On July 28, 1866, Congress passed an act allowing blacks to serve in the regular peace time army.
The act created two cavalry regiments, the Ninth and the Tenth, and four infantry regiments. Many of the men who joined were former slaves, and some had fought in the Civil War. Almost all of them chose the army because it offered what little dignity they could find in the United States at that time.
In 1867, the Ninth and Tenth Regiments were sent out West. Excellent in hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship, they fought with bravery and valor in Indian wars in the Dakotas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, and Arizona. They battled outlaws, Native Americans, and Mexicans, and brought law and order to western towns.
They even helped to capture Geronimo and Billy the Kid. They built army posts; escorted trains, stages, and cattle drives; strung telegraph lines; mapped new areas for settlers; and opened Native Americans compared them to the buffalo, an animal they considered sacred, and gave them the name “Buffalo Soldiers.”
Benjamin O. Davis Sr. (1877-1970), the first black general in United States military history, began his career with the Buffalo Soldiers on June 14, 1899, as a private in the Ninth Cavalry. The Buffalo Soldiers made up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. Cavalry in the West.