For more than a hundred years, the role of the Buffalo Soldiers--the U.S. Army's African American regiment--has been virtually invisible in historical accounts of the period. Although African Americans have fought in American conflicts since before the Revolutionary War, the Buffalo Soldier regiments were the first authorized to serve in the army during peacetime.
In 1866, after the Civil War, Congress authorized the creation of six all-black regiments--two cavalry and four infantry. The Buffalo Soldiers often received inferior uniforms, military equipment, and horses, and they routinely confronted extreme discrimination. They could not stay in many of the towns they guarded and were not allowed in the parade field at the same time as the other troops.
The Ninth Cavalry was established at Greenville, LA, and the Tenth Cavalry at Fort Leavenworth, KS. Infantry regiments initially designated as the Thirty-eighth, Thirty-ninth, Fortieth, and Forty-first were merged in 1869 into the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantries. These former slaves, veterans of the Civil War, and black freemen distinguished themselves for the next several decades and became some of the most decorated U.S. military regiments of all time.
Eighteen black soldiers received the Medal of Honor, and the units had the lowest desertion rate of any army unit from 1867 to 1898. Although there are many theories about how the Buffalo Soldiers won their name, the most enduring suggests that it was given to them by Native Americans because of their bravery and courage on the battlefield.
The Buffalo Soldiers accepted the name as a compliment, and the buffalo symbol was included on the regimental crest of the Tenth Cavalry. In addition to fighting in the Indian Wars and the Spanish-American War, Buffalo Soldiers also participated in several other military campaigns, including those during the Philippine insurrection, the Mexican expedition, the two world wars, and the Korean War. They rescued Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and participated in the pursuit of Pancho Villa in Mexico.