Tag Archives: buffalo soldiers

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

120 years ago today, the rest of the picture

Source Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, via 1898-07-03 Harper’s Weekly.

Here we see a group of U.S Army victors on Kettle Hill on about July 3, 1898, after the battle of “San Juan Hill(s).” Left to right are officers and men of the vaunted “Brave Rifles” of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry Regiment, center is the “Rough Riders” of the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (with former Asst. Scty of the Navy, Col. Theodore Roosevelt, center, with a revolver salvaged from the USS Maine in his holster) and the African-American Troopers (“Buffalo Soldiers”) of the 10th U.S. Cavalry to the right.

This photo is often shown cropping out all but the 1st Vol Cav and TR and billed as “Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan.”

 

US PUNITIVE EXPEDITION, 1916, uniforms

Click to big up

Click to big up

1st Lieutenant, 7th Cavalry Regiment

This figure wears a typical uniform for US officers during the border fighting. The M1911 “olive drab” Montana-peaked hat has officers’ black and gold cords with two acorn tassels. His wool pullover campaign shirt in a similar shade has four dark brown buttons on the placket, and bears his rank bars on the collar; he chooses not to wear the black necktie. His wool riding trousers are a rather darker “olive drab” shade. He is armed with a .45 cal Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol in a cavalry-type swiveling russet brown holster with “US” embossed on the flap, and secured by a long khaki lanyard looped diagonally around his torso. The M1912 belt also supports a double pistol magazine pouch, and is itself supported by a pair of leather suspenders.

Dispatch rider, 1st Provisional Motorcycle Company

The motorcyclist wears an M1911 olive drab knit wool service sweater with two open hip pockets, worn over the soldier’s campaign shirt and cavalry-style wool trousers. Bandanas were often sported by American soldiers. His goggles are commercially manufactured – the US Army never issued them for Mexican border service. His equipment is limited to the M1910 cartridge belt, leather cavalry-style gloves, and cavalry brown leather leggings worn over the russet brown shoes. Slung across his back is his M1903 Springfield, and on his right hip a non-regulation early model dispatch case of olive drab canvas. His mount is an early Harley-Davidson; the Army began using motorcycles as early as 1913, and in 1916 the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company’s product became the vehicle of choice during the pursuit of Pancho Villa. By 1917 roughly one-third of all Harley-Davidsons produced were sold to the US military. In the background is a US/Mexican border marker.

Sergeant, 24th Infantry Regiment

This NCO from the African-American US 24th Infantry wears the M1911 Montana-peak hat with light blue infantry cords, a well-worn OD campaign shirt, wool trousers and laced khaki canvas leggings, with the M1910 pack, cartridge belt and first aid pouch. The bayonet for his M1903 Springfield is carried in a scabbard covered with canvas and a leather chape. He is drinking from his M1910 aluminum canteen. In the foreground is the M1909 Benet-Mercie machine rifle, which made its combat debut with the US Cavalry during Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico.
-Hattip (Stephen Walsh)

1916 villa expedition