AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive
BUFFALO SOLDIERS ON THE WESTERN FRONTIER
Over the years and on many occasions I have heard many comments about the Buffalo Soldiers getting the worse food, equipment and horses. A college history professor once told me that when George A. Custerís 7th Cavalry was given new horses, the old horses were turned over to the Buffalo Soldiers.
While attending a Festival a few years ago in Marysville, California, I witnessed an abbreviated interview by three newspaper reporters with a Buffalo Soldier re-enactor. The reporters requested a brief history of the Buffalo Soldiers. The re-enactor went into his tent and came out with a sheet of paper and stated that the Buffalo Soldiers were issued the worse equipment, food and horses plus some other irrelevant remarks. The reporters then turned and walked away.
If these soldiers received the worst of everything, I have often wondered how did they survive on the wild and desolate Western Frontier for 32 years. I do not think the troopers would have survived one day or been effective at all in their relentless pursuits and encounters in the Guadalupe and San Andres Mountains of New Mexico to the Staked Plains of Texas, especially against Victorio and his Mescalero Apaches, Juh and Geronimo and their Chiricahuas, and other great warriors, if they had been mounted on worn out horses and used bad equipment. The records show they were very effective.
It is hard to believe a unit, 9th Cavalry, with inferior horses and equipment would have been ordered to intercede and assist law enforcement agencies during the Colfax and Lincoln Counties Wars in New Mexico Ė disputes and encounters between white settlers.
Another incident occurred in the Dakotas during the cold and harsh winter of 1890. Major Guy Henry and elements of the Ninth Cavalry went on a fifty mile march in search for Big Foot, an associate of Sitting Bull. Shortly after arriving back from another fifty mile scout through the badlands, Major Henry received orders via a courier from Brigadier General John R. Brooke, commander, Department of the Platte to proceed immediately to Pine Ridge. The command set out in extremely cold weather and arrived in the vicinity of Pine Ridge after traveling one hundred miles in a single day. After only two hours of sleep the four companies under Major Henryís command proceeded toward Drexel Mission and rescued Colonel James W. Forsyth and eight companies of the 7th Cavalry where they had been trapped and surrounded in a narrow valley with steep bluffs. This mission certainly could not have been accomplished with worn out horses and bad equipment.
There were many other incidents too numerous to mention in this space.
BACK TO TEXAS --- During the early years of western expansion the supply depot was located at San Antonio, Texas. Supplies (food, clothing, equipment, etc.) were loaded on one hundred to one hundred and fifty wagons destined for the numerous outposts in west Texas. It took weeks for the supply wagons reach the Forts, and many times bugs were in the flower and other food items had spoiled, especially during the summer months. Many wagons never arrived due to adverse weather, and raids by Indians, renegades and outlaws.
It is a fact racism and prejudice were intense toward the black soldiers, however, I do not believe the Army would have gone through the supplies at the depot at San Antonio sorted out and shipped the bad supplies to the black soldiers and the good supplies to the white soldiers. It was a matter of distances and logistics. I have a friend, a highly credible researcher, who viewed documents on file at Fort Davis, Texas showing where the Army had delivered brand new saddles, boots, and other items to the black soldiers stationed at the Fort.
Remember, it was the commanderís responsibility to carry out the assigned mission. Colonels Edward Hatch and Benjamin Grierson, commanders of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, two of the finest Union Army cavalry commanders in the South during the Civil War, would have resigned if they had thought the Army was deliberately supplying their troopers with worn out horses and equipment.
Scholars, historians, researchers, history enthusiasts and others should get their act together in one big room, reconcile their differences, and review the history of the West so it can be told the way it should be. It is time to put an end to all this nonsense before the credibility of the history of the black soldiers disappears forever.
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