Buffalo Soldiers


Buffalo Soldiers - A Chronology of African American Military Service From the Civil War to World War I Part II - Buffalo Soldiers Families

From the Civil War to World War I Part II

Buffalo Soldiers - A Chronology of African American Military Service From the Civil War to World War I Part II
Buffalo Soldier

























Buffalo Soldiers - A Chronology of African American Military Service From the Civil War to World War I Part II
George Armstrong Custer (left center in light clothing) leads a military expedition into the Black Hills of Dakota Territory







Buffalo Soldiers - A Chronology of African American Military Service From the Civil War to World War I Part II. Henry O. Flipper
Henry O. Flipper














































Buffalo Soldiers - A Chronology of African American Military Service From the Civil War to World War I Part II - General Benjamin O. Davis Stamp
Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.



Buffalo Soldiers - A Chronology of African American Military Service From the Civil War to World War I Part II - USS Maine during the Spanish American War
USS Maine







Buffalo Soldiers - A Chronology of African American Military Service From the Civil War to World War I Part II - Tampa Bay Hotel
Tampa Bay Hotel
















































Buffalo Soldiers - A Chronology of African American Military Service From the Civil War to World War I Part II - Robert E. Peary and Matthew Henson Stamp

7 May 1870  9th Cavalry Sergeant Emanuel Stance led an attack against the Kickapoo tribe in Texas, capturing horses and defending a small wagon train. He later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic service, the first of the "buffalo soldiers" to be so honored. Congress awarded a total of 18 Medals of Honor to black soldiers who served during the Indian Wars.

1 July 1870  James W. Smith of South Carolina was the first black cadet admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He later left the academy on 26 June 1874 without receiving a degree, after enduring 4 years of ostracism and being subjected to extensive discrimination.

4 July 1870  The first Seminole-Negroes recruited as U.S. Army Scouts by Major Zenas R. Bliss enlisted for 6 months, after returning to the United States from Mexico. Organized into a band that usually averaged about 50 men, the group fought in numerous expeditions against various Indian tribes in Texas. During the Indian Wars, four of the scouts won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Although frequently repaid with racial discrimination and broken promises, the Seminole-Negro scouts served the Army with distinction until 1914.

1872  The U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, admitted the first black midshipman, John Henry Conyers of South Carolina. After enduring the same kind of shunning inflicted on African American cadets at West Point, Conyers resigned for academic reasons. Two other black midshipmen also attempted to endure the hostile environment at Annapolis, but both resigned after a few months. Not until almost the middle of the 20th century did an African American graduate from the academy and receive his commission.

26 December 1872  Seaman Joseph B. Noils rescue of a shipmate who had fallen overboard earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was only one of six black sailors so honored for similar acts of bravery. Because of the continuing difficulty in recruiting sufficient manpower, 10 to 14 percent of the post-Civil War U.S. Navy was African American. Although racist attitudes increasingly forced them into more menial support tasks by 1890, blacks were still integrated into the sleeping quarters and messes because of limited shipboard space.

April-December 1875  In addition to fighting in the Indian wars, escorting supply trains, and guarding transportation construction crews, key passes, subposts, and stagecoach stations, the "buffalo soldiers" also helped survey the Great Plains. Elements of the 24th and 25th Infantries as well as the 10th Cavalry worked on maps later used for planning military operations in the area.

25 June 1876  At least one African American was reported killed during the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The 7th Cavalry was part of a planned three-prong attack against a large Sioux camp on the river in Montana. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer divided the 7th Cavalry into three columns, ignored both warnings and instructions, then engaged the Indians. The outcome was an overwhelming defeat for the Army. Custers entire column of 212 officers and men, which bore the brunt of Crazy Horses attack, were killed. Only a scout and a horse escaped. The other two columns commanded by Major Marcus A. Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen also suffered numerous casualties. Among the dead in Renos column was Isaiah Dorman, a black interpreter with the 7th Cavalry.

2 March 1877  The Senate president announced the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president. This came after the Compromise of 1877 by which Democrats conceded the 1876 election in exchange for an end to Military Reconstruction. After the last federal troops were pulled out of Louisiana on 24 April 1877, several southern states inactivated their black National Guard units.

15 June 1877  Henry O. Flipper, born into slavery in Georgia, became the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After joining the 10th Cavalry, 2nd Lieutenant Flipper served as the Armys only black officer until 1882 when he was court-martialed for embezzling funds from the commissary. Although acquitted, the Army still discharged him for "conduct unbecoming an officer." Almost 100 years later, his innocence was substantiated during an official records review, which cleared Flippers name and changed his dismissal to an honorable discharge.

