Tag Archives: 10th Cavalry

Buffalo Soldiers Remembered at West Point

Lost in the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 remembrances over the weekend was a small ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy where Gen. (Ret.) Vincent K. Brooks presided over the dedication of a monument honoring the service of the “Buffalo Soldiers” who served for 40 years at West Point.

Founded immediately after the Civil War to take advantage of a pool of over 140,000 surviving members of the segregated wartime USCT, which had been disbanded on October 1865, the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiments, along with the four regiments black infantry (the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st– later amalgamated in 1869 to the 24th and 25th Infantry due to service-wide budget cuts) carried the legacy of some 175 regiments of freedmen who fought in the last two years of the War Between the States.

Fighting in virtually every campaign of the Plains Wars in between policing the border regions and patrolling Yosemite National Park in the days before the service’s armed rangers, the Buffalo Soldiers also went overseas to mix it up with the Spaniards in 1898 and serve in the Philippines against assorted insurgents. Notably, five members of the 10th Cavalry earned the Medal of Honor during the Spanish–American War.

The 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry, fighting dismounted in the Battle of Las Guasimas, Cuba, 24 June 1898. Via the LOC LC-DIG-PGA-01889

One of the most unsung duties, at least until this week, that these professional horse soldiers performed, was in providing for the standing United States Military Academy Detachment of Cavalry.

Made up of 100 long-service black non-commissioned officers and senior enlisted who were considered among the best in the Army, the detachment formed 23 March 1907 to teach future officers at West Point riding instruction, mounted drill, and cavalry tactics, a mission they would perform by the numbers until 1947. The cadets who earned their spurs in such drill included George S. Patton Jr., Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Omar N. Bradley.

U.S. Army Photo by John Pellino/USMA PAO

Gifted to the academy by the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, the 10-foot-tall bronze trooper mounted on horseback characterizes the level of horsemanship expertise that was provided to future Army officers. Nationally renowned sculptor Eddie Dixon was commissioned for the piece that bears a likeness to SSG (Ret.) Sanders H. Matthews Sr., a Buffalo Soldier stationed at West Point. Sanders, who founded the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, Inc., worked tirelessly to pay tribute to their memory, and plans to erect the monument have been underway since 2017.

“These Soldiers embodied the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country, and ideals of the Army Ethic,” said the U.S. Military Academy 60th Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams. “This monument will ensure that the legacy of Buffalo Soldiers is enduringly revered, honored, and celebrated while serving as an inspiration for the next generations of cadets.”

U.S. Army Photo by John Pellino/USMA PAO

Deadwood Dressy

Here we see Captain Thomas Coverly Lebo, commander of K Company (troop), 10th Cavalry Regiment, wearing the period U.S. Army officer’s summer dress uniform complete with yellow horse-hair-plumed U.S. Model 1872 dress helmet for cavalry with eagle plate.

Photograph by J. C. H. Grabill, official photographer of the Black Hills & F. P. R. R., & Home Stake Mining Co., Studios, Deadwood and Lead City, South Dakota, taken likely in the summer of 1878.

Note his Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber, possibly the same one he carried in the Civil War as a state volunteer. (Photo: LOC LC-DIG-ppmsca-11356)

As noted by Carlsbad Caverns National Park:

In 1878, Captain Thomas Lebo and troops of Company K, 10th United States Cavalry (Buffalo soldiers), conducted a scouting expedition from the Fort Davis military post. Coming across the area known as Rattlesnake Springs, he described it as follows.

“Grazing here is very good; wood is very scarce. The spring flows a very large stream of water which runs about one mile nearly due E. (east) and empties into Black River, which at this point is a very large stream (an abundance of small fish).”

Born in Potters Mills, Pennsylvania in 1842, Lebo volunteered for a Keystone State infantry regiment as a private in 1861 during the Civil War then went on to put his ass on a horse by earning a Second Lieutenant spot in Company H of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Wounded at Malvern Hill, he mustered out in 1865 but two years later managed to gain an appointment as a regular army 1st Lieutenant assigned to the 10th Cavalry, where he was promoted to Captain in May 1876.

Lebo fought the Apache extensively during the Indian Wars and was promoted to colonel during the Spanish American War where he was given command of the 14th Cavalry. After commanding the unit in the Philipines, he retired in 1905 and was promoted to a brigadier general on the retired list after 44 years service. He died in 1910 in Illinois and is buried at Oak Woods in Chicago.