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Buffalo Soldiers in the West

A Black Soldiers Anthology

Edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and Michael N. Searles

Publication Year: 2007

In the decades following the Civil War, scores of African Americans served in the U.S. Army in the West. The Plains Indians dubbed them buffalo soldiers, and their record in the infantry and cavalry, a record full of dignity and pride, provides one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of the era. This anthology focuses on the careers and accomplishments of black soldiers, the lives they developed for themselves, their relationships to their officers (most of whom were white), their specialized roles (such as that of the Black Seminoles), and the discrimination they faced from the very whites they were trying to protect. In short, this volume offers important insights into the social, cultural, and communal lives of the buffalo soldiers. The selections are written by prominent scholars who have delved into the history of black soldiers in the West. Previously published in scattered journals, the articles are gathered here for the first time in a single volume, providing a rich and accessible resource for students, scholars, and interested general readers. Additionally, the readings in this volume serve in some ways as commentaries on each other, offering in this collected format a cumulative mosaic that was only fragmentary before. Volume editors Glasrud and Searles provide introductions to the volume and to each of its four parts, surveying recent scholarship and offering an interpretive framework. The bibliography that closes the book will also commend itself as a valuable tool for further research.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-4

This anthology—Buffalo Soldiers in the West: A Black Soldiers Anthology— is the result of a collaborative effort by two historians, Bruce A. Glasrud and Michael N. Searles, colleagues who became acquainted with each other while attending western history meetings over the years. During ...

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Western Black Soldiers since The Buffalo Soldiers: A Review of the Literature

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pp. 5-30

As recently freed black Americans moved westward in the decades after the Civil War, they sought employment opportunities and to escape from an oppressive racial environment. Some men became U.S. soldiers, named the buffalo soldiers by plains Indians, serving in the West. They ...

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Part I - The Officers and the Troops

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pp. 5-33

During the late nineteenth century, as previously noted, the regularly enlisted black soldiers served in four regiments—the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, and the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry. Their military experiences have been well detailed, the cavalry in William Leckie’s ...

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Fort Riley’s Black Soldiers and the Army’s Changing Role in the West, 1867–85

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pp. 35-50

At the end of the Civil War, the U.S. Army faced three major strategic challenges. The states of the former Confederacy required a military occupation force. South of the Rio Grande, Mexican nationalist forces were fighting a French army of occupation, which created turmoil along ...

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William R. Shafter, Black Troops,and the Opening of the Llano Estacado, 1870–75

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pp. 51-67

From the time the first white men reached the region with Coronado in the sixteenth century until well into the second half of the nineteenth century, the Great Plains were referred to as the “Great American Desert.” The description was applied particularly to the Llano Estacado portion of the southern plains which, it was commonly ...

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Buffalo Soldier Chaplains of the Old West

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pp. 77-92

African American soldiers made up one-fifth of the U.S. Army’s cavalry force and one-tenth of its infantry in the Old West during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The men served in the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry Regiments, and Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry Regiments. They ...

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“Dress on the Colors, Boys!”: Black Noncommissioned Officers in the Regular Army, 1866–98

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pp. 93-105

As the troops of the Tenth U.S. Cavalry charged the crest of San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898, one man sprinted ahead in the face of enemy fire, mounted the Spanish entrenchments, and planted the regimental colors. Turning to encourage his comrades, Color Sgt. George Berry shouted, ...

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Part II - The Black Soldier

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pp. 97-100

The selection by the editors of “Cathay Williams: Black Woman Soldier, 1866–68” by DeAnn Blanton as the first article in this section represents a contradiction, paradox, and an anomaly since all nineteenth-century blacks who served as soldiers except one was a man, legally only men ...

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Cathay Williams: Black Woman Soldier, 1866–68

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pp. 101-113

On November 15, 1866 Cathay Williams became a soldier. She enlisted with the U.S. regular army in St. Louis, Missouri, intending on a three year tour of duty. She had never been in the army before. She informed the recruiting officer that she was twenty-two years old and by occupation a cook. She named Independence, Missouri the place of her ...

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One Soldier’s Service: Caleb Benson in the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, 1875–1908

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pp. 123-137

In 1866 African Americans were allowed for the first time to serve in the regular U.S. military establishment. Six new regiments, including the Ninth and Tenth U.S. Cavalry, were organized. The new units were to be composed solely of black enlisted men, and so, in the post–Civil War ...

