the history of the United States dedicated the monument.
The Buffalo Soldiers believed that hatred, bigotry and prejudice could not defeat them; they believed that someday efforts and the efforts of those to follow would know freedom.
It may be too late for the Buffalo Soldiers of yesteryear to share in their due recognition reward that have finally come their way. However, there is still time for others to learn the story of these brave young men who left the forts so long ago, on their ride into history.
We the Northern New Jersey Buffalo Soldiers and the entire National Association of Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers to ensure that the legacy of these warriors are carried on ensuring that we educate all that we encounter including our future generation on the History of these great Soldiers and Troopers giving them the honor and respect that are due to them.
What a great way to accomplish this is to saddle up on our "Iron Horses" enjoy the open road, sharing "Our History" while also enjoying the art of Motorcycling.
"Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship."