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Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment

The Military Career of Charles Young

Brian G. Shellum

Publication Year: 2010

An unheralded military hero, Charles Young (1864–1922) was the third black graduate of West Point, the first African American national park superintendent, the first black U.S. military attaché, the first African American officer to command a Regular Army regiment, and the highest-ranking black officer in the Regular Army until his death. Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment tells the story of the man who—willingly or not—served as a standard-bearer for his race in the officer corps for nearly thirty years, and who, if not for racial prejudice, would have become the first African American general. Brian G. Shellum describes how, during his remarkable army career, Young was shuffled among the few assignments deemed suitable for a black officer in a white man’s army—the Buffalo Soldier regiments, an African American college, and diplomatic posts in black republics such as Liberia. Nonetheless, he used his experience to establish himself as an exceptional cavalry officer. He was a colonel on the eve of the United States’ entry into World War I, when serious medical problems and racial intolerance denied him command and ended his career. Shellum’s book seeks to restore a hero to the ranks of military history; at the same time, it informs our understanding of the role of race in the history of the American military.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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pp. 5-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-x

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pp. xi-xiii

Charles Young is an unheralded military hero, whose rich life story, from 1864 to 1922, is virtually unknown to most Americans, African Americans included. Consider his extraordinary honors: third black graduate of West Point, first African American superintendent of one of our national parks, first black U.S. military attach

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pp. xv-xvii

I owe the lion’s share of gratitude to my wife, Paula, for offering me the time and encouragement to complete Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment, my second book on Young. She has been my chief advocate and an avid supporter along the way. As always, I thank my daughter, Kara, and my son, Greg, for inspiring and encouraging me as only children can. ...


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pp. xix-xxi

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1. Awaiting Orders

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pp. 1-8

When Charles Young graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1889, he hoped he had ended a difficult chapter in his life. His five-year struggle to earn his coveted diploma and receive a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army was full of challenge and triumph. ...

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2. First Posting to Fort Robinson

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pp. 9-30

After home leave from West Point in 1889, 2nd Lt. Charles Young reported in November to his first duty assignment with the Ninth U.S. Cavalry at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Young became one of only two black cavalry officers assigned to the renowned Buffalo Soldier regiments, ...

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3. New Start at Fort Duchesne

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pp. 31-47

Lieutenant Young must have felt relieved to have a new start at Fort Duchesne after a rough first year at Fort Robinson. By this time, he had mastered the essentials of practical cavalry tactics, leadership, and garrison duties, adding to the basic lessons he had been taught at West Point. ...

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4. Military Instructor at Wilberforce

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pp. 48-69

The War Department assigned 2nd Lt. Charles Young to serve as professor of Military Science and Tactics at Wilberforce University in 1894. The officer who arrived in Ohio was a thirty-year-old lieutenant who had completed his first field assignment with the Ninth Cavalry. ...

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5. Volunteer Officer in the Spanish-American War

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pp. 70-92

By the spring of 1898, Young was nearing the completion of his fourth year as professor of military science and tactics at Wilberforce University. Since Young had already spent more time away from his regiment than was normally allowed, he was expecting orders directing him to return to his regiment by the end of the year, ...

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6. Return to Fort Duchesne

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pp. 93-114

Charles Young rejoined his troop at Fort Duchesne, Utah, in the fall of 1899 as a first lieutenant, his resumed, or permanent, rank in the Regular Army. This meant a demotion for Young in both pay and prestige from his former temporary rank of major commanding the Ninth Ohio Battalion during the Spanish-American War. ...

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7. Fighting Guerillas in the Philippines

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pp. 115-135

Young passed a professional milestone in early 1901 as he prepared to deploy to the Philippines. With a promotion to captain and twelve years of service he was no longer considered an inexperienced junior officer. The transition from lieutenant to captain was a major achievement in the professional life of a Regular Army officer. ...

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8. Troop Commander in San Francisco and Sequoia

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pp. 136-158

As the troopers of the Ninth Cavalry steamed into the San Francisco harbor on October 31, 1902, the city must have appeared heaven-sent to soldiers who had spent eighteen months fighting insurgents in the disease-infested jungles of the Philippines. ...

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9. Military Attach

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pp. 159-181

After Captain Young had spent five years with the Ninth Cavalry Regiment as a troop commander, the army offered him another opportunity to serve on detached duty. In the spring of 1904, the War Department asked Young if he was willing to serve on diplomatic duty as the military attach

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10. Garrison Duty in the Philippines and Wyoming

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pp. 182-203

When Captain Charles Young returned to the United States in 1907, he had been away from the Ninth Cavalry for three years on attach

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11. Military Assistance Mission in Liberia

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pp. 204-228

When Captain Charles Young arrived at the U.S. Legation in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1912, the country was torn by internal strife and threatened by external incursion. Having previously served as the military attach

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12. Chasing Villa in Mexico

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pp. 229-245

When Maj. Charles Young departed for his new duty assignment with the Tenth Cavalry, it marked the end of his third tour on detached duty away from troops. He had learned as much about himself in Africa as about leading others, and these lessons would help in the challenging years to come. ...

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13. Retirement to Ohio

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pp. 246-262

Lt. Col. Charles Young had many things on his mind after bringing his men home safely to Fort Huachuca from Mexico. Uppermost was the imminent war in Europe. From Young’s letters to Ada during the Punitive Expedition, we know he considered a number of future assignment options, ...

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14. Final Post in Liberia

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pp. 263-279

Charles Young had few options in 1919. A man of action, he could not bring himself to sit in his comfortable home in Wilberforce and enjoy his retirement, even with the war over. Many men would have welcomed the respite from twenty-eight years in the saddle, fighting for a country that asked for great sacrifices but gave little recognition in return. ...

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Epilogue: Coming Home

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pp. 280-288

When the War Department notified Ada Young of the death of her husband, she was alone at the family home in Wilberforce, Ohio, having recently returned from Europe, where the two children still attended boarding schools. She was there waiting for her husband, who was to arrive in April 1916 for four months of leave that had finally been approved after many delays. ...


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pp. 289-338


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pp. 339-352


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pp. 353-360

E-ISBN-13: 9780803230224
E-ISBN-10: 0803230222
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803213852
Print-ISBN-10: 0803213859

Page Count: 412
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African American soldiers -- Biography.
  • United States. Army -- African American troops.
  • United States. Army -- Officers -- Biography.
  • Young, Charles, 1864-1922.
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