Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The 9th and 10th Cavalry - Feb. 21st, 2003
Posted on 02/21/2003 5:34:44 AM PST by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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The 10th Cavalry was formed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1866. Very high standards of recruitment were set by the regimental commander and Civil War hero Benjamin Grierson. As a result, recruitment and organization of the unit required slightly over one year. By the end of July 1867 eight companies of enlisted men had been recruited from the Departments of Missouri, Arkansas, and the Platte.
Life at Leavenworth was not pleasant for the 10th. The Fort's commander, who was admittedly opposed to African- Americans serving in the regular army, made life as difficult as he could on the new troopers. Grierson sought to have his regiment transferred, and subsequently received orders moving the regiment to Fort Riley, Kansas later that summer. Within two months of the transfer, the final four companies were in place.
For the next eight years, the 10th was stationed at numerous forts throughout Kansas and Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). They provided guards for workers of the Kansas and Pacific Railroad, strung miles of new telegraph lines, and to a large extent built Fort Sill. Throughout this period, they were constantly patrolling the reservations in an attempt to prevent Indian raids into Texas. In 1867 and 68, the 10th participated in Gen. Sherman's winter campaigns against the Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Comanches. Units of the 10th prevented the Cheyenne from fleeing to the northwest, thus allowing Custer and the 7th Cavalry to defeat them at the decisive battle near Fort Cobb, Indian Territory.
In 1875, the 10th Cavalry moved its headquarters to Fort Concho in west Texas. Other companies were assigned to various forts throughout the area. The regiment's mission in Texas was to protect mail and travel routes, control Indian movements, provide protection from Mexican revolutionaries and outlaws, and to gain a knowledge of the areas terrain. The regiment proved highly successful in completing their mission. The 10th scouted 34,420 miles of uncharted terrain, opened more than 300 miles of new roads, and laid over 200 miles of telegraph lines. The scouting activities took the troops through some of the harshest and most desolate terrain in the nation. These excursions allowed the preparation of excellent maps detailing scarce water holes, mountain passes, and grazing areas that would later allow for settlement of the area. These feats were accomplished while having to be constantly on the alert for hit-and-run raids from the Apaches. The stay in west Texas produced tough soldiers, who became accustomed to surviving in an area that offered few comforts and no luxuries.
The 10th Cavalry played an important role in the 1879-80 campaign against Chief Victorio and his renegade band of Apaches. Victorio and his followers escaped from their New Mexico reservation and wreaked havoc throughout the southwest on their way to Mexico. Col. Grierson and the 10th attempted to prevent Victorio's return to the U.S., and particularly his reaching New Mexico where he could cause additional problems with the Apaches still on the reservations. Grierson, realizing the importance of water in the harsh region, decided the best way to intercept Victorio was to take control of potential water holes along his route.
The campaign called for the biggest military concentration ever assembled in the Trans-Pecos area. Six troops of the 10th Cavalry were assigned to patrol the area from the Van Horn Mountains west to the Quitman Mountains, and north to the Sierra Diablo and Delaware Mountains. Encounters with the Indians usually resulted in skirmishes, however the 10th engaged in major confrontations at Tinaja de las Palmas (a water hole south of Sierra Blanca) and at Rattlesnake Springs (north of Van Horn). These two engagements halted Victorio and forced him to retreat to Mexico. Although Victorio and his band were not captured, the campaign conducted by the 10th was successful in preventing them from reaching New Mexico. The 10th's efforts at containment exhausted the Apaches. Soon after they crossed the border, Victorio and many of his warriors were killed by Mexican troops on October 14, 1880.
The Vittorio episode formed a key part of the TV drama Buffalo Soldiers. We have to tell you that the final scene where Danny Glover deliberately allowed Vittorio and his band to escape to Mexico is not a historical fact. The 10th Cavalry would never let an adversary get away.
In 1885, the regiment was transferred to the Department of Arizona. Once again the 10th was involved in the arduous pursuit of renegade Apaches under the leadership of Geronimo, Mangus, and the Apache Kid.
After twenty years of service in some of the most undesirable posts in the southwest, the regiment, now under the command of Colonel John K. Mizner, was transferred to the Department of Dakota in 1891. The regiment served at various posts in Montana and Dakotas until 1898.
During the Spanish-American the four regiments served in Cuba and fought along side Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" and other units. While Teddy Roosevelt and his highly political volunteers got more press attention, the 10th Cavalry commanded by Col. John J. Pershing was instrumental in taking San Juan Hill. Many white officers refused to command black units thinking it would hurt their careers. Col. Pershing was given the nickname "Black Jack" because of his loyalty to the 10th and its troopers. It could hardly have hurt his career since he went on to command the American Expeditionary Forces in France in WWI and became the most famous American general of the first half of this century.
In 1916 Black Jack Pershing was given the assignment of leading a campaign into Mexico to capture Pancho Villa. Pershing requested that the 10th Cavalry accompany him. The year spent chasing Villa proved to be the 10th Cavalry's toughest assignment. Finding Pancho Villa was like trying to catch a rat in a cornfield. Villa always seemed to stay ahead of the Army and avoid capture.
