A Conversation for Life as a Union Black Soldier During the United States Civil War

Buffalo Soldier

Post 1


Was this the inspiration for the Bob Marley song "Buffalo Soldier" about the lot of the black man in the US Army? (I recall American Indians applied the nickname on seing the similarity of negro hair to buffaslo pelts)

Buffalo Soldier

Post 2


Apoloigies - struggling for the word there, I should have chosen a term like AFRO hair, wasn't out to offend!

Damn good entry, though.

Having stopped at a point where the black soldier in the US Army had obtained equality of pay and status, the subsequent history after 1865 is depressing. The US Cavalry maintained one all-black cavalry regiment during the Indian wars (which is where I think the Buffalo Soldier nickname was introduced) and then that was it: up until 1944, the black American met with the most horrible apartheid and segregational mentality, and at the earleiers possible moment, differential black-only pay scales were re-introduced.

Black Americans were only used as pioneers - ie, unskilled labour - and doers of dirty work like gravedigging et c.

By 1944, the Pentagon had been prevailed upon to create all-black combat units as an "experiment", as if the early 1860's hadn't happened: but the same prejudices were there, "blacks can't fight at night", "blacks are cowards and will even run from Italians", and "Aren't we creating a dangerous precedent here by arming black men to fight and kill whites, what happens when they come back to Alabama or Georgia or Texas thinking like that?"

Two all black infantry regiments were raised and fought in Italy; an all-black armoured regiment fought in France and Germany.

Unofficially, during a "difficult" phase of one of the island invasions in the Pacific, black labour troops attached to the US Marines re issued rifles and told to get out there and kill Japanese. They did this so well that they held the front and bought time for the Marines to get reinforcements in place - without the black soldiers, the Marines might have hade to retreat back to the ships and concede victory to the Japanese.

There is controversy that no black soldiers were decorated for this action, and a recent Hollywood movie about the battle has airbrushed out the contribution by black soldiers and made it an all-white victiry. (so it's not only the British who have had their wartime history airbrushed out by Hollywood, then)

Similarly, General Patton mobilised EVERY soldier he could to fight the Battgle of the Bulge - the film version shows cooks, Pioneers, office staff, storemen, et c, being issued with rifles and sent to the front to fight the Germans. Again the problem with the picture: the film only shows white American REMF's being armed and sent to the front.

Patton - something of a racist who delighted in having a black soldier/servant to press his uniforms, in the manner of a southern grandee of pre-Civil War days - was desperate enough to arm his black soldiers to fight Germans, but fair-minded enough afterward to concede he had been wrong in disparaging their fighting ability.

After 1945, it was thought that the experience of WW2 was instrumental in raising black American consciousness to expect something better: they'd fought for America and gone to countries such as Britain where they hadn't been called "{extended play on the Spanish word for "black"}" or "boy" by their hosts.

Coming back to places like Alabama after the war (one decorated black combat vet was beaten half to death by the local sheriff and deputies for refusing to accept anything less than equal treatment)must have made for a lot of recruits to the Equal Rights Movement...



"This message has been blocked as it contains a word which other users may find offensive. Please edit your message and post it again." Yes, but I was using the word {extended play on the Spanish word for "black"} in a defensible context which I contend your filter software was not subtle enough to recognise. Pointing out that black Americans had had their minds broadened by going to countries where they were treated with normal human respect and that the casual racisim of the southern USA and use of words like {variant on the Spanish word for "black"} didn't have to happen during interaction with whites.

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