Buffalo soldier

Buffalo Soldiers is a nickname originally applied to the 10th Cavalry, formed on September 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The term came to include the 9th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry, all of which were the first all-black regiments in the regular United States Army.

Missing image
Buffalo Soldier

Their name

The name was given to the 10th Cavalry by the Kiowa, in admiration of their encounters with them in western Kansas. The nickname is believed to be a reference to either

  • their hair, said to resemble the mane of the buffalo, or
  • more general attributes of the buffalo, such as ferocity, strength, and stamina.

Their service

During the Civil War, the US government formed regiments known as the United States Colored Troops, composed of African-American soldiers led by white officers. At the end of the war the army reorganized and authorized the formation of two regiments of black cavalry with the designations 9th and 10th U. S. Cavalry. Two regiments of infantry were formed at the same time. These units were composed of black enlisted men commanded by white officers such as Benjamin Grierson, with a few exceptions including Henry O. Flipper.

From 1866 to the early 1890s these regiments served at a variety of posts in the southwest United States and Great Plains regions. During this period they participated in most of the military campaigns in these areas and earned a distinguished record. Thirteen enlisted men and six officers from these four regiments earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. In addition to the military campaigns, the "Buffalo Soldiers" served a variety of roles along the frontier from building roads to escorting the US mail.

After the Indian Wars ended in the 1890s the regiments continued to serve and participated in the Spanish-American War (including the Battle of San Juan Hill), where five more Medals of Honor were earned. They took part in the 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico and in the Philippine-American War.


The "Buffalo Soldiers" were often confronted with racial prejudice from both other members of the US Army and civilians in the areas in which they were stationed and occasionally responded with violence. Elements of the "Buffalo Soldiers" were involved in racial disturbances in Rio Grande City, Texas in 1899, Brownsville, Texas in 1906, and at Houston, Texas in 1917.

The "Buffalo Soldiers" did not participate as organized units during World War I but experienced non-commissioned officers were provided to other segregated black units for combat service.

Early in the 20th century the "Buffalo Soldiers" found themselves being used more as laborers and service troops rather than active combat units. During World War II the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were disbanded and the soldiers were moved into service oriented units. One of the infantry regiments, the 24th Infantry Regiment, served in combat in the Pacific theater.

Final history

The 24th Infantry Regiment saw combat during the Korean War and was the last segregated regiment to engage in combat. The 24th was deactivated in 1951 and its soldiers were integrated into other units in Korea.

There is a monument to the Buffalo soldiers in the state of Kansas at Fort Leavenworth. Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell was guest speaker for the unveiling in July 1992.



The song "Buffalo Soldiers", co-written by Bob Marley and King Sporty and one of their best known songs, first appeared on 1983's Confrontation. Many Jamaicans, especially Rastafarians like Marley identified with the "Buffalo Soldiers" as an example of prominent black men who performed with honor in a field long dominated by whites.


  • In 2003, a film entitled Buffalo Soldiers was released to some controversy. Based on a 1992 novel of the same name by Robert O'Connor, the story takes place during the Cold War among (white) American soldiers stationed in Germany who sell goods on the black market. Some critics claimed the movie tarnished the reputation of the original group.

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