We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Was a Buffalo Soldier?

By Rebecca Partington
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
America Explained is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At America Explained, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A buffalo soldier was an African-American serving in one of the U.S. Army's African-American regiments. The term buffalo soldier is derived from an Indian term that described the perceived resemblance between the soldiers' hair and a buffalo's head hair. It is unclear whether the term originated in the Cheyenne, Apache, or Kiowa tribe. It is still a matter of contention whether the Indians meant respect or disrespect by using this term.

The regiments in which the buffalo soldiers served were the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry Regiments. These regiments were created by a reorganization act in 1866, and were meant to recognize African-Americans' contribution in the Civil War. Despite this, the commissioned officers in the buffalo soldier regiments were almost always white, although there were a few black officers such as Henry O. Flipper.

At first, the buffalo soldiers were posted mainly at isolated frontier forts. They were often illiterate due to being former slaves, and their difficulties were not eased by the army's failure to provide them with proper supplies. In addition, they were subjected to much racial hostility and sometimes were even victims of violence from white civilians. In the early 1900s, they were assigned labor and service duties rather than combat duties, which might be interpreted as more discrimination against the buffalo soldier regiments.

They were stationed throughout the Southwestern and Great Plains regions of the United States. The buffalo soldiers were involved in conflicts with hostile Indians, Mexican border skirmishes, the Philippine War, and battles in Cuba, and distinguished themselves many times in battle. Six officers and thirteen of the enlisted soldiers earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. Five more buffalo soldiers earned the Medal of Honor during the Spanish-American War. The buffalo soldier regiments continued to serve until after the Korean War.

The buffalo soldier regiments also served in Yosemite and Sequoia, two of the oldest national parks. One notable buffalo soldier was Captain Charles Young, who was the third black man to graduate from West Point and who, in 1903, began to serve in the 9th Calvary Regiment in Sequoia National Park. In that year he also became the first black superintendent of any American national park.

During his tenure there, the 9th Calvary built the first trail to the top of Mr. Whitney and the first passable wagon road into the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. They also constructed an arboretum, which was the first museum in any American national park. When Young died, he was the highest ranking black soldier in the entire United States military.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon145485 — On Jan 23, 2011

Same here anon. This article was helpful.

By anon107980 — On Sep 01, 2010

I looked this up after listening to Bob Marley. It really helped me. Thanks.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.