African American Odyssey Introduction | Overview | Object List | Education Materials

Buffalo Soldiers

What’s the Main Idea?

Object Description

Probing Further

Charles Barthelmess, Buffalo Soldiers, Ft. Keogh, Missouri, 25th Infantry [thirty-eight soldiers wearing buffalo robes], n.d.

What's the Main Idea?

Object Description

The federal government disbanded most of the United States Colored Troops after the Civil War, although some continued to patrol in the West. African Americans had fought as soldiers in the American Revolution and in the Civil War, but it was not until March, 1866, when Congress passed legislation to reorganize the military, that the first enlistment of African Americans into the United States Army was permitted. At that time, six all-black regiments were created: the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st infantries, and the 9th and 10th cavalries. However, by 1869 the four infantries were reduced to two, the 24th and 25th regiments.

This image is of the "Buffalo Soldiers" at Fort Keogh, Missouri, 25th Infantry. These infantrymen escorted western migrants, protected mail and stage routes, and fought in attacks on the Apaches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, and Comanches. The 10th Cavalry is credited with capturing the feared Indian leader, Geronimo, in 1885. The Buffalo Soldiers, as the Native Americans named them, distinguished themselves by earning fourteen Congressional Medal of Honors for their heroic efforts.

Probing Further

  1. Describe what you see in the photograph, Buffalo Soldiers, Ft. Keogh, Missouri, 25th Infantry [thirty-eight soldiers wearing buffalo robes], n.d.

  2. Rayford Logan, a historian who also served in World War I, said that "We Negroes had little, at the turn of the century, to help sustain our faith in ourselves except the pride that we took in the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry." Think about this quote and what you already know about black soldiers gallant service during the Civil War. Blacks were fighting and dying for American ideals of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" yet, in spite of their service, they continued to face injustices. How do you think black soldiers viewed the concept of liberty?

  3. During World War I, African American regiments were typically accompanied by bands, such as the 803rd Pioneer Infantry. This band and others like it performed for entertainment, as well as in ceremonies, such as laying a soldier to rest. As a member of a regiment's band, this was often the only way blacks could serve for their country. Blacks believed in and embraced democracy, and were confident that their support of democracy and the call for duty would be recognized on the home front . Throughout our country's history, African Americans have supported the war effort. Why is this so?


African American Odyssey Introduction | Overview | Object List | Educational Materials
Exhibitions Home Page | Library of Congress Home Page


Library of Congress
Library of Congress Help Desk (12/10/98)