Buffalo Soilders: Military Force on the Western Frontier

The late 1800’s and the turn of the 20th century continued to be a difficult time for Blacks in America. Jim Crow laws were being established and enforced throughout the South.  Blacks were slowly being exiled out of society and forced into an oppressive position. Everything slowly and violently became segregated as Whites enforced power and superiority over African Americans. It was a harsh reality to live. While Blacks struggled against opposition and segregation in the South, many men were fighting their own battle in the Western Frontier.  These men were soldiers of the United States Army, paid to defend the US territories in the west and open land, inhabited by Natives, Mexicans, and new settlers. They were protectors of the land, enforcing law and order. Despite their title and training, Blacks soldiers continued to fight discrimination with White soldiers and civilians.

In 1869 the Army Reorganization Act, maintained “four black regiments: the ninth and tenth Calvary Regiments and the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth Infantry Regiments” where more than 12,500 black men served.”[1] Racism and discrimination was dominate throughout this time. As a result, all Black regiments were ordered in the south-west because of the harsh climate, stating that Blacks could better withstand the heat[2]. Not only did they have to suffer through climate and terrain, the Army provided them inadequate resources. They weren’t given adequate food, weapons, or shelter. However, working for the Army may have provided refuge for some men during this era. It was consistent pay and the opportunity to serve their country. Soldiers of the new frontier had a large variety of jobs. Not only did they help build this country, they defended it as well. They were, “guarding stages, stringing telegraph wires, firefighting, building roads, providing escort services, strike breaking, and aiding in calamities.”[3]

The Black soldiers were known as Buffalo Soldiers to the Natives, a name that stuck. The Buffalo soldiers helped both the country and the community. They participated in caravans with settlers, escorting them through violent territories as people continued to expand westward. The soldiers also protected “Kiowa women and children from Texas Ranger.”[4] This instance also reflects the discrimination soldiers faced as they fought to protect the country. In Texas as well as Wyoming, soldiers faced discrimination and racism from the people around them. They participated in combat with Mexican soldiers and Natives, then struggled to gain acceptance from civilians, the Rangers, and their White peers. General Custard himself turned down the opportunity to run a black regiment, citing, “he didn’t want to be associated with an inferior race.”[5] In Wyoming, white settlers wouldn’t allow soldiers to help solve civil disputes and in Texas things “ended in violence as well when Black infantrymen in Houston no longer tolerated vicious white attacks.”[6] From every end soldiers continued to face discrimination. However, allowed to serve the country and fight in the Army gave these men honor and pride, in a time when many others died as a result.

Buffalo Soldiers fought racial battles both on and off the field. They also fought against Natives on the battlefield and on the Western Frontier. For more than a year, in 1879 and 1880, the ninth and tenth regiments fought against Apache Indians across New Mexico and Texas before victory.”[7] In another instance, the soldiers saved a White Infantry in battle with Natives in the Dakotas. Despite their honor and bravery, soldiers could not gain the respect and pride deserved for a soldier served in combat. Others found the irony that black men were sent to fight Natives, as they were used to secure the US territory against them. “Their contributions were significant, their challenges great, and their experiences varied but always tempered by the fact that they were black soldiers in white and red territory.”[8]

The Buffalo Soldiers played a significant impact on American history. It demonstrates the success of black men in the United States Army and protecting the boarders. It also shows a better time for African American men, when in other parts of the country men were being faced with violence and forced to serve whites. During this time, opportunity was limited for African Americans, especially in the south. Although many were faced with this harsh existence, others such as the Buffalo Soldiers were able to find a since of pride and purpose.  These men were given a uniform, decent wage, and a job they served well. “Negros had little at the turn of the century to help sustain our faith in ourselves except the pride we took in the ninth and tenth Calvary and the twenty-fourth and the twenty-fifth Infantry.”[9]

 

Bibliography

Hine, D, W Hine, and S Harrold. The African American Odyssey: Volume II. Boston, Ma:

            Pearson Educational, 2011. 

 

Glasrud, Bruce. “Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Calvary in the West.” Social Science

            Journal. 36. no. 2 (1993): 251-270. 


[1] D Hine, W Hine, and S Harrold, The African American Odessy: Volume II, (Boston, Ma: Pearson Educational, 2011)http://media.pearsoncmg.com/pcp/pls_0558783643/0558783643_chapters/ch15.pdf (accessed August 26, 2012), 15.

[2] D Hine, W Hine, and S Harrold, The African American Odessy: Volume II, (Boston, Ma: Pearson Educational, 2011)http://media.pearsoncmg.com/pcp/pls_0558783643/0558783643_chapters/ch15.pdf (accessed August 26, 2012), 15.

[3] Bruce Glasrud, “Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Calvry in the West,” Social Science Journal, 36, no. 2 (1993): 251-270, http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=9175fdb7-7d6d-4c3f-b6f1-87cb4e59731b@sessionmgr14&vid=1&hid=14&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==

[4] (Hine et al. 2011)

[5] Bruce Glasrud, “Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Calvry in the West,” Social Science Journal, 36, no. 2 (1993): 251-270, http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=9175fdb7-7d6d-4c3f-b6f1-87cb4e59731b@sessionmgr14&vid=1&hid=14&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==

[6] (Glasrud 1993)

[7] D Hine, W Hine, and S Harrold, The African American Odessy: Volume II, (Boston, Ma: Pearson Educational, 2011)http://media.pearsoncmg.com/pcp/pls_0558783643/0558783643_chapters/ch15.pdf (accessed August 26, 2012), 15.

[8] (Glasrud 1993)

[9] Bruce Glasrud, “Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Calvry in the West,” Social Science Journal, 36, no. 2 (1993): 251-270, http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=9175fdb7-7d6d-4c3f-b6f1-87cb4e59731b@sessionmgr14&vid=1&hid=14&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==

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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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