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Buffalo Soldier Units Serve the West

By Dennis Ryan
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2005 – African-American troops served in large numbers during the Civil War once recruitment was opened to them. Some 180,000 served proudly in the United States Colored Troops, with more than 33,000 paying the ultimate sacrifice, according to the International Museum of the Horse Web site.

Congress found a use for some of these soldiers after that war. Two cavalry and four infantry regiments were established in 1866. The infantry was later consolidated into two regiments: the 9th and 10th Cavalry. Their Cheyenne and Comanche adversaries on the plains soon dubbed the mounted troopers "Buffalo soldiers."

The 9th Cavalry's first deployment was to Texas. The locals deeply resented their posting and saw it as a double insult: blacks and the Union Army imposed upon them.

The first commander of the 9th was Col. Edward Hatch. Many officers, the most famous of whom was George Armstrong Custer, refused to serve with the black soldiers.

The soldiers earned $13 a month plus room, board and clothing. The 9th was transferred to New Mexico in 1875 and 1876, where it had to subdue the fiercely independent Apaches. It were moved to Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1881.

The 10th U.S. Cavalry was formed in 1866 at Fort Riley, Kansas, under the command of Col. Benjamin Grierson, a hero of the Civil War. He had led the most famous and successful cavalry raid of the war during the Vicksburg campaign.

The 10th patrolled from forts throughout Kansas and the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). This regiment was moved to Fort Concho in West Texas in 1875, where it protected civilians from Indians, outlaws and Mexican revolutionaries.

The Buffalo soldiers of the 10th in the 1880s helped to track down famous Apache warriors such as Victorio and Geronimo in the Arizona territory.

The two units were disbanded as all-black outfits in North Africa during World War II in 1944.

(Dennis Ryan is a staff writer with the Pentagram, newspaper of the Fort Myer, Va., military community.)

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