On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers
Take a road trip following in the footsteps of the Civil War's black enlisted men.
Fort Naco, Tucson, Ariz.
From Texas, some of the soldiers migrated west to Fort Naco. It served as home to the ninth and 10th Cavalries for a number of years. The Arizona Buffalo Soldiers Association website reports that it "is the last of twelve border forts that extended from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California. These forts guarded the U.S. and Mexico border in the early 1900s. Pancho Villa, Black Jack Pershing, Geronimo, Charles Young … Henry Flipper and the Buffalo Soldiers all roamed the border. These forts were established to bring order to the U.S.- Mexico border." Click here for more information.
Fort McCrae and Fort Selden, N.M.
Continue west to New Mexico, where, according to the New Mexico Office of the State Historian, buffalo soldiers were a mainstay at Fort McCrae and Fort Selden for a number of years. The National Park Service's website reports the following: "At Fort McCrae, for instance, Black soldiers built several new buildings, put a new roof on the hospital, and made 25,000 adobe bricks for new officers' quarters, which they also built. They along with other workers constructed the mostly adobe Fort Selden, no doubt under the guidance of Hispanic adobe masons." Unfortunately, only foundation traces remain of Fort McCrae, and it is submerged under a reservoir. Click above for more information about Fort Selden.
Yosemite and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California
Buffalo soldiers are perhaps best known for the conflicts in what eventually became known as Yosemite and Sequoia & Kings Canyon national parks, where they spent their time patrolling challenging terrain, providing sentinels and security for the settlers, building roads and installing telegraph lines, according to the National Park Service.
"They also spent endless hours on the necessary military tasks of drills, inspections, parades, and the care and maintenance of their horses and equipment," according to the park service website. "The troopers faced a mix of danger and boredom accentuated by rigid military discipline. They fought in more than 125 engagements in campaigns against the Cheyenne, Apache, Kiowa, Ute, Comanche, and Sioux. The Black regiments were frequently ordered to return hostile tribes to their appointed reservations. A large percentage of the troops had been born into slavery. Some soldiers were Seminole Negroes, whose ancestors had fled slavery and joined Seminole tribes in Florida. These activities involving Native Americans created feelings of moral dilemma and a sense of irony for many of the Black troops."
Lynette Holloway is The Root's Chicago bureau chief.