Capt. Charles Greenlief Ayers

of the 10th U.S. Cavalry, E Troop

Contributed by By Dan Hynes

Charles Ayers
Watercolor of Capt. Ayers by R. Wilton Lockwood

For a roster of the unit, please click here
For a history of the unit, click here
For information on Black Participation in the Spanish American War, click here

Captain Charles Greenlief Ayers served with the 10th U.S. Cavalry in Cuba. The 10th U.S. cavalry was an African American military unit.


Capt. Charles Greenlief Ayers, was born February 26, 1854, in New York City. He was commissioned from the line on October 31, 1874. Almost a year later, on September 18, 1875, he transferred from the Twenty-fifth Infantry, to the Tenth United States Cavalry, as first lieutenant.

As amember of the 10th U.S.Cavalry, Ayers took a conspicuous part in twenty-four campaigns against Native American tribes. The regiment was involved in the following campaigns:  Saragossa, Mexico, July 30, 1876 (Apaches); Pinto Mountains, Mexico, August 12, 1876 (Apaches); Pecos Springs, Texas, September 13, 1876 (Commanches); Pecos River, Texas, October 2, 1876 (Commanches); Fort Griffin, Texas, May 4, 1877 (Commanches); Mexico, September 29, 1877 (Commanches); Sierra Cannel, Mexico, November 29, 1877 (Alsatti’s Apaches); Salt Lakes, Texas, July 29, 1879 (Commanches); Pecos River, Texas, April 2, 1880 (Commanches); Shakehands Springs, Texas, April 30, 1880 (Commanches); Tinaja De Las Palmas, July 30, 1880 (Apaches); Eagle Springs, Texas, July 30, 1880 (Apaches); Alamo Springs, Texas, August 3, 1880 (Apaches); Camp Safford, Texas, August 7, 1880 (Apaches); Rattlesnake Springs, Texas, August 7, 1880 (Apaches); Ojo Caliente, Texas, October 28, 1880 (Commanches); Pinto Mountains, Mexico, May 3, 1886 (Geronimo’s Apaches); White Mountains, Arizona, September 18, 1886 (Capture of Mangus);

Charles Ayers was promoted to the rank of captain on January 1, 1892.  When the Spanish American War broke out, he accompanied his regiment to Cuba taking part in actions against the Spanish forces June 24, 1898 at Las Guasimas, at the San Juan Heights action of July 1,1898 and in the ongoing skirmishes to July 17, 1898. Captain Ayers is mentioned in reports of his regimental and squadron commanders for conspicuous gallantry and bravery under fire.

The battle account of the Santiago engagement written by Sergeant William Payne, of Troop E, Tenth Cavalry states:

“About 6 A.M., July 1st the battle started. We remained at San Juan River about three hours. Then came the advance for the bloody charge up San Juan Hill, which we did in good order. This was the second time we came to the rescue of the Rough Riders. After we drove the enemy from their stronghold we deployed our skirmish line on the hill and awaited orders to commence firing. During this time our brave commander, Captain Charles G. Ayers, had to be begged and finally ordered to kneel or lie down out of danger, for shot and shell were falling all around him. He is the coolest man I ever saw in action.”
In the July 8, 1898 supplement to report of the action by Lt. Col. T. A. Baldwin, 10th Cavalry, Commanding Regiment, he wrote: "Captain Charles G. Ayers, 10th Cavalry, for conspicuous gallantry, good judgement, and endurance. I urgently and respectfully recommend him for a brevet."


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