African Americans have proudly served this country, even before it was a country. Beginning with the American Revolution, Black soldiers have served with distinction and unmatched bravery, earning the respect of fellow soldiers and enemy alike.
During the Plains Indian Wars, the Native Americans were so impressed with their fierceness in battle that they began calling them Buffalo Soldiers, and it was a name that the soldiers of the African American regiments wore with great pride.
After helping to secure America’s Independence in the Revolutionary War, Black soldiers played an important part in securing their own freedom and keeping the Union together during the Civil War
Over 180,000 African Americans fought for the Union Army, 30,000 served in the Navy, and 33,000 gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the Civil War. Twenty-Five African Americans were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in battle, seven from the Navy and eighteen from the Army.
Following the Civil War, Congress authorized the formation of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments, and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry Regiments. These newly formed regiments were sent mainly to the Southwestern United States where they saw action during the Plains Indian Wars. They also were instrumental in building roads, protecting stage lines, installing telegraph lines, and guarding freight and mail coaches. During engagements against the Indians, Buffalo Soldiers were known for their tenacious fighting spirit, as well as their cunning and bravery. These were the same traits that the Native American Warriors possessed, and why they held the Buffalo Soldiers in such high regard.
On this site, I try to stick to stories that have a Texas tie-in, and this one is no exception. In 1874, the 9th and 10th Cavalries took part in the Red River War against the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Southern Arapaho, and in 1880 they pursued Apache Chief Victorio from Fort Davis across West Texas, eventually forcing him into Mexico.
For all they did to help build Texas, perhaps the biggest service they gave to the state of was protecting the railroads and cattle herds, thereby allowing the burgeoning beef industry to grow, which was our life blood for many years.
Buffalo Soldiers were often given the harshest and most thankless tasks the Army had to offer, and served in the most desolate posts on the frontier. The African American soldiers excelled at every miserable task they were given, seeing them as an opportunity to prove that they were every bit as capable and intelligent as their White counterparts. They had to scratch and claw for the respect of their officers, but earn it they did, achieving accolades in every aspect of military service.
Before the signing of Executive Order 9981, which ended segregation in the US Military, the Buffalo Soldiers served with distinction from the rugged terrain of the American Southwest to San Juan Hill, and from the trenches of France to Guadalcanal. They showed a devotion to duty and heroism that their own country would not show them in return for decades.