History of The Buffalo Soldiers

African Americans have served proudly in every American war. In 1866, through an act of Congress, legislation was adopted that created six all African American Armv units. The units were identified as the 9th & 10th Cavalry and the 38th through 41st Infantry Regiments; the four infaltry regiments were later reorganized to for the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments. These fighting men represented the first B1ack professional soldiers in a peacetime Army.

Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo Soldiers originally were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The nickname was given to the "Negro Cavalry" by the Native American tribes they fought; the term eventually became synonymous with all of the African-American regiments formed in 1866:

  • 9th Cavalry Regiment
  • 1Oth Cavalry Regiment
  • 24th Infantry Regiment
  • 25th lnfantry Regiment

Congressional Order

Although several African-American regiments were raised during the Civil War to fight alongside the Union Army (including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the many United States Colored Troops Regiments), the "Buffalo Soldiers" were established by Congress. with Congressional Order 2261 on July 28, 1866, as the flrst peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U.S. Army.

The Origin of "Buffalo Soldier"

Sources disagree on how the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" began. According to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, the name originated with the Cheyenne warriors in the winter of 1867, the actual Cheyenne translation being "Wild Buffalo." However, writer Walter Hill documented the account of Colonel Benjamin Grierson, who founded the 1Oth Cavalry regiment, recalling an 1871 campaign against Comanches. Hill attributed the origin of the name to the Comanche due to Grierson's assertions. Some sources assert that the nickname was given out of respect for the fierce frghting ability of the 10th cavalry. Other sources assert that Native Americans called the black cavalry troops "buffalo soldiers" because of their dark curly hair, which resembled a buffalo's coat. Still other sources point to a combination of both legends.

Racial Prejudice

The "Buffalo Soldiers" were often confronted with racial prejudice from other members of the U.S. Army. Civilians in the areas where the soldiers were stationed occasionally reacted to them with violence. Buffalo Soldiers were attacked during racial disturbances in:

  • Tampa, Florida - 1898
  • Rio Grande City, Texas - 1899
  • Brownsville, Texas - 1906
  • Houston, Texas - 1917

Modern Day

The term Buffalo Soldiers became a generic term for all segregated military units (African- American) soldiers. Although President Truman's Executive Order 9981 signed on July 26, 1948, integration of military services, full integration would not occur until the late 1950's. Members of the Buffalo Soldier (Army and Seminole Negro Indian Scouts) would be awarded 34 Medals of Honor; the highest number of any military units. Buffalo Soldier is now used for U.S. Army units that trace their direct lineage back to the 9th and lOth Cavalry. units whose service earned them an honored place in U.S. history.