Buffalo Soldiers on the Western Frontier
Bennie J. McRae, Jr
The thirty-ninth Congress on July 28, 1866 passed an Act to adjust the military peacetime establishment of the United States military.
Senator Henry Wilson, Massachusetts Republican, sought the inclusion of six African-American regiments in the post Civil War army.
Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio proposed that two of the cavalry regiments should be composed of black enlisted personnel.
After strong opposition, mostly from Democrats, the legislation was passed which provided for the first black contingent in the regular army consisting of six regiments - the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry Regiments.
The 9th Cavalry Regiment was organized on September 21, 1866 at Greenville, Louisiana under the command of Colonel Edward Hatch, and was assigned to the Division of the Gulf under the command of General Phillip Sheridan.
The 10th Cavalry Regiment was organized on September 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas under the command of Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, and assigned to the Military Division of Missouri under the command of General William T. Sherman.
The 38th Infantry Regiment, Colonel William, Commander, and the 41st Infantry Regiment , Colonel Ranald S. MacKenzie, Commander, were organized in 1866 and combined to form the 24th Infantry Regiment in 1869.
The 39th Infantry Regiment and the 40th Infantry Regiments were organized in 1866 and combined to form the 25th Infantry Regiment in 1869.
NOTE: These units made up of black enlisted personnel and white officers were not the first of such units to serve on the Western Frontier. During late 1865 or early 1866 companies from the 57th United States Colored Infantry Regiment (Arkansas) and the 125th United States Colored Infantry Regiment (Kentucky) were assigned to posts in New Mexico to provide protection for white settlers in the area, and escort those going further west. Some of the companies served as mounted infantry.
- Controlled hostile forces
- Escorted wagon trains and stagecoaches
- Built forts and roads
- Installed telegraph lines
- Water holes
- Railroad construction workers
- Horses and cattle
- Protected and escorted
- Mapped areas of uncharted country
Presence of the Buffalo Soldiers and other military units on the Western Frontier discouraged lawlessness among hostile forces and conflicts between unruly white settlers.
- Certain hostile Indian warriors
- Horse thieves and cattle rustlers
- Scheming and murderous politicians
- Greedy land and cattle barons
- Crooked government contractors
- Heartless Indian Agents
- Land-hungry homesteaders
- Mexican revolutionaries
- Train and stagecoach robbers
- Law and Criminal Justice System (Especially in Texas)
- Certain hostile and prejudice commanders
- The Press and sometimes hostile public
The four regiments served on the Western Frontier from 1866 to 1897-98, first in the central and southern plains and later in the northern plains.
During the Spanish-American the four regiments served in Cuba and fought along side Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" and other units.
After the Spanish-American War, elements of the 9th Cavalry and other units were assigned to the Philippines.
The 10th Cavalry Regiment served under John J. "Black Jack" Pershing during the Mexican Expedition.