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.
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