BLACK SOLDIERS IN THE WEST: A PROUD TRADITION
In the course of the Civil War over 180,000 Black Americans served in the Union Army and Navy. More than 33,000 died. After the war, the future of black men in the nation’s military was in doubt. In 1866, however, Congress authorized black Americans to serve in the peacetime army of the United States in segregated units mostly commanded by white officers. Two cavalry and four infantry regiments were created and designated the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments and the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry Regiments.
In 1869, Congress enacted a troop reduction and consolidation leading to the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41th Infantry Regiments being
re-designated as the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments. The four remaining regiments, the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments and
the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments would become known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.”
During the 19th century, Buffalo Soldiers served in Arizona, California, Colorado, the Dakotas, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. In Arizona they garrisoned Fort Apache, Fort Bowie, Fort Grant, Fort Huachuca, Fort Verde, and Fort Whipple. Fort Huachuca enjoys the distinction of being the only military installation having served as home to each of the four Buffalo Soldier regiments at one time or another.
Buffalo Soldiers played a major role in the settlement and development of the American West. They performed such duties as guarding and delivering the mail as well as escorting and or guarding stagecoaches, railroad crews, and surveyors. They built roads and telegraph lines, mapped and explored the territories and provided security for westward expansion. Other duties included maintaining law and order and pursuing outlaws.
Throughout the Indian Wars, the Buffalo Soldiers engaged in conflicts with the Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Sioux, and Ute. The Buffalo Soldier’s dedication and exemplary conduct in the West continued with participation in the Spanish American War, deployment to the Philippines, and decades of protecting the United States-Mexico Border.