Who were the Buffalo Soldiers?: Originally part of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers became a separate group on September 21, 1866. 

There are differing theories regarding the origin of the nickname “Buffalo Soldiers.” According to the  National Museum of African American History and Culture, “one is that the Plains Indians who fought the Buffalo Soldiers thought that their dark, curly hair resembled the fur of the buffalo. Another is that their bravery and ferocity in battle reminded the Indians of the way buffalo fought.”

In time all U.S. regiments formed of African American soldiers during that time became known as Buffalo Soldiers, which included the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the 24th and 25th Infantry, Regiments. The Buffalo Soldiers were active between 1866 and 1951.

The United States Congress declared the Buffalo Soldiers as peacetime regiments consisting of African Americans only and being part of the regular U.S. Army. Six regiments were authorized to be manned by black soldiers but by 1869, there was a downsizing of all troops and the black regiments were cut down to two Infantry regiments and two cavalry regiments.

Buffalo Soldiers in The Civil War

Buffalo Soldiers were instrumental in the American Civil War. They were mostly stationed at posts within the Great Plains as well as the Southwestern regions of the nation. These soldiers fought bravely against the Indians and a total of eighteen Medals of Honor were earned by them. Some of the battles of the buffalo Soldiers and their predecessors included the fight at Cabin Creek and at Honey Springs in the summer of 1863/64 and the Red River War in 1875.

The first black soldier to graduate from West Point, in 1877, was Henry O. Flipper. He became the commander of the 10th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Sill, which lay in Indian Territory.

Part of the duties of Buffalo soldiers, aside from engaging in battle, was protecting the civilized Indian tribes on the reservations. They also were keepers of law and order in general and they were active in building roads and military structures.

The oldest Buffalo Soldier, Mark Matthews, died on September 6, 2005. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery. He was 111 years old.

Related Reading:

Buffalo Soldiers: Sorting Fact from Fiction

How the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ Helped Break Through the Gothic Line

The Buffalo Soldiers Who Rode Bikes