America's leaders soon lost interest in the Campaign and focused their attention on World War I which was raging in Europe. However the Europeans had been unable to find a use for the Cavalry troops which were already in the theater. The 10th Cavalry spent the war in the United States.
In World War II a similar thing happened to the cavalrymen. The 10th Cavalry was relegated to caretaker duties at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Then in 1944 the 9th and 10th Cavalry were deactivated.
But in 1958 the Ninth and Tenth Regiments were reactivated, and today, the First and Second Tank Battalions of the Tenth Cavalry at Fort Knox, Kentucky wear the Buffalo symbol. The Ninth Cavalry has a helicopter battalion in the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.
NOTE: These units made up of black enlisted personnel and white officers were not the first of such units to serve on the Western Frontier. During late 1865 or early 1866 companies from the 57th United States Colored Infantry Regiment (Arkansas) and the 125th United States Colored Infantry Regiment (Kentucky) were assigned to posts in New Mexico to provide protection for white settlers in the area, and escort those going further west. Some of the companies served as mounted infantry.
Col. Edward Hatch was selected to command the new regiment. Hatch, who was a brevet Major General by the close of the Civil War, was an able and ambitious officer. He served admirably in this position until his death in 1889.
Recruitment of White officers proved to be a serious problem for both the 9th and 10th Cavalries. Despite enticements of fast promotion, many officers, including George Armstrong Custer and Frederick Benteen, refused commissions with African-American units. The following advertisement from the Army and Navy Journal illustrates the dilemma:
"A first Lieutenant of Infantry (white) stationed at a very desirable post.....desires a transfer with an officer of the same grade, on equal terms if in a white regiment; but if in a colored regiment, a reasonable bonus would be expected."
The 9th Cavalry was ordered to Texas in June of 1867. There it was charged with protecting stage and mail routes, building and maintaining forts, and establishing law and order in a vast area full of outlaws, Mexican revolutionaries, and raiding Comanches, Cheyennes, Kiowas, and Apaches. To compound their problems, many Texans felt that they were being subjected to a particularly harsh form of post-war reconstruction by Washington, and saw the assignment of the Black troopers as a deliberate attempt by the Union to further humiliate them. As such, the relationship between the troopers and locals was often at or near the boiling point. Despite prejudice and the almost impossible task of maintaining some semblance of order from the Staked Plains to El Paso to Brownsville, the 9th established themselves as one of the most effective fighting forces in the Army.
The 9th was transferred to the District of New Mexico during the winter and spring of 1875 and 76. Over the next six years they were thrust into what had been a 300-year struggle to subdue the fiercely independent Apaches. In 1874 - sparked by pressure from greedy contractors supplying the reservations, and by cattlemen, lumber men, and settlers hungry for Apache land - Washington approved a policy of concentrating the Apaches on a select few reservations.
That November the headquarters of the 9th was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, with portions of the regiment assigned to Fort Sill, Fort Supply, and Fort Reno in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Over the next four years, the troopers were primarily concerned with the unpleasant task of evicting white settlers known as "Boomers," who were attempting to settle on Indian land. The 9th's unpopular duty continued until the regiment was transferred to Wyoming in June of 1885. From here companies were stationed at Fort Robinson and Fort Niobrara, Nebraska, and Fort Duchesne, Utah.
In 1891 the 9th was called on to assist in subduing the Sioux in what became known as the Ghost Dance Campaign. Once rulers of the northern plains, the Sioux were desolate and poverty stricken on their North and South Dakota reservations. In 1889 word spread of a messiah - a Paiute named Wovoka - who had seen through a vision that the ghosts of Plains Indians would return, bringing with them the buffalo herds slaughtered by the whites. The new "religion" swept through the Indians, alarming Dr. D. F. Royer, the newly appointed agent at the Pine Ridge reservation. Royer over-reacted, pleading for troops to protect him and his staff. By the end of November, one-half of the U.S. Army was concentrated on or near the reservations. The Army's show of force was intended to scare the Sioux into submission. However, many Indians, fearing a massacre, bolted from the reservations and fled into the Badlands. The subsequent actions of the Army to pacify and return the Sioux to their reservations culminated in the massacre of 146 men, women, and children at Wounded Knee on December 29th. The 9th played no role in the slaughter. This was to be their last campaign on the frontier.
| 'They had marched about 1,000 miles, over two hundred of which was through country never explored by troops, drove the Indians from every rancheria...destroyed immense amounts of...food, robes, skins, utensils and material and captured forty horses and mules. I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the officers and men under my command, always cheerful and ready, braving the severest hardships with short rations and no water without a murmur. The negro troops are particularly adapted to hunting Indians knowing no fear and capable of great endurance.'
-- Major Albert Morrow
'The cavalry particularly are constant at work, and it is a kind of work too that disheartens, as there is little to show for it. Yet their zeal is untiring, and if they do not always achieve success they always deserve it. I have never seen troops more constantly employed.'
-- General Augur
Something wrong with your eyes?
Would not be the company would it?
You are gonna miss me when I go!!!
Agreed. Although highly fictionalized, "They Died With Their Boots On," was pretty good too.