Buffalo Soldiers Detroit Has A Rich History
African-Americans have fought in military conflicts since colonial days. However, the Buffalo Soldiers, comprised of former slaves, freemen and Black Civil War soldiers, were the first to serve during peacetime. Congress adopted legislation in 1866 to create six all African American Army units. The units were the 9th and 10th cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st infantry regiments, later re-organized to form the 24th and 25th infantry regiments.
Once the Westward movement had begun these soldiers were charged with and responsible for escorting settlers, cattle herds, railroad crews and building the infrastructure needed for new settlements to flourish. They patrolled the Western frontier, following all the same orders as white cavalrymen. They protected wagons and trains from outlaws, built telegraph lines, improved roads, escorted mail carriers, and fought in more than 125 conflicts with American Indians.
The nickname Buffalo Soldiers began with the Cheyenne warriors in 1867. This name was given out of respect of the fierce fighting ability of the 10th cavalry. In time, all African American soldiers would come to be called Buffalo Soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers, down through the years, have worn the name with pride.
Buffalo Soldiers participated in many other military campaigns: The Spanish American War, The Phillippine Insurrection, The Mexican Expedition, World War I, World War II, and the Korean Police Action. President Truman desegregated the military in 1948.
During the summers of 1899, 1903, and 1904, the duty to protect America's parks fell to regiments of Buffalo Soldiers. Over those three years, about 500 men made the 200-plus-mile marches to Yosemite and Sequoia from Monterey, California.
The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers remains one of unsurpassed courage and patriotism, and will be forever a significant part of the history of America.
Located in Detroit-Rouge Park there is a small Buffalo Soldiers pictorial display where First Sgt. James Mills shares with its visitors a forgotten piece of American history. What was once an abandoned Detroit Mounted Police station now stands the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Center. Visitors from all ages, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds enjoy the history and horses (in the hood) at Rouge Park.
It was a dream of James Mills and his long-time friend Bob Jarber (now deceased) to bring the horses to the hearts of the youth in the community. When the soldiers inquired about using the stable for their horses, the City of Detroit Recreation Department and manager, Dr. Beverly Alexander, opened their arms and hearts to the idea. That was eight years ago and with the help of the Friends of Rouge Park and the president, Sally Petrella as our number one supporters, the stable still houses the horses. Visitors come by daily to give our horses treats. On occasion, the soldiers and volunteers will give a tour, history lecture, horse grooming session, and pony rides to youth groups, church groups, and neighborhood groups.