Who were the Buffalo Soldiers?

Buffalo Soldiers

   The Buffalo Soldiers were African Ameri­can cavalrymen who fought in the Indian Wars in the American West. They belonged to the ninth and tenth regiments, which were created in 1866.

   The term "Buffalo Soldiers" was reportedly first used in the summer of 1867 when the black soldiers fought against Cheyenne warriors for the first time. The Cheyenne called the cavalrymen Buffalo Soldiers be­cause, like the buffalo, the men fought ferociously when cornered. And because the buffalo was sacred to the Native Americans of the Great Plains, the term must also have implied some respect for the soldiers. The members of the ninth and tenth regiments proudly accepted the name, and the tenth regiment's flag even had a buffalo on it.

   The Buffalo Soldiers protected settlers and the builders of the Union Pacific Railroad; carried mail; escorted wagon trains; built forts and roads; and strung telegraph lines. They battled Indians who were led by such famous warriors as Geronimo, Satanta, and Roman Nose. Twelve of the cav­alrymen were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their services.

   After large-scale conflict with the Indians ended in the early 1890's, the Buffalo Soldiers saw less combat as they encountered growing racism. In 1944, the ninth and tenth regiments were removed from active duty and their members transferred to other army units.

   Members of two other black regiments, the 24th and the 25th, were also sometimes referred to as Buffalo Soldiers. Formed in the same year as the ninth and tenth, they fought in both world wars and the Korean War before being disbanded in the 1950's.