Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Buffalo Soldiers in Arizona

The Indians respected the mighty buffalo they hunted; they respected the strange, dark skinned, woolly haired men who hunted and fought them who reminded them of the buffalo. The Indians called them the Buffalo Soldiers.
Their motto was Ready and Forward. They served on the Western frontier and the border of Mexico protecting the pioneers from the marauding Indians and disgruntled Mexican factions. They were regarded as highly disciplined and were acclaimed as having fought valiantly.

Buffalo Soldiers (above) were barracked on the border at Naco, Sonora, Mexico. In 1914 the 9th & 10th Calvary engaged in a two and half month battle against the Federales living under the searing desert sun in tents set up on sand among desert scrub bushes (above, right). From tents Fort Naco was established and it is the only one of twelve border forts that still exists, but it is in great disrepair falling to the harsh elements of the desert.

Cathay Williams was the only documented female Buffalo soldier. She enlisted in 1866 as William Cathay and her gender was discovered when she was admitted for medical treatment for the 5th time. Which means she managed to elude discovery 4 times. Cathay was 5'9" and worked as a cook. Medical examinations were not required when she enlisted. Shame was that when the Army discharged her they denied her any benefits. Read more about her at

Fort Huachuca near Sierra Vista, Arizona was home to the 9th &10th Calv Buffalo Soldiers. From here soldiers were discharged or retired and some settled in Arizona far from their homes in the South where they had been born. The influence of their presence in Arizona is permanent enough that today in Tucson there is an Arizona Buffalo Soldier Association,

A few of the Buffalo soldiers found their way to Globe, Arizona. The Sonoran Jackrabbit located these headstones at the Globe Cemetery in November 2009.

(Naco photos part of the collection of Garrick Bailey University Tulsa)