You are browsing the archive for 2020 June 16.

Avatar of admin

by admin

Why Buffalo Soldiers Served Among the Nation's First Park Rangers

June 16, 2020 in History

By Alexis Clark

After fighting in the Civil War and later military engagements, the famous all-black regiments protected the National Parks.

Among the earliest stewards of the nation’s national parks were soldiers from segregated black regiments. Starting in the 1890s, the Buffalo Soldiers, who had earned valor during fighting in the Indian Wars and Spanish-American War, added rangers’ hats to their military uniforms and played a critical role in protecting and building the infrastructure of the country’s vast public lands.

The first step toward black soldiers’ peacetime service began after the end of the Civil War in 1865. At this time, the army had discharged more than one million soldiers, reducing the military to 16,000 men. But with a war-torn nation in need of rebuilding and a growing desire to expand into the western frontier, Congress enacted legislation that changed the trajectory of black soldiers in the U.S. Army.

First Professional U.S. Black Soldier Units Are Added

A stagecoach guarded by African American soldiers, who were known as Buffalo Soldiers, circa 1869.

Although approximately 180,000 African Americans had served in the Union Army during the Civil War, they were not allowed to be a part of the regular peacetime Army. In 1866, however, Congress passed the Army Reorganization Act, a law that doubled the size of the regular Army, including the addition of six African American regiments, the first professional black soldiers in the United States Army. By 1869, these six regiments were consolidated into four units, the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24 and 25 Infantry.

These men came to be known as the Buffalo Soldiers, a name reportedly given to them by Native Americans for the soldiers’ curly dark hair that resembled Buffalo fur; though some historic accounts state the name was given as a nod to the black soldiers’ strong fighting power.

With the country’s efforts to expand into the western frontier, the Buffalo Soldiers forced Native Americans off their land in often violent and deadly battles. The coveted regions in the West also attracted the attention of white settlers who had already begun to put down roots in the frontier.

Yellowstone National Park Established—Without Park Service

With a growing concern to preserve the natural landscape during the western expansion, including protecting timber, lakes, wildlife and minerals, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Act of March 1, 1872, which established <a target=_blank …read more