Buffalo soldiers share past

Civil War era history upholds black power

By Dan Hardin, Staff Writer

A pre-Veterans Day celebration honoring the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers was hosted by the Veterans Club in Fireside Hall Nov. 7.
Members of the Northern California Buffalo Soldier Troopers of the 10th Cavalry Company G chapter, out of Sacramento, talked and answered questions on the history of the all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments that served after the Civil War.
They were dressed in full Civil War apparel that included hat, handkerchief, shirt, pants, boots, belt and buckle.
The name Buffalo Soldier was given to them by the Native Americans they encountered, and although the reason why they got the name may be controversial, the name stuck.
Retired United States Air Force veteran Charles Munroe said he became a member of this chapter in 1999.
“We are a living history group that keeps the pioneering, African-American military legacy alive,” he said.
Some of the duties of these black soldiers were to control the Native Americans of the plains, assist in capturing cattle rustlers and returning rustled cattle, and to be on the look out for stagecoach bandits and thieves. They also protected settlers, wagon trains, railroad crews and trains along the western frontier.
Munroe said, “At first there was talk in (Congress) of paying the black soldier $16 per month, which was double that of the regular soldier.
“Then it was suggested that the black soldier should only receive $3 per month due to his position in life, which was that of meager existence, because most were ex-slaves and owned very little except for the clothes on their backs and maybe a horse.
“Finally it was decided that they would be given $8 a month, the same as the white soldiers.”
Jamel Daniels, while walking down K Street in Sacramento one day, said he was approached by a soldier in full uniform.
The soldier asked him if he knew anything about the Buffalo Soldiers.
Daniels replied, “You mean Bob Marley?” referencing a song written by Marley and N. G. Williams entitled “Buffalo Soldier.”
The soldier preceded to inform him of the African-American contribution of the legendary, all-black regiments created after Congress passed the Army Organization Act following the Civil War.
“I thought it to be important that the history of the black soldier should live on in dissertation and reenactment,” Daniels said.
“I have been a part of this organization for the past 27 years.”
Mary Dean said she became a member of the Sacramento chapter due to an event at a memorial park in Sacramento. She was introduced to the amazing history of the “Soldiers” and the story of Cathy Williams.
She was so moved by this new found knowledge that she decided to join the organization and portray Cathy Williams, the first black female Buffalo Soldier.
Dean said that for Williams to become a soldier she had to become a man.
She changed her name to William Cathy, cut her hair and wore loose fitting clothing.
Dean said that Williams worked as a paymaster and a cook and was also a fierce fighter.
She served secretly for years as a man, until she had an occasion to become ill and required medical attention, which exposed her gender.
“The story of Cathy Williams is well-documented,” Dean said.