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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Button up your overcoat

Here's all I've found re a possible link between blacks sporting army issue buffalo hide overcoats and the name buffalo soldiers.

I first stumbled across this link in Fairfax Downey's l94l study of the post-Civil War regular force, Indian-Fighting Army. On p 25 Downey explained:

"From their wolly hair and shaggy hide coats they wore on winter campaigns, they were christened "Buffalo Soldiers" by the Indians."

[by the way, despite its age the Downey book is not a bad introduction to the history of the "frontier" army].

I've kept my eyes open for other leads--and here are the two I've found:

Indian Fights and Fighters, by Cyrus Brady, published in l904. During the winter of l890/98l elements of the 9th Cav. were ordered from Ft. McKiney, Wyoming, to take part in what became known as the Ghost Dance-Wounded Kneee Campaign. Brady wrote:

"The Ninth Cavalry was a regiment of Negroes. From the overcoats thery wore in Wyoming in the winter they were called the "Buffalos."

And here's the one I subscribe to:

l9l6:From Deep Woods to Civilization, by Charles Eastman.

Eastman, a Sioux known as Ohiyesa, was a government doctor at the Pine Ridge Reservation, l890-93. Writing about the same winter campaign as Brady, Eastman recorded the arrival of the 9th Cavalry:

"As the cavalry came nearer, we saw that they were colored troopers, wearing buffalo overcoats and muskrat caps; the Indians with their quick wits called them "buffalo soldiers."

As I've already indicated, I'm pretty sure the name buffaslo soldiers was coined by Indians on the Southern Plains sometime in the early l870s--nearly twenty years before the campaign of l890/9l.
Also I am l00% sure that black soldiers were not wearing buffalo overcoats in what is now Oklahoma during the summers of l872 and 73. But I accept the possibility that this name for black troops could have been"invented" at different times and places by different groups of Indians: first most likely by Kiowa and Comanche in the vaninity of Camp Supply and Ft Sill in the early l8070s, and then again two decades later by Indians who first encountered these troops wearing buffalo hide coats during the winter of l890/9l.

Messages In This Thread

Button up your overcoat
Re: Button up your overcoat

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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