Remembering Buffalo Soldier Day

By Maj. Chase Spears, Combined Arms Center Public AffairsJuly 27, 2021

Buffalo Soldiers
Panoramic photograph, 68th anniversary of the 10th Cavalry, Fort Leavenworth, 1935. Frontier Army Museum collection. (Photo Credit: Frontier Army Museum collection) VIEW ORIGINAL

On July 24, 1992, President George H. W. Bush proclaimed that July 28 will be known as Buffalo Soldier Day. This date memorializes the action taken by Congress on July 28, 1866 to establish the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, and the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry Regiments. In his proclamation, President Bush said “Despite suffering the discrimination and the injustice that plagued all black Americans during the days of segregation, the members of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments served with pride and distinction.”

One of these regiments was activated on Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the 10th Cavalry Regiment. Its soldiers soon moved west and served across the Great Plains, as well as the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. These soldiers are perhaps best known for their charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. Most of those recruited to the 10th Cavalry came from the north, cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburg. Of these, eight of them were decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Buffalo Soldier regiments were activated in Greenville, La. and Fort Leavenworth, units in which African American ex-slave, former Civil War Soldiers and free men could permanently defend the nation in military service. These Americans played a key role in the westward expansion of the United States, protecting settlers, fighting in combat operations and building much of the needed infrastructure for the expanding republic. Buffalo Soldiers were also among the first to serve as rangers in America’s national parks. Over 180,000 Buffalo Soldiers served in the Army up through the time that the armed forced integrated in 1952. They were said to have fought with the strength and fierceness of buffalos, by Cheyenne warriors who were witness to their actions, thus their namesake as Buffalo Soldiers.

In 1992, Gen. Colin Powell, then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dedicated the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area on Fort Leavenworth. “Look at this statue, look at him. Imagine him in his coat of blue, on his horse, soldier of the nation, eagles on his buttons, crossed sabers on his canteen, a rifle in his hand, pistol on his hip, courageous iron will. He was every bit the soldier that his white brother was. He showed that the theory of inequality must be wrong. He could not be denied his rights.” Powell concluded “The soldier you see here represents all of our beloved America, what we were in the past, what we are now, and most important of all what we can be, what we must be tomorrow.”