POZNAN, Poland – With the 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, and the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment deploying to Europe, not many people know about the rich histories of these units and their roles as the original Buffalo Soldier units. July 28th commemorates the formation of the first regular U.S. Army regiments composed of African American Soldiers in 1866.
Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, U.S. Congress authorized the Army to establish Colored Regiments. Among these regiments, the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were established. These units would participate in the westward expansion of the U.S., protecting settlers, establishing forts, and guarding mail routes in this new frontier.
During the Indian Wars, 17 African American Soldiers earned the Medal of Honor for valor in combat. In this conflict, they became known as Buffalo Soldiers. There is some dispute on how this term came to be known. The most known source is that Native Americans referred to them because of their curly, kinky hair that resembled bison fur.
Following the start of the Spanish-American War, the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments left the west and fought in Cuba. In June 1898, they found themselves fighting alongside Col. Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders during the assault of San Juan Hill. During this war, five members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment earned the Medal of Honor.
Members of the 9th Cavalry Regiment also became the first park rangers of what would become the National Park Service, protecting wildlife from poachers and building roads and trails.
After Cuba, the Buffalo Soldiers were sent to the Philippines to quell an insurgency, serving with distinction and seizing the first major stronghold on the island of Luzon. After their return from the Philippines, the 9th and 10th Cavalry remained on the U.S.-Mexico border and participated in General John J. Pershing’s hunt for Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolutionary who attacked a village named Columbus, New Mexico.
The election of President Woodrow Wilson prevented the Buffalo Soldiers from serving in Europe during World War I. However, they still made their presence known, as noncommissioned officers made up the leadership backbone of Black units sent with the American Expeditionary Force.
During the interwar period, the Army turned the 9th and 10th Cavalry from combat units into support units.
In 1948, President Harry Truman signed an executive order to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces, allowing African American Soldiers to fight alongside white Soldiers.
Currently, the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments serve as parent regiments to two squadrons deployed to Europe. The 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, under the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, is part of the regular armored brigade combat team in Poland, and the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment under the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, an additional armored brigade combat team deployed in Germany.