National Buffalo Soldiers Day

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July 28th is National Buffalo Soldiers Day, the holiday celebrating the contributions of some of the earliest African-American troops in the United States military.

These troops served on the Western frontier after the Civil War. They served in a variety of ways including security, law enforcement, and other frontier-specific activities. In 1866, Congress passed legislation known as the Army Organization Act, which formalized the creation of six all-Black U.S. Cavalry and infantry units.

National Buffalo Soldiers Day will be celebrated on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

Who Were The Buffalo Soldiers?
It’s unclear why African-American troops were referred to as Buffalo Soldiers. speculates that it might have something to do with the ferocity and bravery these soldiers displayed in battle or that they often wore robes made from the skin and hair of buffalo to keep warm; other explanations may have less flattering explanations (a reference to hairstyles or aesthetics is one notion) but like so many names and nicknames over history, the term “Buffalo Soldier” transcends its origins and is considered a badge of honor today.

The first troops to be called Buffalo Soldiers were assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment, assembled in 1866 at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. There would be more regiments to come:

9th Cavalry Regiment
10th Cavalry Regiment
24th Infantry Regiment
25th Infantry Regiment
Second 38th Infantry Regiment

Part of understanding the origin story includes knowing that while many African-American regiments assembled and fought during the Civil War, these troops were not formally known as Buffalo Soldiers. That would come post-war after the legislation authorizing the six Black units (mentioned above) was passed.

Some sources report that these troops made a different kind of history. From 1899 and a few years into the 20th Century, these African-American troops served as the earliest park rangers in Sequoia and Yosemite national parks. How early? The National Park Service hadn’t even been created yet.

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