Black Cavalry in the West

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BLACK CAVALRY IN THE WEST. Established by an act of Congress in 1866, the African American cavalry serving the American West consisted of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry regiments. T heir service covered the expanses of Kansas, Texas, Indian Territory, Nebraska, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and the frigid plains of the Dakotas. Twenty-one Medals of Honor decorated the uniforms of black cavalrymen, and many commendations for valor were conferred upon individual soldiers. As a title of respect, these troopers were called "Buffalo Soldiers" by the Indians, supposedly because they saw a similarity between the hair of the black troopers and that of the buffalo, their sacred animal of the plains.

During their twenty-five years of service, the black cavalrymen fought Indians, bandits, horse thieves, and Mexican revolutionaries. The Ninth Cavalry was ordered into Texas in 1867, where it spent eight years along the Rio Grande housed in run-down posts and serving under the most trying of conditions. In 1881 the Ninth was assigned to duty in Kansas and in Indian Territory. Its task was to keep the "Boomer" settlers out of Indian country. After four years, the Ninth was transferred to Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. It participated in the Pine Ridge campaign, helping to quell the last major Indian uprising.

The Tenth Cavalry was assigned to Texas in 1875, after the Ninth received orders to go to New Mexico. It remained along the Rio Grande, taking an active role in running the Apache warrior Victorio back into Mexico. Ten years later, in 1885, the regiment was sent to Arizona to participate in the campaign against Geronimo. Its final achievement was the capture of the Apache chief Mangas Coloradas.


Kenner, Charles L. Buffalo Soldiers and Officers of the Ninth Cavalry, 1867–1898: Black and White Together. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.

Kinevan, Marcos E. Frontier Cavalryman: Lieutenant John Bigelow with the Buffalo Soldiers in Texas. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1998.

Schubert, Frank N. Black Valor: Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870–1898. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1997.

Arlen L.Fowler


See alsoAfrican Americans ; Army, United States ; Black Infantry in the West .