Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers set up camp for Black History Month

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Wildlife biology freshman Curtis Bitterly studies a soap bar on display at the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association encampment Wednesday in the mall in celebration of Black History Month. Clarence Thompson, coordinator, and Clay Leslie, assistant supply, discussed the equipment and supplies available to Buffalo Soldiers of the 19th century. Photo by Aly Miranda

Wildlife biology freshman Curtis Bitterly studies a soap bar on display at the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association encampment Wednesday in the mall in celebration of Black History Month. Clarence Thompson, coordinator, and Clay Leslie, assistant supply, discussed the equipment and supplies available to Buffalo Soldiers of the 19th century. Photo by Aly Miranda

Buffalo soldiers set up a table of artifacts from the Civil War Feb. 10 in the mall in celebration of Black History Month. The table includes a spitoon, what soldiers used to spit tobacco in; a telescope; a lantern and a harmonica. In the back, artifacts include a lock, handcuffs, a flute, a compass and a reveille. Photo by Aly Miranda

Buffalo soldiers set up a table of artifacts from the Civil War Wednesday in the mall in celebration of Black History Month. The table includes a spitoon, what soldiers used to spit tobacco in; a telescope; a lantern and a harmonica. In the back, artifacts include a lock, handcuffs, a flute, a compass and a reveille. Photo by Aly Miranda

Organizer says motto is “We can, we will,’ and honors black Civil War-era regiment.

By Jerico Magallanes

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Wearing Civil War-era uniforms, two representatives from the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association visited campus Wednesday to talk to passers-by about the Buffalo Soldiers and their significance to Black History Month.

The Buffalo Soldiers were a black regiment that came out of the Civil War in 1865, said Clarence Thompson, scheduler for the group, events coordinator and one of the two members who staffed a table in the mall.

Thompson shared how black soldiers were in militia units during the Civil War. They were seen as a volunteer army, not enlisting directly with the U.S. Army at the time.

“The Buffalo Soldiers mainly went out west to be peace officers,” Thompson said of the outlaw environment during the Gold Rush era. “They arrested everybody; they didn’t care who it was — white, black, American, Indians, whatever. They were there as peace officers.”

“They got their name from the Native Americans, because of the likeness of their hair to that of the buffalo,” Thompson said. “So when they saw these ‘black white men,’ as they called them originally, they said, ‘Hey guess what? These guys are tough as a buffalo.’”

“Our motto is, ‘we can, we will,’” Thompson said. “Whatever they tried to achieve or whatever they tried to do, they did. Whatever they tried to make their mind will to, they did.”

Thompson also shared how the Buffalo Soldiers patrolled the border, fixed telegraph wires for communication purposes and protected stagecoaches and cattle owners during cattle wars.

The Battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War, also known as the battle for the San Juan Heights, was the most significant battle fought by the Buffalo Soldiers, Thompson said.

“If most black men would look back at them and use them as a mentor, they’d be surprised how much they really did for us to bring forth the attitude and the presence of the black community,” Thompson said of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Within their camp, the Buffalo Soldiers displayed artifacts, including a photo of Cathay Williams, the first African-American female to enlist who originally posed as a man under the pseudonym William Cathay.

The artifacts also included a feather pen. Because the soldiers did not have ink, they often used blood or berry juice to write, said Clay Leslie, assistant supply for the group.

The association educates the public “about the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and Black Indian Scouts,” according to the association’s mission statement online.

A list of upcoming events and more information can be found on their website at bcbsatx.com.

For scheduling visits or other events, call 210-954-6588.

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