Buffalo Soldiers


"Buffalo Soldiers" was the name given to African-American cavalrymen by their
native-American antagonists during the Indian Wars in the post-Civil War
American West. The first men to serve in all-black army units did so in the
Union Army, during the Civil War. The initial all-black regiment, the 54th
Massachusetts, trained by its white commander, Col. Robert G. Shaw, suffered
heavy casualties in a heroic, though unsuccessful attempt to capture Fort Wagner
at Charleston (S.C.) harbor in July 1863. In all, about 209,000 ex-slaves and
free blacks served in the Union Army, and more than 68,000 of them died in
battle or from wounds or disease. After the Civil War, Congress authorized two
cavalry regiments and four infantry regiments of black troops, who were led by
white officers. The 9th and 10th cavalry regiments were formed in 1866 and were
used to control "hostile" Indian tribes in the West for the next 25 years.
Despite prejudicial treatment by some army officers, as well as open prejudice
displayed by many civilians in frontier towns, the black regiments performed
effectively. They fought innumerable skirmishes and running battles with Indian
warriors in the Great Plains, western Texas, the southwestern desert, and the
mountains of Colorado. One company of the 9th regiment fought in the last battle
of the Indian Wars, at Wounded Knee, S. Dak., in December 1890. The black troops
were proud to be called Buffalo Soldiers; in fact, the regimental crest of the
10th cavalry bore the figure of a buffalo.

Category: Social Issues