1881  Tennessee enacted the first in a series of laws passed throughout the South segregating public transportation. Additional laws were passed restricting black access to most public accommodations and educational facilities. Following Mississippis lead in 1890, restrictions on African American political and legal participation were also put in place. The racist concept of "separate but equal" was eventually upheld in the Supreme Court decision rendered in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). By 1900 segregation was common-place throughout the nation. "Jim Crow" laws and the racial attitudes that supported them, made the lot of black soldiers even more difficult. Despite their outstanding military record, African American troops received little recognition or respect for their contributions to the nation. The frustration and anger aroused by white racial attitudes eventually led to some serious racial clashes between black soldiers and whites in the military and the surrounding communities.

1882  Thomas Boyne received the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery during two battles with Indians in New Mexico, where he served in the 9th U.S. Cavalry.

1886  Allen Allensworth, an well-educated former slave, successfully applied for an appointment as an Army chaplain. While serving in this capacity at Fort Supply in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Allensworth operated a school at the post. He later established another school at Fort Bayard.

1887  John Alexander from Ohio became the second of only three African Americans to graduate from West Point and be commissioned during the 35 years between 1865 and 1900. In that period, 25 blacks received appointments to the military academy, but only 12 of them passed the entrance exam.

1889  Charles Young became the third African American graduate of West Point. His first assignment was in the West, where he began his rise through the Army ranks. He fought in the Spanish-American War, served with John J. Pershings punitive expedition into Mexico, became the first black American military attache in Haiti, and helped to organize a force in Liberia. By 1917, Colonel Young was the highest ranking black officer in the U.S. Army, but he was forced to retire on medical grounds. Young was eventually reinstated in the Army, but he was not recalled until a few days before the armistice in November 1917. He died in 1922 while on a second tour of duty in Liberia. He was reburied at Arlington National Cemetery in 1923.

11 May 1889  While escorting an Army paymaster, two members of the 24th Infantry Regiment took heroic action to fend off a violent robbery. Sergeant Benjamin Brown and Corporal Isaiah Mays received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their bravery.

1880s-1890s  An effort to disband the U.S. Armys black regiments failed because African Americans represented 10 percent of the services total manpower. Despite the limitations imposed on blacks in the military and their separate but less than equal conditions, the armed forces attracted many talented and intelligent African Americans because of the greater opportunities offered. It was also the reason for black soldiers longer enlistments and fewer desertions.

25 May 1891  The Secretary of War ordered K Troop, 9th Cavalry transferred from Nebraska to Fort Myer, near Washington, D.C. This was the first time since Reconstruction that African American soldiers had served east of the Mississippi River. Despite their outstanding performance, white complaints eventually resulted in their return to Fort Robinson, where they rejoined the rest of their unit in October 1894.

1892  A racial insult provoked members of the 9th Cavalry into shooting up the town of Suggs, Wyoming.

1893  To avenge the pistol-whipping of black soldiers by Texas Rangers, 9th Cavalry soldiers fired into a saloon near Fort Concho, Texas. This same year, unit members in Crawford, Nebraska, rescued a black veteran from a lynch mob and threatened to retaliate if he was attacked again.

1896  After the 24th Infantry Regiment deployed to Fort Douglas near Salt Lake City, Utah, white townspeople responded by sending a delegation to Washington, D.C. to protest. The concern and professionalism shown by the black troops, however, later prompted the areas leading newspaper to print a public apology for the towns earlier action. Well-wishers gave the unit a rousing send-off on 19 April 1898, when the 24th was ordered to Tampa, Florida, to embark for Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

1898  Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., began his 50-year military career as a lieutenant in the District of Columbia National Guard.

February 1898  The battleship Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, killing more than 250 officers and crewmen, including at least 22 black sailors. Despite Spanish claims (supported by a modern investigation) that the explosion was an unfortunate internal accident, most Americans and their political leaders viewed the event as a deliberate act of war. The explosion of the Maine helped to ignite the Spanish-American War on 21 April. A total of 16 regiments of black volunteers were recruited, although only 1 actually saw combat. All four of the all-black Regular Army units saw action during the war.

1 May 1898  The first shots in the Spanish-American War were actually fired in the Philippines, where Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt had dispatched the U.S. Asiatic Squadron under the command of Commodore George Dewey. Black gunners mate John Jordan on the flagship USS Olympia fired the first shot in the opening Battle of Manila Bay, during which the Americans completely destroyed the Spanish squadron.

