Buffalo Soldiers on the Western Frontier


Authored by: Brian G. Shellum

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  June  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415888479
eBook ISBN: 9781135070991
Adobe ISBN: 9781135071028


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Black Americans have served and sacrificed in U.S. military conflicts from the Revolutionary War onward, but it was during the Civil War that they first fought in large numbers and in organized black regiments. The service of 178,975 black volunteers during the Civil War, comprising about 10 percent of the total Union manpower by the end of the bitter struggle, paid the price for blacks to serve in the Regular Army in the postwar era. These black regiments fought in all the major theaters of combat and suffered 36,847 dead, and individual members received 16 Medals of Honor. As the Union Army demobilized the last of the black volunteer regiments at the end of the war, Congress passed legislation establishing black Regular Army cavalry and infantry regiments. This was the first time the U.S. permitted blacks to enlist as regulars and as soldiers in the nation’s standing army. These black regulars came to be known as the Buffalo Soldiers. 1

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