By Ingrid Wilgen
A lone bugler signaled the approach of the Buffalo Soldiers Feb. 2 at the Western Heritage Parade downtown.
Bugler Dustin Mitchell wore the blue and gold uniform of the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers and sounded the alarm as fellow Buffalo Soldiers Turner McGarity, vice president of the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers, and Carl “JJ” Johnson rode their horses along a crowd-lined Houston Street.
Above the applause, shouts of “thank you for your service” could be heard.
While preparing Joy, his quarter horse mare, for the parade, McGarity said the group is trying to spread the history of the Buffalo Soldier.
“A lot of it is left out of the history books,” he said. “There is not a lot there, and we are just trying to put a piece of that puzzle that’s left out.”
McGarity said the black cavalry, that the Buffalo Soldiers represent, did basic training at San Pedro Springs Park, which was known as the San Pedro Springs at the time.
After the Civil War, Congress created all African-American units, the 9th and 10th 40th and 41st Infantry regiments.
Their mission was to help rebuild the country after the war and to protect settlers on the western frontier.
McGarity said Fort Clark in Brackettville, about 125 miles west of San Antonio on U.S. Highway 90, was the Buffalo Soldiers home after basic training.
He said Buffalo soldiers patrolled the West, Southwest and down on the Mexican border trying keep the peace.
McGarity said few people know there was a female Buffalo Soldier, Cathay Williams, who changed her name to William Cathay, in the 38th Infantry.
He said she served for two years.
“She went on sick call three times, and it was never noticed that she was a female,” McGarity said.
“The third time, she was fully unclothed, and it was found out and she was discharged.
They wouldn’t give her any type of retirement because they said she came in under fraudulent enlistment.”
Carl “JJ” Johnson rode Shelly, his 18-year old Arabian mare, who he characterized as being smart, humble and a “good riding horse.”
“We are very interested in what the Buffalo Soldiers had to offer; to teach and to educate others about who the Buffalo Soldiers were,” Johnson said.
The Buffalo Soldiers will stage an encampment Feb. 18 in the mall in honor of Black History Month.
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