Way back when, in those halcyon days of yore, slides, negatives and film ruled the world of photography. It was during that era I had the pleasure to tag along and document the actions of a proud band of brothers. The images I photographed at that time however, began to take on less significance and less marketability with the onset of the digital era. Recently however, I came across those old images, and with a smile on my face decided to resurrect a few of them. The images and the story they tell is a classic one, and remains a true American story regardless whether or not they are marketable.
1st LT. JOHNSON PREPARES TO MOUNT FOR THE JOURNEY HOME
In 1866 a law was passed authorizing the U.S army to form cavalry and infantry regiments consisting exclusively of African American men, though under the command of white officers. As a result, the 9th and 10th cavalries were born, along with the 38th through 41st infantries. These men, (called Buffalo Soldiers by the Indians) served heroically from 1867 to 1896. In September 2002, Phoenix Arizona members of the 9th (Memorial) Cavalry set out on horseback to ride the more than 2200 miles to New Orleans, the birthplace of the 9th U.S Cavalry. These riders were more than just re-enactors, they were a unique brotherhood committed to the legacy of those brave men who went before them. Their goal, once at New Orleans, was to honor those brave men who gave their lives for their country.
CAVALRYMEN PREPARE TO RIDE
In the beginning Buffalo Soldiers were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. They were formed in 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and later subdivided into four regiments. Of these, the 9th Cavalry served the longest. As fierce Indian fighters they were the major participants in the Lincoln County Wars of New Mexico. They also played a key role in retaining the lands in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) for the Indians, including the five so-called civilized tribes who were displaced from the southeastern United States in the early 1800’s. Of the four “colored” cavalrys, the 9th regiment received the largest number of Medals of Honor during the period of the Indian Wars. At the height of its relevance the 9th U.S. Cavalry fought, protected and helped civilize the wild west during the mid to late 1800’s.
The JOURNEY BEGINS
Arizona State Troopers escort the 9th Memorial Cavalry as their ride begins.
ON THE TRAIL TO NEW ORLEANS
The primary mission of the cavalry regiments was to control Indians on the western frontier. The soldiers took part in almost 200 engagements. Noted for their courage and discipline, they had the army’s lowest desertion and court-martial rates.
Many of the great cattle drives in the American West were protected by the 9th U.S. Cavalry and, during their 26 years on the western frontier, they also made it possible for the Southern Pacific Railroad to become established and grow into one of today’s major railroad carriers.
With the sinking of the battleship USS Maine, in the harbor of Santiago, Cuba in 1898, the 9th U.S. Cavalry was among the first complete regiments to be called to war on a foreign shore. Again, they served with distinction and honor, helping to establish the United States of America as a world power.
After more than 130 years, the 9th Cavalry’s excellent service record and devotion to their flag and country is being brought to light by the 9th Memorial Cavalry, as inheritors of their legacy. These standard bearers carry with them a copy of the Regimental flag, along with a chest bearing soil from the final resting-places of the original 9th Cavalry regiment. At last the cavalry have finally completed the JOURNEY HOME.
A BUFFALO SOLDIER
(Next blog: February 15, 2012)