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Buffalo Soldiers of the Western Frontier

The Buffalo soldiers were a regiment of African-American men serving in the United States Army. Unlike the people of color serving the arm forces today, these African-American regiments served their country under segregated conditions. They fought in many wars in the United States and abroad, but not beside white soldiers. This permission of allowing African-American men to serve came from the authorization of United States Congress in 1866. The Buffalo soldiers were in the 9th and 10th Cavalries. They also fought with great pride in four U.S. Army infantries.

The black Soldiers served their country after the Civil War and during both World Wars, in a period that lasted from 1866 to 1948. In the late 19th century Native Americans began calling the African-American men, Buffalo Soldiers. They did so because of the texture of their hair. This characteristic reminded the Indians of the hair on the back of a buffalo’s neck. To the Native American, the Buffalo Soldier had the same strength and agility as the buffalo. These segregated regiments of soldiers fought against Indians, cattle rustlers and outlaws. They also did their share of work in controlling the Mexican Revolutionaries. When they were not fighting the enemy, they were building forts. They were the support system with traveling stagecoaches and railroad workers, for they gave them protection against thieves and outlaws.

Prior to the end of the Civil War there were both free slaves and escaped slaves signing up for military duty. Those who were escaped slaves joined as a way to gain their freedom, while the free slaves did so with the hopes of learning skills such as reading and writing. The new black recruiters were assigned to two different Cavalries. Some went to the 9th Cavalry in New Orleans, and others went to the 10th Cavalry in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. However, racism had such a stronghold on white society; Colonels assigned to each Cavalry could not find white officers willing to take command over African-American soldiers. Colonel Edward Hatch was in charge of the 9th Cavalry and Commander Benjamin Grierson was put in command of the black soldiers in the 10th Cavalry. For these black soldiers, enlisting in the Army meant that they would have to serve their country for five years, and with a pay of 13 dollars a month for their time and sacrifice. They had to endure many unjust situations in the cavalry, such as spoiled food and inadequate supplies.

Even though there was discrimination within the military, the black soldiers carried themselves with pride, humility and dignity. They served their country well during peacetime and during times of war. They fought in the Indian Wars from 1775-1890. It was the 10th Cavalry who went up against the Cheyenne Indians in 1867. In 1870, it was the 9th Cavalry who went up against the Apache Indians. Their service contribution put them in the Civil War under colored troops. By the end of the Civil War, historical facts and information state that over 180,000 black men served in the Union Army.

The 28th Cavalry was a horse regiment consisting of black soldiers trained for active duty. These men came from New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio and West Virginia. Other men in training came from Michigan and Wisconsin. Training for the 28th Cavalry position involved artillery training in rifle and pistol marksmanship. These soldiers were preparing for deactivation to the Pacific in 1943. However, deactivation plans changed and the soldiers with all their supplies, equipment and horses were to ship to North Africa. Instead of becoming active and ready for duty, their orders were inactivated at Ass-Ben-Okba, Algeria, by orders of the War Department in Washington D.C. This regiment of Buffalo soldiers was the last horse cavalry regiment used in the United States Army. December 12, 1951, marks the time of their disbandment.

The contributions and sacrifices that the Buffalo soldiers made to the United States Army should not go unnoted and unrecognized. They gave of themselves at time when people thought they were less then men. The general idea that most people believed was that black men did not have the mental capacity to make good soldiers. People believed that black men did not have the discipline and the courage needed when facing tough situations, believing that they would do nothing but run and hide like scared rabbits. However, the Buffalo soldiers proved these ideas and beliefs wrong. For 20 years, black soldiers fought against unjust Indians. They helped to make the Western Frontier. Their braveness bought them 24 medals of Honor. Their service to the military is highly significant to the human population and in the history and making of America.

The Buffalo soldiers did not merely play a small role in the American military, or in building this nation. Their tasks were many, including the building and repairing of towns and villages. They were the pioneers building foundations while struggling for their own freedom, equality and respect in the west.

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