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Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers

Perspectives on the African American Militia and Volunteers, 1865-1917

Bruce A. Glasrud

Publication Year: 2011


During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African American men were seldom permitted to join the United States armed forces. There had been times in early U.S. history when black and white men fought alongside one another; it was not uncommon for integrated units to take to battle in the Revolutionary War. But by the War of 1812, the United States had come to maintain what one writer called “a whitewashed army.” Yet despite that opposition, during the early 1800s, militia units made up of free black soldiers came together to aid the official military troops in combat.


            Many black Americans continued to serve in times of military need. Nearly 180,000 African Americans served in units of the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War, and others, from states such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Missouri, and Kansas, participated in state militias organized to protect local populations from threats of Confederate invasion. As such, the Civil War was a turning point in the acceptance of black soldiers for national defense. By 1900, twenty-two states and the District of Columbia had accepted black men into some form of military service, usually as state militiamen—brothers to the “buffalo soldiers” of the regular army regiments, but American military men regardless.


Little has been published about them, but Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers: Perspectives on the African American Militia and Volunteers, 1865–1919, offers insights into the varied experiences of black militia units in the post–Civil War period. The book includes eleven articles that focus either on “Black Participation in the Militia” or “Black Volunteer Units in the War with Spain.” The articles, collected and introduced by author and scholar Bruce A. Glasrud, provide an overview of the history of early black citizen-soldiers and offer criticism from prominent academics interested in that experience.


Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers discusses a previously little-known aspect of the black military experience in U.S. history, while deliberating on the discrimination these men faced both within and outside the military. Chosen on the bases of scholarship, balance, and readability, these articles provide a rare composite picture of the black military man’s life during this period. Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers offers both a valuable introductory text for students of military studies and a solid source of material for African American historians.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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Introduction: Black Citizen-Soldiers, 1865–1917

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pp. 1-16

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, black Americans sought to serve their country despite opposition from whites in both the military and the civilian population. They served as soldiers and sailors during wartime, and in times of peace, in a few segregated militia units. The Civil War precipitated a change in their status. After the war, even though peace prevailed, blacks served in the regular army as well as ...

I. Black Participation in the Militia

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The African American Militia during Radical Reconstruction

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pp. 19-33

One of the strangest experiments in American military history occurred in the South during the Reconstruction period. In order to implement their plan for a Republican South, the Radicals realized the necessity of furnishing their newly created state governments with sufficient force to perpetuate their existence amidst the undisguised hostility of a potentially destructive local opposition. In an attempt to provide such ...

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“They Are as Proud of Their Uniform as Any Who Serve Virginia”: African American Participation in the Virginia Volunteers, 1872–1899

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pp. 34-72

Although African Americans fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, their participation in the nineteenth- century militia was prevented by the Militia Act of 1792, which limited membership to “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen” between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. Most states interpreted this statute as legally preventing them from enrolling black militiamen. Before the Civil War, a ...

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The Black Militia of the New South: Texas as a Case Study

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pp. 73-85

The existence and significance of black militia units in the New South have proved elusive for historians, although black citizen soldiers attained considerable importance during Reconstruction. African Americans had been recruited in nine of the eleven former Confederate states to protect Republicans from white Democratic violence. White Democrats, who opposed the black militia as a challenge to white domination, ultimately ...

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A Place in the Parade: Citizenship, Manhood, and African American Men in the Illinois National Guard, 1870-1917

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pp. 86-111

Between the end of the Civil War and the onset of United States involvement in World War I, African American men overcame great difficulties to maintain their military presence in the Illinois National Guard (ING). African American men in Illinois, acting on the strength of and faith in the ability of military service to confirm and preserve their claims to equality, citizenship, and manhood, created military companies whenever ...

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The Last March: The Demise of the Black Militia in Alabama

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pp. 112-126

Late on Sunday Afternoon, August 20, 1905, the Capital City Guards marched jubilantly homeward toward their armory on Dexter Avenue, Montgomery’s principal thoroughfare. The nearly one hundred black members of the Alabama National Guard were returning from a successful five-day encampment that had been held on the outskirts of the city. As the uniformed Guardsmen swung up the street leading to the capitol, ...

II. Black Volunteer Units in the War with Spain

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The Black Volunteers in the Spanish-American War

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pp. 129-142

The Spanish-American War occurred during a period of increasing discrimination, segregation, and despair for black Americans. Blacks saw the war as an opportunity to fight for their country and as a chance to regain some of their recently lost rights. However, their efforts to join the volunteer units were impeded by the changing plans of the federal government and the virulent racial prejudice of the late 1890s. In the end, ...

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North Carolina’s African American Regiment in the Spanish-American War

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pp. 143-158

From the beginning of the insurrection in Cuba in 1895, African Americans were sympathetic with the Cubans’ struggle against Spanish rule. The black press not only praised the exploits of the “black he-roes” of the rebel cause but also emphasized the “racial affinity” between black Americans and the “colored population” of Cuba. Yet, as an armed conflict between the United States and Spain appeared more likely following ...

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No Officers, No Fight! The Sixth Virginia Volunteers in the Spanish-American War

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pp. 159-171

When war with Spain threatened in the spring of 1898, the men of the First Battalion, Richmond’s black militia, were among the first Virginians to volunteer. They were stirred by the same patriotic feelings as other Americans, but war had special meaning for black soldiers at the end of the century, when violence and oppression marked race relations and white prejudice seemed intractable. Throughout the South, ...

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Black Kansans and the Spanish-American War

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pp. 172-185

The role of black Americans in the imperialistic ventures of the United States at the end of the nineteenth century dramatized the irony and incongruities bred by their anomalous position in American society. During the Spanish-American War African Americans were called upon to render military service outside the United States, and as soldiers in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, they became representatives abroad ...

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“A Lot of Fine, Sturdy Black Warriors”: Texas’s African American “Immunes” in the Spanish-American War

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pp. 186-208

After the United States declared war on Spain in April 1898, America’s martial spirits soared. Across the country, patriotic men prepared to enlist for military service in the conflict that would liber-ate Cubans, Filipinos, and Puerto Ricans from Spanish rule and avenge the sinking of the battleship USS Maine. Congress more than doubled the size of the small 28,000-man regular army and authorized a much larger volunteer ...

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A Flag for the Tenth Immunes

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pp. 209-222

In July 1898 a regiment of African American volunteers for Spanish-American War service was organized at Camp Dyer near Augusta, Georgia. The unit was officially known as the Tenth U.S. Volunteer Infantry (USVI), but the men were popularly known as “Immunes” and the regiment was called the Tenth Immunes. The name came from the mistaken belief that the men were of such constitution, heritage or previous exposure that they ...

About the Contributors

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pp. 223-224

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 225-236


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pp. 237-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272300
E-ISBN-10: 0826272304
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219046
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219047

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1