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BUFFALO SOLDIERS

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Buffalo Soldiers originally were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the “Negro Cavalry” by the Native American tribes they fought; the term eventually became synonymous with all of the African American regiments formed in 1866: 9th Cavalry Regiment 10th Cavalry Regiment 24th Infantry Regiment 25th Infantry Regiment Although several African American regiments were raised during the Civil War as part of the Union Army (including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the many United States Colored Troops Regiments), the “Buffalo Soldiers” were established by Congress as the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U.S. Army. On September 6, 2005, Mark Matthews, who was the oldest living Buffalo Soldier, died at the age of 111. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In the late 1800s, one inescapable fact of life on the Great Plains was the clash between the U.S. Army and the Native Americans. Among the army units sent to serve in “Indian Country” were four all-black units: two infantry (foot soldiers) and two cavalry (horsemen). The Civil War had been the first time in the nation’s history that African-Americans had been allowed to serve in the U.S. military. After the war, many newly freed blacks joined the army. They fought the same battles as other frontier soldiers usually against Indians or Mexicans. The courage and skill of the all-black Plains units soon won them recognition and respect. In fact, the Native Americans so respected their African-American foes that they nicknamed the black units “the Buffalo Soldiers.” That was a great compliment, because the Indians held the buffalo in the highest esteem. Image: Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment in 1890 Image: Buffalo Soldier in the 9th Cavalry, 1890 Image: Sgt. John Harris of the 10th U.S. Cavalry with a Sharps rifle, c. 1868.

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