Buffalo Soldiers: History & Facts

Instructor: Brian Muhammad
African-Americans have fought in military conflicts since 1777. However, the Buffalo Soldiers, compromised of former slaves, freemen, and black Civil War soldiers, were the first to serve during peacetime.


In 1866 and 1867, Congress organized four African-American regiments in the U.S. Calvary, known as the Ninth, Tenth, Twenty-Fourth, and Twenty-Fifth Infantry Regiments. These regiments saw duty against the Indian Nations. The Native Americans had such great respect for the fighting abilities of black soldiers, they called them Buffalo Soldiers. The brave nature of the soldiers reminded the Native Americans of the way buffalo fought.

Buffalo Soldiers
Buffalo Soldiers

History of the Buffalo Soldiers

During the Westward Movement, which lasted from 1807-1912, Buffalo Soldiers of the U.S. Army were prominent among those blazing trails of the Wild West. These African-Americans were charged with and responsible for escorting settlers, cattle herds, and railroad crews. The Ninth and Tenth Cavalry Regiments also conducted campaigns against American Indian tribes on a western frontier that extended from Montana in the Northwest to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona in the Southwest.

Throughout the era of the Indian Wars, approximately 20% of the U.S. Cavalry troopers were black, and they fought in over 177 engagements. The combat prowess, bravery, and tenacity inspired the Indians to call them Buffalo Soldiers. Buffalo Soldiers, down through the years, have worn the name with pride.

Buffalo Soldiers participated in many other military campaigns, including the Civil War, Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War.

Civil War

Soldiers during the Civil War
Civil War

The Civil War officially began in 1861, when the Confederate Army attacked Fort Sumter. Though they were initially barred from fighting for either Union or Confederate forces, the Buffalo Soldiers ended up playing a pivotal role in the conflict. Due to military setbacks and fear that the North could lose the war, black soldiers were eventually allowed to fight for the Union army when Congress passed the Militia Act of 1862.

During the Civil War, black soldiers did so well they were used more by the Union Army. In total, some 180,000 black soldiers served in the Union army during the Civil War.

Indian Wars

Soldiers during the Indian Wars
Indian Wars

The Buffalo Soldiers also served in the Indian Wars, which occurred intermittently between 1622 and 1924. Buffalo Soldiers fought on the Plains (Wyoming) and in the Southwest (Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, and Arkansas). They often distinguished themselves in spite of old horses, meager ammunition, and faulty equipment. As prospectors and settlers moved into the Southwest, the black regiments were right beside them. They had to fight against outlaws and Apaches.

In 1886, during the Apache Wars, the Tenth Regiment pursued Geronimo into the Pinito Mountains of Mexico. In addition to controlling the Indians of the Plains and Southwest, the soldiers built roads and policed cattle rustlers.

Spanish-American War

Soldiers during the Spanish-American War
Spanish American War

The Spanish-American War lasted for three months in the summer of 1898. It ended up being one of the last wars the Buffalo Soldiers would participate in, and the war that would finally bestow them with much of the recognition they deserved.

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