The history of the Buffalo Soldiers is full of courage, sacrifice and heroism.
Following the Civil War, Congress passed the Army Organization Act in 1866 allowing African Americans to enlist in the regular peacetime military. All-Black Cavalry and Infantry Regiments were created including the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry. Serving on the frontier, these units were at the forefront of our nation’s western expansion —protecting settlers, stage coaches, wagons trains and railroad crews. Much of their time was spent battling Native American Indians who were resisting federal government policies. Black soldiers, some of whom had fought for the Union Army in the Civil War, were now fighting another minority group in the name of the United States government.
The irony isn’t lost on Anor “Chief” Burnside, a retired Army soldier and member of the Fayetteville Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club.
“The majority of them were stationed out west to fight Indians and to help build roads and safeguard travelers,” Burnside said. “They had a lot to prove to America, to be brave enough to serve the country at the same time they were being discriminated against in other parts of the country.”
Burnside retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 5 in 2017 after serving 34 years. He said the Buffalo Soldiers served as inspiration to many people of color who followed their example and served honorably in the military services.
“Buffalo Soldiers paved the way for folks like me to join the Army and achieve the rank I did,” he said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to them.”
According to www.history.com Buffalo Soldiers participated in at least 177 conflicts in the Indian Wars, earning a reputation as steadfast and fierce fighters. One legend has it that the name Buffalo Soldiers came from the American Indians themselves, showing reverence to the Cavalry soldiers.
In the late 1890s, the Buffalo Soldiers were fighting in the Spanish-American War charging up San Juan Hill. The 9 th and 10 th Cavalry Regiments served in the Philippines in the early 1900s.
In 1907, the United States Military Academy Detachment of Cavalry was changed to a "colored" unit so West Point cadets could learn their riding skills from Black non-commissioned officers, who were considered among the best. The detachment, made up of soldiers from the 9 th and 10 th Cavalry would go on the instruct future officers on riding, mounted drill and cavalry tactics for four decades.
During World War I, Buffalo Soldiers defended the Mexican border. Both Regiments were integrated into the 2nd Cavalry Division in 1940. While discrimination was likely a factor during the Jim Crow era, troops from the 9 th and 10 th Cavalry Regiments were moved into service roles and both Regiments were deactivated in 1944.
The legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers still continued into World War II. The 92 nd Division, known as the “Buffalo Division,” saw combat during the invasion of Italy. Another division that included the original 25th Infantry Regiment fought in the Pacific theater.
In 1948, President Harry Truman issued an Executive Order eliminating racial discrimination in the U.S. armed forces, and the last of the all-Black units were disbanded in 1951 during the Korean War, and the soldiers integrated into other units.
Through the years, Buffalo Soldiers compiled a distinguished record of service and sacrifice winning numerous unit awards and individual commendations. According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, 18 Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Indian Campaigns from 1865-1899. By additional accounts, 5 Medals of Honor would be awarded to Buffalo Soldiers for actions during the Spanish-American War. Also, 2 Medals of Honor would be awarded to soldiers of the 92 nd Division during World War II; and 2 Medals of Honor would be awarded to soldiers of the 24th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War.
Today, the Buffalo Soldiers’ legacy of service to the nation endures in books, movies, monuments, museum exhibits, and with the help of organizations such as the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club.
“We are a national organization,” Burnside said. “The name Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club was chosen to honor and pay respect to the 9th and 10th Cavalry — the Buffalo Soldiers.”
What is now known as the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers & Troopers Motorcycle Club began with a single club in Chicago in 1993. Participation and interest grew and more chapters around the country were established. The NABSTMC now has more than 100 chapters worldwide and is active in a number of charitable efforts. The NABSTMC also provides mentors to youth and educational programs in order to share the heritage of African Americans.
The Fayetteville Chapter, the first in North Carolina, was established in 2001. It was soon followed by chapters in Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh and Wilmington.
“We are open to anyone who believes and supports our values and advocates the history of the 9th and 10th- the Buffalo Soldiers,” Burnside said. “Our chapter is made up of active and retired military. We have some police officers that are active. Our organization is made up of professional men and women of all backgrounds who believe in educating people on the history of Buffalo Soldiers, giving back to the community and being good role models.”
Setting the example is something the BSMC members take seriously.
The Fayetteville BSMC host a number of outreach endeavors to include charity rides, funeral escorts and even pick up litter along their adopted three-mile stretch of Highway 162 in Hope Mills.
“We’re all about giving back to our community,” Burnside said. “We call it ‘doing good in the hood.’ We’re all about educating the public on the rich history of the Buffalo Soldiers, their accomplishments and contributions, things they did to make the Army and this country great.”
Their biggest fundraiser of the year is scheduled for April 10 and all riders are invited to participate. The Buffalo Soldiers 11th Annual Pony Express Charity Ride will start at Fort Bragg Harley-Davidson on Sycamore Dairy Road. Registration starts at 9 a.m. and kick stands go up at 10 a.m. There will be refreshments, door prizes and raffles. The event is expected to be complete by 3 p.m. The registration fee is $20 and all proceeds will benefit local community charities. For more information call 205-902-4642.
“The Pony Express Ride raises money to support scholarships, and it helps fund our Thanksgiving baskets and Christmas toy giveaway,” Burnside said.
While being a force for good in the community is reward in itself, Burnside said members also value the time on the road together.
“As a chapter, we try to ride as often as we possibly can,” he said. “On the third Saturday of the month, after our meeting, we will ride to fellowship.”
Club members also take part in other Club rides as a show of support. For the upcoming Pony Express Charity Ride, Burnside expects riders from BSMC chapters as far away as Florida. “It’s all about that wind therapy,” Burnside said. “We enjoy that camaraderie of coming together and feeling the wind in your face.”
“Today we’re riding our iron horses and trying to be a good example,” Burnside said.
For more information on the Fayetteville Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club or the 11th Annual Pony Express Charity Ride, visit www.ncbuffalosoldiers.com or www.facebook.com/NCBuffaloSoldiersMC.