Group shares his­tory of Buf­falo Sol­diers with Stod­dert stu­dents

African-Amer­i­can mil­i­tary units helped drive west­ward ex­pan­sion

Maryland Independent - - News - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twitter: @JamieACIndyNews

The role of African-Ameri- can mil­i­tary units in the post Civil War west­ward ex­pan- sion is a his­tory that doesn’t get enough at­ten­tion, said Hardrick Craw­ford.

As a mem­ber of the Na- tional 9th and 10th Caval- ry As­so­ci­a­tion, Greater Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Chap- ter, a non­profit or­ga­niza- tion that helps per­pet­u­ate the mem­ory of the his­tory and ac­com­plish­ments of “Buf­falo Sol­diers,” seg- re­gated units of African Amer­i­can sol­diers, Craw- ford works to share that his­tory.

Craw­ford and his fel­low as­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers Paul Lan­caster and Lynn Hill, dressed in the uni­forms of the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry, spoke to stu­dents at Ben­jamin Stod­dert Mid- dle School last week.

“We spend a lot of time in schools, we spend a lot of time in black churches,” Craw­ford said. “We tell them the his­tory of those black sol­diers, those he­roes, and also their white of­fi­cers.”

Af­ter the Civil War, the U.S. gov­ern­ment wished to send mil­i­tary units west to sup­port the west­ward ex­pan­sion, as part of the phi­los­o­phy of “Man­i­fest Des­tiny” — the be­lief that Amer­ica was des­tined as a na­tion to stretch from the At­lantic Ocean to the Pa- cific Ocean.

“What it re­ally meant was the white man was tak­ing land away from the Na­tive Amer­i­cans,” Craw- ford said.

Although African Amer- ican mil­i­tary units were formed dur­ing the Civil War, they were dis­banded af­ter­wards, and the for­mer Con­fed­er­ate states balked at the cre­ation of new units com­prised of for­mer slaves, Craw­ford said. A com­pro­mise agree­ment was reached whereby the African Amer­i­can units would never serve east of the Mis­sis­sippi River.

“Down south, where Jim Crow was start­ing, and the Ku Klux Klan was start­ing, they did not want a bunch of armed black men, so they made them go out west,” Craw­ford said.

Ac­counts dif­fer as to how the sol­diers ac­quired the name “Buf­falo Sol­diers,” a moniker given to them by their Na­tive Amer­i­can foes.

“Some said it was be- cause they fought fiercely, even when sur­rounded. Oth­ers say it was be­cause their skin was dark like the buf­falo; their hair was curly, like the buf­falo,” Craw­ford said. “Re­gard­less, we know that it was praise, it was not deroga­tory.”

There were no African Amer­i­can of­fi­cers in the U.S. Army at that time, and so the 9th and 10th Cavalry units were com- manded by white of­fi­cers.

“White of­fi­cers who fin- ished last in their class got as­signed to the Buf­falo Sol­diers,” Craw­ford said.

Despite the seg­re­ga­tion of the time, Craw­ford said many African Amer­i­cans wanted to join the Buf­falo Sol­diers.

“They were for­mer slaves. They were treated like crap, but they joined the Army. Why did they do that? Be­cause they got re­spect,” Craw­ford said.

Craw­ford, Lan­caster and Hill in­tro­duced Stod­dert stu­dents to the equip­ment of the early Buf­falo Sol- diers: sabers, gauntlets, great­coats, ri­fles, pis­tols and hard­tack, a hard bis- cuit com­prised of flour, salt and wa­ter.

Although they orig­i­nated in the “In­dian Wars” of the late 1800s, seg­re­gated units of African Amer­i­cans con­tin­ued to be called “Buf­falo Sol­diers” un­til the Korean War, when the last seg­re­gated units were in­te­grated.

Despite their long and distin­guished his­tory, Craw­ford said most peo­ple don’t know about the Buf­falo Sol­diers, and their bat­tles in the late 1800s are rarely dis­cussed.

“I think the rea­son is Amer­ica is re­ally ashamed of what we did in the In­dian Wars, and so we don’t talk about it,” Craw­ford said.

Hardrick Craw­ford of the Greater Wash­ing­ton D.C. Chap­ter of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry As­so­ci­a­tion shows a replica of a pis­tol used by “Buf­falo Sol­diers” in the late 1800s to stu­dents at Ben­jamin Stod­dert Mid­dle School.

Hardrick Craw­ford of the Greater Wash­ing­ton D.C. Chap­ter of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry As­so­ci­a­tion shows re-cre­ation pic­tures of “Buf­falo Sol­diers,” African Amer­i­can units that helped drive west­ward ex­pan­sion in the late 19th Cen­tury, to Ben­jamin Stod­dert Mid­dle School stu­dents. STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Lynn Hill, Paul Lan­caster and Hardrick Craw­ford of the Greater Wash­ing­ton D.C. Chap­ter of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry As­so­ci­a­tion show replica gauntlets worn by Buf­falo Sol­diers in the late 1800s in a pre­sen­ta­tion to Ben­jamin Stod­dert Mid­dle School stu­dents Feb. 28.

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