June 1898  Because they were believed to have greater resistance to tropical diseases, the U.S. Army used African American troops extensively during the campaigns in Cuba and the Philippines. Serious doubts about this supposed immunity were raised later, after 471 soldiers with the 24th Infantry Regiment contracted either malaria or yellow fever at Siboney, where they had been assigned to assist at the hospital.

6 June 1898  While waiting to embark for Cuba, members of the 24th and 25th Infantries attacked white soldiers and segregated businesses in Tampa, Florida, after hearing that drunken Ohio volunteers had used a black child for target practice. Before withdrawing from the confrontation, the enraged black soldiers fought with the 2nd Georgia Volunteer Infantry, called in by local military authorities to restore order. Thirty black soldiers and some of the white Ohio volunteers were seriously injured during the melee.

23 June 1898  The first battle of the Spanish-American War was fought at Las Guasimas. The 10th Cavalry, along with two other white regiments, saw action in this engagement. The units were commanded by Major General Joseph Wheeler, the only Confederate general to be reinstated in the U.S. Army after the Civil War.

June 1898  Soldiers of the 24th and 25th Infantries disembarked at Siboney, Cuba, then joined other U.S. troops attacking the Spanish garrison at Santiago. Members of the 25th Infantry Regiment ultimately captured the Spanish flag.

July 1898  The Battle of San Juan Ridge was the only full-scale infantry engagement in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. At least 25 members of the all-black 10th Cavalry participated in the famous charge up San Juan Hill led by Lieutenant Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, while soldiers in the 24th Infantry Regiment and 9th Cavalry also helped to secure San Juan and Kettle hills. Edward Baker, Jr., won the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving a wounded comrade while under fire. He was one of five African Americans to be awarded this honor for bravery in this war.

1898-1917  During the period between the Spanish-American War and World War I, the federal and various state governments began restricting black military service. The U.S. Navy excluded African Americans from seamans billets, relegating them to stewards positions. National Guard units in the southern states prohibited blacks from enlisting, while the U.S. Army kept them from serving in certain areas such as artillery. Blacks supposed lack of mechanical skills and general intelligence for the more technologically advanced assignments was the official excuse given for the new restrictions.

1899  A controversy involving the resignation of black National Guard officers led to the inactivation of black guard units in Virginia. The problem began in 1898 after President William McKinley agreed to mobilize black guard units during the Spanish-American War. The two black units in Virginiathe 1st and 2nd Infantry Battalionswere assigned to the 6th Virginia Infantry. When their ability to command was questioned, the black guard officers resigned.

1899  The 9th Cavalrys troops became part of the Presidios regular garrison, the first black unit to be regularly posted at the installation. In addition, the 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments passed through the Presidio on their way to other assignments. Members of all four units were also stationed at the San Francisco post for longer periods of time.

15 May 1899  Members of Company L, 24th U.S. Infantry Regiment were the first black troops stationed in Alaska. After their transfer on 20 May 1902, no black troops from the 9th and 10th Cavalry or the 25th Infantry Regiment were assigned to the territory until after 1909.

July 1899  The War Department expressed some hesitation about using black troops to help suppress the Philippines Insurrection, because of lingering doubts about the willingness of African Americans to fire on other dark-skinned people. The need for manpower, however, resulted in the dispatch of black regulars of the 24th Infantry Regiment from the Presidio to the islands. Black troops from all four of the Armys segregated units, along with members of two black volunteer regiments (the 48th and 49th Volunteer Infantry), eventually served in the Philippines. In addition to fighting the insurgents led by Emilio Aguinaldo, African American soldiers also helped to organize the civil government by supervising elections and providing security for civilians.

November 1899  One of the 24th Infantry Regiments enlisted menDavid Fagandeserted to join Filipino rebels. Although the rebels tried to lure African Americans into their ranks, only four other soldiers besides Fagan did so. A bounty hunter killed Fagan in December 1901. To deter additional desertions, President Roosevelt ordered the execution of two other black deserters, although he commuted the death sentences of 15 white soldiers found guilty of the same crime.

1900  Congress authorized 10 new regiments for the U.S. Army, but none of the 5 infantry and 5 artillery units were open to blacks.

1901  After the capture of Emilio Aguinaldo in February 1901, the 48th and 49th Volunteer Infantry regiments returned to the United States, where they were disbanded. Unit members were either discharged or enlisted in the Regular Armys all-black regiments. Those black officers who remained in the Army had to do so as enlisted men.

