Picture12Park rangers.  Another little-known contribution of the Buffalo Soldiers involved eight troops of the 9th Cavalry Regiment and one company of the 24th Infantry Regiment who served in California’s Sierra Nevada as some of the first national park rangers. In 1899, Buffalo Soldiers from Company H, 24th Infantry Regiment briefly served in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and General Grant (Kings Canyon) National Parks.  U.S. Army regiments had been serving in these national parks since 1891, but until 1899 the soldiers serving were white. Beginning in 1899, and continuing in 1903 and 1904, African-American regiments served during the summer months in the second and third oldest national parks in the United States (Sequoia and Yosemite). Because these soldiers served before the National Park Service was created (1916), they were “park rangers” before the term was coined.  A lasting legacy of the soldiers as park rangers is the Ranger Hat (popularly known as the Smokey Bear Hat). Although not officially adopted by the Army until 1911, the distinctive hat crease, called a Montana Peak, (or pinch) can be seen being worn by several of the Buffalo Soldiers in park photographs dating back to 1899. Soldiers serving in the Spanish American War began to recrease the Stetson hat with a Montana “pinch” to better shed water from the torrential tropical rains. Many retained that distinctive “pinch” upon their return to the U.S. The park photographs, in all likelihood, show Buffalo Soldiers who were veterans from that 1898 war.
One particular Buffalo Soldier stands out in history: Captain Charles Young who served with Troop “I”, 9th Cavalry Regiment in Sequoia National Park during the summer of 1903. Charles Young was the third African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy. At the time of his death, he was the highest ranking African American in the U.S. military. He made history in Sequoia National Park in 1903 by becoming Acting Military Superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant National Parks. Charles Young was also the first African-American superintendent of a national park. During Young’s tenure in the park, he named a Giant Sequoia for Booker T. Washington. Recently, another Giant Sequoia in Giant Forest was named in Captain Young’s honor.

Picture11Buffalo Soldier name. The following story is one of many how the Buffalo Soldiers got their name. In September 1867, Private John Randall of Troop G of the 10th Cavalry Regiment was assigned to escort two civilians on a hunting trip. A band of 70 Cheyenne warriors swept down on them. The two civilians quickly fell in the initial attack and Randall’s horse was shot out from beneath him. Randall scrambled to safety behind a washout under the railroad tracks, where he fended off the attack with only his pistol until help from the nearby camp arrived. The Indians quickly retreated, leaving behind 13 dead warriors. Private Randall suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and 11 lance wounds, but recovered. The Cheyenne quickly spread word of this new type of soldier, “who had fought like a cornered buffalo; who like a buffalo had suffered wound after wound, yet had not died; and who like a buffalo had a thick and shaggy mane of hair.”

Picture9Kettle Hill was a smaller part of the San Juan Heights with San Juan Hill and its main blockhouses being the highest point with a dip or draw in between the two hills on a north-south axis. Elements of Conley’s 10th Cavalry (“black” regulars) took Kettle Hill on the American right with assistance from Col. Theodore Roosevelt’s 1st Volunteer Cavalry (Rough Riders) and the entire 3rd Cavalry (“white” regulars). Most of the 10th supported by elements of the 24th and 25th colored infantry on the left took San Juan Hill.

The 10th had held the center position between the two hills and when they went forward they split toward the tops of the two hills. Lieutenant Ord started the regulars forward on the American left and Roosevelt claimed he started the charge on the right. Retreating Spanish troops withdrew toward San Juan Hill still being contested. The regulars fired toward them and supported their comrades fighting on the adjacent hill. A legend was started that the Rough Riders alone took Kettle Hill, but this is not true. Sergeant George Berry (10th Cavalry) took his unit colors and that of the 3rd Cavalry to the top of Kettle Hill before the Rough Rider’s flag arrived. This is supported in the writings of John Pershing who fought with Sergeant Conley and the 10th on Kettle Hill and later led the American Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

Picture4Buffalo Soldiers originally were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the “Negro Cavalry” by the Native American tribes they fought; the term eventually became synonymous with all of the African-American regiments formed in 1866: 9th Cavalry Regiment,
10th Cavalry Regiment,  24th Infantry Regiment,  25th Infantry Regiment.   Although several African-American regiments were raised during the Civil War as part of the Union Army (including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the many United States Colored Troops Regiments), the “Buffalo Soldiers” were established by Congress as the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U.S. Army. On September 6, 2005, Mark Matthews, who was the oldest living Buffalo Soldier, died at the age of 111. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Picture3Tired and hungry, their bright blue Army-issue blouses tattered and wet from rain and snow, the men of the 25th Infantry Regiment reached Alliance, Nebraska, on July 4, 1897. They had covered 1,000 miles in 21 days, having mastered the Rockies, crossed the Yellowstone and Little Bighorn rivers and surmounted drifts of hail said to be “fully 8 feet high.” The 20 buffalo soldiers, led by Second Lieutenant James A. Moss, still had another 900 miles to go, including a grueling 200-mile trek through Nebraska’s notorious sand hills. Each man carried his own rations, cooking utensils, blanket, tent and other necessities rarely toted by soldiers in the American West—extra parts for needed repairs and spare tires. Yes, tires, because these St. Louis–bound soldiers from Fort Missoula, Montana, were sitting tall on bicycle seats not saddles. The 25th was one of four regiments of black soldiers enacted by Congress in 1866 and led by white officers.

The U.S. Army had established Fort Missoula (now part of the city of Missoula) in 1877, and the men of the 25th first arrived there in May 1888. Eight years later Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles gave Lieutenant Moss—sanguine in his view of modernizing the Army—permission to organize the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps to test the practicality of the bicycle for military use in mountainous country. Moss, a Louisiana native and West Point graduate, wanted to show that cycling was faster than marching and cheaper than traveling on horseback. In early August 1896 he and eight volunteers, including trusted Sergeant Mingo Sanders, made their first excursion, pedaling north to McDonald Lake in the Mission Mountains—a four-day, 126-mile round-trip. Later that summer Moss led a 23-day, 800-mile bicycle trek from Fort Missoula to Yellowstone National Park and back again.

Picture2a 54th Regiment and Fort Wagner, SC. The most famous regiment to fight for the Union in the battle of Fort Wagner, SC was the 54th Regiment, which was one of the first African-American regiments in the war. The 54th was controversial in the North, where many people supported the abolition of slavery, but still treated African-Americans as lesser or inferior to whites, and would do so well past World War II. Though some claimed blacks could not fight as well as whites, the actions of the 54th Massachusetts demonstrated once again the fallacy in that argument, as this was not the first time blacks ever fought in war or even for the United States. Many blacks had fought in the American Revolution on both sides and again in the War of 1812, as well as in over 250 slave revolts in the United States alone.
William Carney, an African-American and a sergeant with the 54th, is considered the first black recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions at Fort Wagner in recovering and returning the unit’s U.S. Flag to Union lines. After the battle, the Southern soldiers buried the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, in a mass grave with the African-American soldiers of his regiment. Some viewed this as an insult to him. Instead, his family thanked the Southern soldiers for burying Shaw with his men. That site is no longer visible; the land has eroded into Charleston harbor, and the remains of Colonel Shaw and his men have been washed out to sea be erosion to Morris Island by Atlantic hurricanes.
NOTE: This fort played a major part in the film ‘Glory.’ One of final scene in the movie portrays Col Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts storming the fort unsuccessfully.

Club Officers

Smoke – President

Smoke – President

Robert “Smoke” Howard, Full Member
Curly – Vice President

Curly – Vice President

Thomas “Curly” Dodson, Full Member
Smokey Joe – Treasurer

Smokey Joe – Treasurer

Joe “Smokey Joe” Sutton,  Full Member
First Class – Sgt of Arms

First Class – Sgt of Arms

Jerome “First Class” Shaw,  Full Member
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