By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — Stolen from Africa, brought to America, fighting on arrival, fighting for survival….those are the words of the great Bob Marley as he sang about one of the greatest fighting units in the history of America; the Buffalo Soldier.
In the beginning they were part of the 10th Calvary, formed in 1866. They would eventually include the 9th , 24th and 25th infantries. They were the infantry….ready to defend the country in war and peace time…their mission: to capture , destroy, and repel the enemy. For 150 years, until 1951, that’s exactly what they did.
They were fierce and valiant fighters; legendary for their tactical skills, bravery and fighting styles. History says the name , “Buffalo Soldier” was given to them as a term of respect by the Indians because of their dark curly hair that resembled the buffalo which the Indians revered. They fought in every war for 150 years as an all black unit until 1951 when segregation of the soldiers was ended. They were reactivated in 1995 .
The first African American to graduate West Point , Henry O. Flipper, also a former slave, would rise to serve as the Commander in 1877.
In Knoxville, ahead of Buffalo Soldiers Day which is observed July 28th each year and has been since 1922. “Deuce Four” the 24th Infantry Regimental Combat Team Association, held its 33rd annual reunion and 150th Anniversary in Knoxville Tennessee. The 24th was formed right after the civil war, one of the first four African American troops to serve in the U.S. Army.
The Buffalo Soldiers were a special unit, formed by the Congress of the United States. Today the 24th infantry, and the 9th and 10th cavalry units are still active duty organizations. The 24th infantry has over 400 veteran members.
The words of the poem A heroes heart begins with: “A heroes heart pumps the blood of a nation, for heroes press on without reservation” One Buffalo hero pressed on for 111 years.
The oldest original Buffalo soldier , Mark Matthews, died in 2005 at the age of 111. Historians say he served with the original 10th cavalry by joining the army at the age of 15. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery.