The spirit of the Buffalo Soldiers

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Computer science freshman Hector Ocasio asks representatives Oscar Vicks and R. Russell Wednesday for background information on the Buffalo Soldiers for a project he has in his history class. Photo by Riley Stephens

By Manual Bautista-Macias 

Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers visited Rodeo Round-up in the mall Wednesday and shared artifacts and history of the original unit 1866-1891.

Artifacts that the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers displayed were utilitarian items such as toothbrushes, cookware, and soaps.

More valuable artifacts were saddles, uniforms and weapons.

“The most treasured artifact we hold is the spirit of the Buffalo Soldiers,” Clarence Thompson, event coordinator, said.

Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers came to San Antonio on April 4, 1867, but the unit was established in Louisiana in 1866.

The Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers went from Brownsville to Canada.

Cavalries assumed duties for a wage of $13 a month. They protected borders and telegraph wires.

The 9th and 10th Cavalries were composed of black slaves but led by white officers and white chaplains. The chaplains taught the soldiers how to read and write.

During 1866-1868, the cavalries obtained the first black female soldier despite the prohibition of women in the military.

Cathay Williams was involved in military assistance, and when she found out only men could enlist in the Army, she changed her name to William Cathay.

Cathay’s enlistment ended rather quickly when she got sick and at the hospital her true gender was known.

On 1872 the soldiers found out Native Americans were calling them Buffalo Soldiers because they had seen only white soldiers.

Native Americans compared the soldiers with the buffaloes because of their skin color, wooly hair and the fighting spirit.

That same year, soldiers took the name officially because it felt an honor to be compared to an animal Indians cherished.

Oscar Vicks, a Vietnam veteran who graduated from this college in 1971 with a degree in radio-television-broadcasting, became a member of the Buffalo Soldiers in 2004.

Vicks always wanted to be a cowboy, and when asked to join the Buffalo Soldiers, he thought of it as a close enough.

Joining the Buffalo Soldiers also made him feel embarrassed because he did not know much about black history, Vicks said.

There are 30 members in the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers, and each represents one of the 18 Medal of Honor soldiers.

Oscar Vicks represents Gorge Jordan who received the Medal of Honor in April 1980 and May 1981.

Apart from the artifact exhibits and storytelling at schools, Buffalo Soldiers also hold a three-day campout for about 40 boys to experience the outdoors each year.

After 10 years of being a member of the Buffalo Soldiers, the most important thing Vicks has learned is the value of being in the cavalry.

That gave black men an opportunity to do something after being released from slavery, Vicks said.

“It gave them something to do, something to be proud of and wear a uniform,” Vicks said.


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