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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: Character and characters
In Response To: Re: Character and characters ()

Mr.Powell: To "know"--as in being able to substantiate from the record vs to "assume"-as in making the best possible guess from the available information.

Yes, I think it is a fair assumption that black regulars were aware of and used the term buffalo soldiers. Also, I don't think they would have been ashamed of the term.

But, to repeat, I have seen nothing in the record to show that a black soldier, serving or retired, ever used the term in "recorded" (here I mean written) or published form prior to Ruben Waller in l929/30. But I will quickly add, that this "record" is not extensive: almost no first person narratives, only a very few letters published in black newspapers or such sources as the Army and Navy Journal. But as Mr. McRae posted, he has not found the term used in his examination of numerous medical, penision service records of black regulars. Harold Sayre didn't find it either. Frank Schubert didn't find it and I and my co-author, William Dobak, did not find it. And all of us have looked real hard. Most recently, I did not find the term once in the 20-year run of Winners of the West.

My thoughts: I know the term was used enough in the press (national. regional and local--see my upcoming postings on this)that black regulars, and I believe especially some of their officers, came to adopt and accept the term--but it seems this did not occur until sometime after l900. The image of the bison does become part of the l0th Cav regimental crest in l9l0-ll, but what we do not know is how this symbol was adopted. But there may be a clue in Nankivell's history of the 25th Infantry. Sometime in the early l920's he writes [he was then a Capt in this regt} that he and several olther officers were assigned the task of developing a regimental crest and coat of arms. Nankivell's text leaves me with the impression that enlisted soliders were not consulted. Perhaps the same thing happened in the l0th cav.

Exit thoughts: the absence of documented evidence that black regulars used the term "buffalo soldiers" does not mean that we cannot fairly assume they knew of and used the term. But we can only assume--so far we can not know. Just like we can assume, based on discovered documents, that Cathy Williams may have served in the 38th Infantry-but so far I have seen no proof that she did. Again, we can assume, but to date we can not know. Ooooops, did I just open another can of worms?

Tom Phillips

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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