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Buffalo Soldiers Act of 1866

Born: 6-28-1866

“Buffalo Soldiers” Act of Congress authorized the creation of six regiments of Black troops, two of cavalry and four of infantry. These troops went on to play a major role in the history of the West, as the "Buffalo Soldiers."

In 1875-76, the 9th Cavalry Regiment was transferred to the New Mexico District, under command of Colonel Edward Hatch. Two companies were stationed at Fort Bayard, one at Fort McRae, two at Fort Wingate, three at Fort Stanton, one at Fort Union, one at Fort Selden, and one at Fort Garland, Colorado. In New Mexico, the Buffalo Soldiers participated in campaigns against Victorio, Geronimo, and Nana. Twelve black soldiers, eight from New Mexico, received the highly prized Congressional Medal of Honor between 1870 and 1890.

In 1877, a scouting party from Fort Bayard commanded by Lt. Henry Wright, with six men of Company C and three Navajo scouts, was surrounded by a party of 40 to 50 Chiricahuas in the Florida Mountains, near Deming, New Mexico. "Weapons were fired and then used as clubs. In the center of the melee Corporal Clifton Greaves fought like a cornered lion and managed to shoot and bash a gap through the swarming Apaches, permitting his companions to break free....Corporal Greaves was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor." The conditions the Buffalo Soldiers fought in, while pursuing the Apache, are described in a letter from Colonel Hatch to General Pope, "...the work performed by these troops is most arduous, horses worn to mere shadows, men nearly without boots, shoes and clothing. That the loss in horses may be understood when following the Indians in the Black Range the horses were without anything to eat five days except what they nibbled from piñon pines, going without food so long was nearly as disastrous as the fearful march into Mexico of 79 hours without water, all this by forced marches over inexpressibly rough trails...It is impossible to describe the exceeding roughness of such mountains as the Black Range and the San Mateo. The well-known Modoc Lava beds are a lawn compared with them." (Hatch to Pope, February 25, 1880)

There are many individual stories that serve as examples. This includes the story of private John Collins, who was born into slavery to a Cherokee mother and a black father in Accimack County, Virginia. Collins was nine years old when the emancipation proclamation was signed. It is not known the year he left home but at an early age he joined a crew of sailors on a freighter sailing around the world. He remained with this freighter for seven years until he joined the 9th United States Calvary. Later he joined the 24th United States Infantry and was an Indian Scout because of his knowledge or Indian customs and signs. The movement of his regiment brought him to the territory of New Mexico. In 1890 his regiment moved to Fort Bayard, around Silver City, New Mexico. After his discharge, John Collins settled in Albuquerque where he opened the Collins Freight Lines and Collins Scavenger Yard.