9th & 10th Cavalry
The regiment was constituted 28 July 1866 in the Regular Army as Company F, 9th Cavalry. On 3 August 1866, Major General Philip H. Sheridan, commanding the Military Division of the Gulf, was "authorized” to organize one regiment of African-American ‘colored’ cavalry to be designated the 9th Regiment of U. S. Cavalry.
On September 21st 1866, under the command of Colonel Edward Hatch, the 9th Cavalry begins to be mustered. Each soldier would receive a base pay of $13 a month, plus room and board. The 9th Cavalry’s motto was and remains
‘We Can : We Will.’
The organization at this location continued for 5 years. By the end of March 1867, the 9th Cavalry was nearly at full strength with a total of 885 enlisted men, or 70 men per troop, as ordered by San Antonio Texas, whereas L and M troop went directly to Brownsville Texas.
The 10th Cavalry was formed in Leavenworth, Kansas, 1866 under the command of Colonel Benjamin Grierson. By the end of July 1867, there were 8 companies and then, received orders to transfer to Fort Riley, Kansas, amidst objections of having an African-American Troop. The motto of the 10th Cavalry was
‘Ready and Forward!’
From 1867 to the early 1890s, these regiments served at a variety of posts in the Southwestern United States and the Great Plains regions. They participated in most of the military campaigns in these areas and earned a distinguished record. Thirteen enlisted men and six officers from these four regiments earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. In addition to the military campaigns, the Buffalo Soldiers served a variety of roles along the frontier, from building roads to escorting the U.S. mail. On April 17, 1875, regimental headquarters for the 10th Cavalry was transferred to Fort Concho, Texas. Companies actually arrived at Fort Concho in May 1873.
The 9th Cavalry was headquartered at Fort Union from 1875 to 1881. At various times from 1873 through 1885, Fort Concho housed 9th Cavalry companies A–F, K, and M, 10th Cavalry companies A, D–G, I, L, and M, 24th Infantry companies D–G, and K, and 25th Infantry companies G and K. From 1879 to 1881, portions of all four of the Buffalo Soldier regiments were in New Mexico pursuing Victorio and Nana and their Apache warriors in Victorio's War. The 9th Cavalry spent the winter of 1890 to 1891 guarding the Pine Ridge Reservation during the events of the Ghost Dance War and the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Cavalry regiments were also used to remove Sooners from native lands in the late 1880s and early 1890s.
Buffalo Soldier in the 9th Cavalry, 1890
In total, 23 Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars.
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 National Park, Sequoia National Park, and General Grant (Kings Canyon) National Parks.
U.S. 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 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.
A lasting legacy of the soldiers as park rangers is the Ranger hat (popularly known as the Smokey Bear hat). Although not officially adopted by the Army until 1911, the distinctive hat crease, called a Montana peak, (or pinch) can be seen being worn by several of the Buffalo Soldiers in park photographs dating back to 1899. Soldiers serving in the Spanish–American War began to re-crease the Stetson hat with a Montana "pinch" to better shed water from the torrential tropical rains. Many retained that distinctive crease upon their return to the U.S. The park photographs, in all likelihood, show Buffalo Soldiers who were veterans from that 1898 war.
One particular Buffalo Soldier stands out in history: Captain Charles Young, who served with Troop I, 9th Cavalry Regiment in Sequoia National Park during the summer of 1903. Young was the third African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy. At the time of his death, he was the highest-ranking African American in the U.S. military. He made history in Sequoia National Park in 1903 by becoming Acting Military Superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant National Parks. Young was also the first African American superintendent of a national park. During Young's tenure in the park, he named a giant sequoia for Booker T. Washington. Recently, another giant sequoia in Giant Forest was named in Captain Young's honor. Some of Young's descendants attended the ceremony.
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston
Entrance to Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
The Richard Allen Cultural Center in Leavenworth, Kansas, includes the home of a former black U.S. Army soldier. The museum shares the histories of African Americans living on the Kansas frontier during pioneer days to the present, especially those serving in the U.S. Army as Buffalo Soldiers.
In 1903, 9th Cavalrymen in Sequoia built the first trail to the top of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. They also built the first wagon road into Sequoia's Giant Forest, the most famous grove of giant sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park.
In 1904, 9th Cavalrymen in Yosemite built an arboretum on the South Fork of the Merced River in the southern section of the park. This arboretum had pathways and benches, and some plants were identified in both English and Latin. Yosemite's arboretum is considered to be the first museum in the National Park System. The NPS cites a 1904 report, where Yosemite superintendent (Lt. Col.) John Bigelow, Jr. declared the arboretum "To provide a great museum of nature for the general public free of cost ..." Unfortunately, the forces of developers, miners, and greed cut the boundaries of Yosemite in 1905 and the arboretum was nearly destroyed.
In the Sierra Nevada, the Buffalo Soldiers regularly endured long days in the saddle, slim rations, racism, and separation from family and friends. As military stewards, the African American cavalry and infantry regiments protected the national parks from illegal grazing, poaching, timber thieves, and forest fires. Yosemite Park Ranger Shelton Johnson researched and interpreted the history in an attempt to recover and celebrate the contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers of the Sierra Nevada.