The Roughest Riders: The Untold Story of the Black Soldiers in the Spanish-American War by Jerome TuccilleAmericans have long heard the story of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charging up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. But often forgotten in the great swamp of history is that Roosevelt’s success was ensured by a dedicated corps of black soldiers—the so-called Buffalo Soldiers—who fought by Roosevelt’s side during his legendary campaign. Roosevelt admitted that the black troops actually spearheaded the charge, beating him to the top of Kettle Hill ahead of San Juan Hill, but later changed his story, claiming their performance was due to the superior white officers under whom the black troops served.
The Roughest Riders takes a closer look at common historical legend and balances the record. It is the inspiring story of the first African American soldiers to serve during the post-slavery era, first in the West and later in Cuba, when full equality, legally at least, was still a distant dream. They fought heroically and courageously, making Roosevelt’s campaign a great success that added to the future president’s legend as a great man of words and action. But most of all, they demonstrated their own military prowess, often in the face of incredible discrimination from their fellow soldiers and commanders, and rightfully deserve their own place in American history.
Buffalo Soldiers In The Spanish-American War
On February 15th, , over American sailors were killed when the battleship Maine blew up and sank in Havana harbor. The war with Spain began in April, when Major General William Shafter, a former commander of the 24th Infantry led an expeditionary force of over 17, men, including nearly 3, Black regulars, into Cuba. Although the Spanish American War was ostensibly fought to liberate Caribbean and Philippine islanders from Spanish oppression, the participation of African American troops was very controversial in the African American community. Some troops and many citizens openly questioned whether African Americans should fight for the U. Despite emancipation nearly year before, Blacks routinely were deprived of their rights by federal and state laws. Instituional discrimination was reinforced by savage murder and terror of African Americans primarily in the South. Articles in the Black press during the war showed a diversity of opinion in the African American community.
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Buffalo soldiers were African American soldiers who mainly served on the Western frontier following the American Civil War. In , six all-black cavalry and infantry regiments were created after Congress passed the Army Organization Act. Their main tasks were to help control the Native Americans of the Plains, capture cattle rustlers and thieves and protect settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and railroad crews along the Western front. Another assumption is the soldiers fought so valiantly and fiercely that the Indians revered them as they did the mighty buffalo. Whatever the reason, the name stuck, and African American regiments formed in , including the 24th and 25th Infantry which were consolidated from four regiments became known as buffalo soldiers. The soldiers spent the winter organizing and training until they were ordered to San Antonio, Texas , in April There they were joined by most of their officers and their commanding officer, Colonel Edward Hatch.
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The term eventually became synonymous with all of the African-American regiments formed in Although several African-American regiments were raised during the Civil War as part of the Union Army including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the many United States Colored Troops Regiments , the "Buffalo Soldiers" were established by Congress as the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Sources disagree on how the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" began. According to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, the name originated with the Cheyenne warriors in the winter of , the actual Cheyenne translation being "Wild Buffalo. Hill attributed the origin of the name to the Comanche due to Grierson's assertions. The Apache used the same term "We called them 'buffalo soldiers,' because they had curly, kinky hair
Don't have an account yet? Get the most out of your experience with a personalized all-access pass to everything local on events, music, restaurants, news and more. It is one of the most familiar stories drilled into the heads of schoolchildren around the country. In fact, Roosevelt and his Rough Riders made it to the top of San Juan Hill — as well as the smaller Kettle Hill in a previous skirmish — when the bulk of the fighting was over. More important, they arrived there both times after regiments of all-black soldiers, who saw most of the action. And in fact, it was these soldiers who saved the Rough Riders from annihilation on both Hill battles as well as at the Battle of Las Guasimas. It aims to set the record straight on the thousands of men who fought and died for American interests, while not being able to enjoy many of the same freedoms back home as the people they were liberating abroad.