History of the

Buffalo Soldiers



For more than 20 years after the US Civil War, regiments of African-American service members known as “Buffalo Soldiers” protected the Western Frontier, upholding Native American rights, defending settlers, building roads, installing thousands of miles of telegraph lines and aiding in the delivery of US mail.


The Buffalo Soldiers were established by Congress in 1866 and included the men of the all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments of the United States Army. The legislation also created four all-black infantry regiments, which were eventually consolidated to form the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments. These four regiments comprised the original Buffalo Soldiers.


Although the exact origin of the term “Buffalo Soldiers” remains unclear, most historians agree the name was given to the African-American soldiers on the Western Frontier by Native American tribes who were impressed by their equal treatment and ability to establish order during a tumultuous time in the nation’s history.


The Buffalo Soldiers were also iconic in that they enlisted the first and only documented African American woman, Cathay Williams, to serve in the regular Army in the 19th century, even though it was forbidden.


In 1888, the first commander of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, also known for his equal treatment of Native Americans gave a fitting tribute to the dedication, bravery, and devotion to the duty of the Buffalo Soldiers. He once remarked that:

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The officers and enlisted men have cheerfully endured many hardships and privations, and in the midst of great dangers steadfastly maintained a most gallant and zealous devotion to duty, and they may well be proud of the record made, and rest assured that the hard work undergone in the accomplishment of such important and valuable service to their country, is well understood and appreciated, and that it cannot fail, sooner or later, to meet with due recognition and reward.


From the turn of the century to WWII, Buffalo Soldier regiments served in Nebraska and Wyoming (1902-1907), the Philippines (1907-1909), Fort Ethan Allen near Burlington, Vermont (1909-1913), West Point (1907-1946) and in Naples, Italy (1944-1945).


Although they faced hardships that other military personnel were not expected to meet, Buffalo Soldiers gained their share of victories, and welded together organized bands of true and tried Veterans that fought and died so that Americans could be free.


Today, Buffalo Soldiers is synonymous with the extraordinary courage, honor and valor shown by black US Army members. The term regularly appears in pop culture references, such as the song “Buffalo Soldiers” by Bob Marley.

WHAT WE DO

Preserving the memory of the Buffalo Soldiers and veterans of all eras is a top priority for VAGBSA. As a veteran support network, we provide referrals and support services for at-risk veterans and their families, including access to affordable housing and suitable employment.

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