The US Congress, after the end of the civil war, on July 28, 1866, approved “An Act to increase and fix the Military Peace Establishment of the United States” which authorized the formation of two regiments of cavalry composed of “colored” men.
Two months later, on September 21, 1866, the 9th & 10th Cavalry Regiments were activated at Greenville, Louisiana, and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, respectively. Once equipped and trained, they began a long, proud, and patriotic history of service to this great nation.
The 9th & 10th Cavalry Regiments conducted campaigns for over two decades which across a range from a Western Frontier extending from Montana in the Northwest to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona in the Southwest. They engaged in several skirmishes against such great Indian Chiefs as Victorio, Geronimo, and Nana.
When not engaged in combat with Indians, both regiments built forts and roads, installed telegraph lines, located water holes, escorted wagon trains and cattle drives, rode “Shotgun” on stagecoach and mail runs, and protected settlers from renegade Indians, outlaws, and Mexican revolutionaries.
Another little-known contribution of the Buffalo Soldiers involved eight troops of the 9th Cavalry Regiment and one company of the 24th Infantry Regiment who served in California’s Sierra Nevada as some of the first National Park Rangers. In 1899, Buffalo Soldiers from Company H, 24th Infantry Regiment briefly served in Yosemite , Sequoia, and General Grant (Kings Canyon) National Parks. Army regiments had been serving in these national parks since 1891, but until 1899 the soldiers serving were white. Beginning in 1899, and continuing in 1903 and 1904, African-American regiments served during the summer months in the second and third oldest national parks in the United States (Sequoia and Yosemite). Because these soldiers served before the National Park Service was created (1916), they were “park rangers” before the term was coined.
It was he Plains Indians who are thought to have named these cavalrymen, “Buffalo Soldiers” owing to their never quit combativeness like that of a cornered or wounded buffalo who fights ferociously, displaying unusual stamina, tenacity, and courage. This was the same fighting spirit Indians saw in combat with black cavalrymen. Since Indians held the buffalo in such high regard, it was felt that the name was not given in contempt, but as a name of HONOR.
Elements of both regiments fought in Cuba during the War with Spain and participated in the famous charge up San Juan Hill. Troopers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment rode with General John J. Pershing during the Punitive Expedition in Mexico in search of Pancho Villa. In 1941, the two regiments formed the 4th Cavalry Brigade, commanded by General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., at Camp Funston, Kansas. In 1944, the end came to the horse cavalry regiments and the curtain was lowered on the long and glorious past of “The Buffalo Soldiers.”