African Americans who just gained their freedom as a result of the Civil War moved westward in the decades that followed the war in hopes of finding better economic opportunities and being free from racial prejudice. A few of these men joined the United States Army. These men served in the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry, eventually known as the Buffalo Soldiers. The Plains Indians are credited with giving the Buffalo Soldiers their nickname because of the men's fearlessness and the fact that they felt the men's hair resembled the fur between a bison's horns.
The 10th Cavalry Troopers stationed at Fort Sill played a significant role in the fort's development. The duties of the Buffalo Soldiers varied greatly from those of modern Soldiers. On occasions when fighting wasn’t necessary, their patrols would consist of making maps of the surrounding area. They aided in the capture of bandits and cattle rustlers, and they built highways and telegraph lines across vast distances. People often refer to the Buffalo Soldiers as the first American park rangers.
Among the renowned Buffalo Soldiers is Henry Ossian Flipper, an officer at Fort Sill who developed a drainage system to eliminate insect breeding grounds and other sources of malaria. Charles Denton Young, who also fought in the 10th Cavalry, rose to become the highest-ranking black officer in the Army, serving as commander of Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Lastly, we have Cathay Williams, who joined the Army at 17 years old and worked as a cook and washerwoman. Later, Williams enlisted as a man in the U.S. Regular Army for three years under the alias "William Cathay." After she passed the brief medical screening, she was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment where she served bravely.