Who are the Buffalo Soldiers?

The Buffalo Soldiers initially were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, first formed in 1866 during the Indian Wars, but soon encapsulated other Cavalry Regiments: 9th, 24th, and 25th.

After participation in military campaigns such as the Philippine-American War, the Mexican Expedition and the Spanish-American War, members of the 9th and 24th Cavalry Regiments served in national parks and formed the model of the “park rangers” that would later emerge with the creation of the National Park Service.

Here are some more details about the Regiments that served in Yosemite, Sequoia and now Kings National Parks:

8 Facts About the Buffalo Soldiers

  • The Buffalo Soldiers were based in the Presidio of San Francisco. They traveled to Yosemite, Sequoia and General Grant (now Kings) National Parks in 1899, 1903 and 1904.
  • As the first “park rangers” in the country, the soldiers constructed roads and trails for wagons and travelers. Plus they protected the lands from poachers and wood thieves.
  • Built the Wawona arboretum in Yosemite, by the South Fork of the Merced River, in 1904.
  • Colonel Charles Young, one of the most prominent Buffalo Soldier leaders, managed the construction of the first wagon trail to the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. Then he extended the path past Moro Rock and finished by building the first trail to the top of Mount Whitney.
  • The name “Buffalo Soldiers” originated from the Cheyenne tribe, whom they fought against during the Indian Wars. Members of the Native American group gave the name as a term of endearment and respect due to the soldiers’ fighting spirit.
  • The Ranger hat is a lasting legacy of Buffalo Soldiers who served in the Spanish-American War. It features a distinctive crease that’s called a pinch, or a “Montana peak” and serves to shed water from the top of army hats.
  • Mark Matthews was the oldest known Buffalo Soldier, who died in 2005 at 111 years old.
  • Cathay Williams was the only known female among the Buffalo Soldiers cavalries. Due to the restrictions of females serving in the military, she posed in the army as a man using the pseudonym “William Cathay.” A surgeon discovered that she was a woman and later faced dischargement.

Want to learn more about the Buffalo Soldiers?

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