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6 Places to Learn About the History of Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo soldiers of the 25th Infantry, some wearing buffalo robes, at Fort Keogh, Montana. (Photo By Tiana Waters)
Buffalo soldiers of the 25th Infantry, some wearing buffalo robes, at Fort Keogh, Montana. (Photo By Tiana Waters)

Buffalo Soldiers Day is celebrated on July 28 to commemorate the first regular Army regiments comprised of African American soldiers. The history of Buffalo Soldiers within the U.S. Army runs deep.

African American soldiers have fought in every conflict, including the American Revolution and the War of 1812, often without due or recognition. On July 28, 1866, Congress passed the Army Organization Act, officially forming six regiments comprised of Black soldiers. This act of Congress gave African Americans a permanent place in U.S. military history.

Many of these early warriors had already fought as volunteers during the Civil War when they were known as the U.S. Colored Troops. According to the National Park Service, more than 180,000 Black soldiers fought during the Civil War.

In 1866, these soldiers became part of the 9th and 10th Cavalry divisions, in addition to the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry regiments. Three years later, the Infantry regiments were consolidated into the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments.

They were transferred to the American frontier, where they acquired the name Buffalo Soldiers. The soldiers were tasked with assisting in U.S. westward expansion and had orders to fight in several American Indian Wars. They also fought in the Spanish American War in 1898 in the Philippines and Cuba. They were assigned to segregated units during World War I (369th Infantry) and World War II (92nd and 93rd Infantry).

“Native populations and African American soldiers gained respect for one another in the sense that they recognized they were all fighting to be free,” said Edna Wagner, executive director of the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum near Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. “The name Buffalo Soldiers is a sign of respect. The Buffalo Soldiers were seen as fierce and strong.”

During peacetime, African American soldiers associated with Buffalo Soldier units served as U.S. Park Rangers in Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant National Parks. In 1896, a few members of the 25th Infantry tested bicycles that could be used by the military, riding from Fort Missoula, Montana, to Yellowstone National Park.

There are many corners of America where you could trace the often-overlooked contributions of Black citizens and soldiers.

These sites highlight the role of Buffalo Soldiers in the U.S. military:

  1. Fort Leavenworth – In 1992, U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell dedicated the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to commemorate the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers who were founded here. You can also visit adjacent sites:
    1. Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum – A full interpretive center with tours and expert resources. It’s adjacent to Fort Leavenworth and houses the Cathay Williams Monument, honoring the only known female Buffalo Soldier.
    2. Frontier Army Museum Frontier Army Museum | Leavenworth, Kansas (visitleavenworthks.com)
  2. Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum – Three miles north of Lawton, Oklahoma, the original structures were built by the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. A 2022 walk/run event at the site featured markers with distinguished African Americans like Henry O. Flipper, the first West Point graduate, and Cathay Williams, the only known female Buffalo Soldier.
  3. Fort Concho National Historic Landmark – Located in San Angelo, Texas, it was home to Buffalo Soldiers between 1869 and 1885. Although the post was deactivated in 1889, 24 original and restored structures are on site.
  4. Fort Selden National Historic Site – This U.S. military outpost north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, was abandoned in 1891. The historic site, reestablished in the 1970s, includes Buffalo Soldier, Native American, and Latino heritage. The site is connected to El Camino Real.
  5. Camp Naco and Fort Huachuca – These sites, in the Tucson, Arizona, area and further south, close to the border with Mexico, bore witness to the struggle to secure borders and to the fusion of cultures in the Southwestern U.S. Most of the remaining historical buildings were made of adobe.
  6. Presidio of San Francisco – During the 1898 Spanish American War, thousands of U.S. troops camped at the Presidio while awaiting deployment to the Philippines, including all four Buffalo Soldier regiments. The site has more than 350 buildings of historical significance. It is operated by the National Park Service.

Visit these pages to learn more:

Contact: Raquel Rivas – Public Relations, rrivas@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.426.9783

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