Friday, February 8, 2013

SLCC Celebrates Black History Month: Buffalo Soldiers

Originally only referring to members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment, the term Buffalo Soldiers came to be synonymous with all of the all-black regiments of the U.S. Army founded in 1866, including: the 9th Cavalry Regiment, the 10th Cavalry Regiment, the 24th Infantry Regiment, and the 25th Infantry Regiment. Though African American soldiers fought in all major U.S. military conflicts since the country’s colonial times, the Buffalo Soldiers were the first to serve during peacetime.

These units were composed of black enlisted men and commanded by both white and black officers. These included the first commander of the 10th Cavalry Benjamin Grierson, the first commander of the 9th Cavalry Edward Hatch, Medal of Honor recipient Louis H. Carpenter, and the first black graduate of West Point, Henry O. Flipper.

Buffalo Soldiers fought in more than 175 engagements in the Indian Wars, and earned a distinguished service record; thirteen enlisted men and six officers from the four original Buffalo Soldiers regiments earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. Buffalo Soldiers also participated in many other military campaigns, including: The Spanish American War, The Philippine Insurrection, The Mexican Expedition, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.

Beginning in 1899, Buffalo Soldiers also served as some of the first Park Rangers of the U.S. National Parks. Working in such parks as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and General Grant (Kings Canyon) Park, the soldiers made significant improvements to the parks. In 1903, 9th Infantry Cavalrymen in Sequoia National Park built the first trail to the top of Mount Whitney—the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. They also built the first wagon road into the Sequioa's Giant Forest. A year later, 9th Infantry Cavalrymen built the first museum in the National Park System—an arboretum on the South Fork of the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. 

A bronze statue commemorating the Buffalo Soldiers’ legacy commissioned by General Colin Powell was dedicated on July 25, 1992, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.