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The Court-Martial of Lt. Henry O. Flipper: An Example of Black-White Relationships in the Army, 1881

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pp. 129-142

An aura of anxiety tinged with curiosity and prejudice gripped the tiny West Texas courtroom as a decision neared in one of the strangest trials in American military history. Throughout four exhausting weeks of examination and cross-examination, the accused officer maintained a remarkably ...

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The Black Seminole Indian Scouts in the Big Bend

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pp. 143-152

The Big Bend region of Texas was the site of some of the last Indian hostilities in the American Southwest. Its rugged, mountainous geography provided excellent refuge for numerous bands of Apaches, Comanches, Kickapoos, and Kiowas: peoples who saw the Big Bend as their last refuge ...

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Part III - Discrimination and Violence

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pp. 153-155

Discrimination and violence are no strangers to the nation nor to the American West. Individual citizens and groups in frontier communities without a constituted legal authority often took the law into their own hands. Discrimination and violence were endemic to these settlements ...

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Black Soldiers at Fort Hayes, Kansas 1867–69: A Study in Civilian and Military Violence

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pp. 157-175

Historians of the western army contend with many romanticized myths. Few of those myths, in recent years, have held the popular consciousness as has that of the army’s first black regulars, known as buffalo soldiers. By now, the origins of the segregated regiments are quite familiar. In ...

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Black Soldiers on the White Frontier: Some Factors Influencing Race Relations

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pp. 176-184

A body of literature concerning the use of black soldiers on the post– Civil War frontier has emerged in recent years. Some of these new studies have focused on the black soldiers themselves and others have dealt with them tangentially to other central topics.1 However, all of the works ...

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Rio Grande City: Prelude to the Brownsville Raid

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pp. 185-196

While historians continue to debate culpability in the notorious Brownsville Raid of August 1906, a strikingly similar incident that occurred seven years earlier at neighboring Rio Grande City goes virtually unnoticed. In the early 1970s John D. Weaver and Ann J. Lane retrieved the ...

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The Houston Riot of 1917, Revisited

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pp. 197-215

Black Americans, and especially black soldiers, have always been committed to the American creed of freedom and democracy for all. Anytime the nation has found itself threatened by a foreign enemy, black men have been among the first to volunteer their services in its defense. Black soldiers took pride ...

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Part IV - Community of Soldiers

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pp. 217-220

Buffalo soldiers in the American West, reared in a segregated society that offered black citizens few of the benefits available to their white counterparts, developed a community of black soldiers. Their duty hours were often tedious and boring; off-duty diversions were primarily limited to ...

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Improbable Ambassadors: Black Soldiers at Fort Douglas, 1896–99

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pp. 221-241

Although the record is clear, few people know that on the east bench, overlooking Salt Lake City and touching the boundaries of the University of Utah, more than six hundred Black people—soldiers of the U.S. Twenty-fourth Infantry, wives, children, and others—lived, worked, and ...

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Putting the Army on Wheels: The Story of the Twenty-Fifth Infantry Bicycle Corps

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pp. 242-256

In the late nineteenth century the widespread popularity and use of bicycles inevitably led to experiments in military use of them. The first experiment came in Europe in 1875 when the Italian Army demonstrated the value of having bicycles carry dispatches during field maneuvers. ...

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The Black Soldier-Athlete in the U.S. Army, 1890–1916

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pp. 257-266

Today white Americans find nothing unusual in reading about or seeing Blacks and whites compete against each other in athletics. The same could not be said of the years between 1890 and 1950. Segregation made interracial sports competition infrequent. Athletics in the army was a ...

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Community Building on the Border: The Role of the Twenty-fourth Infantry Band at Columbus, New Mexico, 1916–22

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pp. 267-276

The black military units created by Congress immediately after the Civil War played prominent roles in settling the West. In the last two decades a number of works have recognized the contributions of these regiments; however, most have dealt primarily with the military experience ...

Buffalo Soldiers: A Bibliography

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pp. 277-300


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pp. 301-302


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pp. 303-304


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pp. 305-319

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444491
E-ISBN-10: 1603444491
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585446209
Print-ISBN-10: 1585446203

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army -- African American troops -- History.
  • African Americans -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- West (U.S.).
  • West (U.S.) -- Race relations.
  • West (U.S.) -- History -- 1860-1890.
  • African Americans -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 20th century.
  • African American soldiers -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
  • African American soldiers -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 20th century.
  • African American soldiers -- West (U.S.) -- Biography.
  • West (U.S.) -- History -- 1890-1945.
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