1901  Changes in naval technology combined with growing racism had a negative impact on African American service in the U.S. Navy. Escalating racial tension on board ships, decreasing opportunities for promotion, mounting restrictions on assigned duties, and increasing racial bias in recruiting practices culminated in the Navys decision to no longer solicit black recruits. Those who remained in the service or who were allowed to enlist were relegated to more menial support tasks. By the end of 1906, only 5 percent of the Navys entire manpower was African American.

19 May 1901  Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., became the first black enlisted soldier to be commissioned a second lieutenant in the Regular Army. He had previously served as a first lieutenant with the 8th Volunteer Army during the Spanish-American War. His original commission ended once the war was over.

1902  After the Militia Act limited federal jurisdiction over the National Guard, only six states and the District of Columbia allowed blacks to continue to serve in what had once been the state militias. No states of the Deep South allowed African Americans to enlist.

1903  Captain Charles Young, 9th Cavalry, was named Acting Superintendent of Sequoia National Park for the summer. Black cavalry troops were also assigned to patrol other national parks in California that year, including Yosemite and General Grant. The Army continued this duty until the National Park Service was created in 1916.

1903  Soldiers from the 9th Cavalry served as the first black military escort for a President of the United States, when unit members were made part of an Honor Guard during Theodore Roosevelts visit to San Francisco and the Presidio during this year.

1906  A U.S. Army War College study begun this year ultimately recommended blacks continue to be denied admission into the artillery branch because of their supposed inferior intelligence and inability to master the required technical skills.

1906  Chaplain Allen Allensworth was promoted to lieutenant colonel, the highest Regular Army rank held so far by a black soldier.

1906  Beginning this year and continuing every year for the next decade, various congressmen introduced bills attempting to prevent blacks from serving in the U.S. armed forces. The War Departments opposition to this legislation helped to prevent any of the bills from being voted on, but it was becoming more and more apparent that the military was no longer a haven (of sorts) for black men.

August 1906  In the so-called "Brownsville Incident," black soldiers from the 25th Infantry Regiment rioted against segregation in the Texas town. Those soldiers suspected of being involved in the fracas were charged with raiding the town, killing a white bartender, and wounding a white policeman. On 6 November 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt dishonorably discharged three companies of black soldiers (167 men) supposedly involved in the incident. Although there were serious flaws in the evidence used against the troopers, the Armys investigators and Roosevelt presumed the soldiers were guilty. Every noncommissioned officer and enlisted man on duty the night of the incident was expelled without legal recourse. Although the Army in November 1908 decided that 14 of the men would be allowed to reenlist, justice for most of the accused was not achieved until September 1972 when U.S. Congressman Augustus F. Hawkins (D-CA) was able to have the expulsions changed to honorable discharges.

April 1909  Admiral Robert E. Peary, African American Matthew Henson, and a party of four Eskimos were the first to reach the North Pole. In preparation for the expedition, Henson learned to speak Eskimo and studied their culture.

March 1916  Mexican rebel and bandit Francisco ("Pancho") Villa led an attack across the border into New Mexico during which 17 Americans were killed. President Woodrow Wilson ordered a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa. Two black regiments served under Brigadier General John J. Pershing on the unsuccessful 2-year mission.



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Black Congressional Medal of Honor Winners. Posted on the Black History Center Home Page, June 4, 1998, http://www.janusgroup.org/index_bhc_cmh_page.htm

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"The First Black Soldiers," extracted from Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment. Boston, Massachusetts: Fields, Osgood and Company, 1870. Posted by McRae, Bennie J., Jr., Lest We Forget: African-American History, Culture and Current Events, 1993-98; Foner, Eric and John A. Garraty, eds. The Readers Companion to American History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.

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_____. "Time Line of African American History, 1881-1900," American Memory, African American Perspectives, African American Pamphlets.

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U.S. Army Military History Institute. Note: Black Units in Alaska.

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Buffalo Soldiers Homepage

The Congressional Medal of Honor - "THE BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE" - The Medal of Honor, established by joint resolution of Congress, 12 July 1862 (amended by Act of 9 July 1918 and Act of 25 July 1963) is awarded in the name of Congress to a person who, while a member of the Armed Services, distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against any enemy of The United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which The United States is not a belligerent party. The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades and must have involved risk of life. Incontestable proof of the performance of service is exacted and each recommendation for award of this decoration is considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.

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