For a century they were unrecognized heroes. Today, however, every camp where the Buffalo Soldiers bivouaced is searching its past to honor the first African-American regiments in the U.S. Army.
Under the guidance of Gen. Colin Powell, a striking monument to the Buffalo soldier was erected at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., on the sweeping green bank of a lake. The 10th Cavalry was organized in 1866 at the fort. Two reflecting pools in the lake flank the statue.
Historian John Reichley tells the story of how Powell, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, handled a weather problem at the dedication.
"The Kansas sky to the north had become ominous with thunderheads," recalled Reichley. "People were obviously getting edgy."
Then Powell marched to the podium.
"Ladies and gentlement, there's nothing to worry about," he said matter-of-factly. "The Army's chief of chaplains will give the invocation in just a moment and he's going to ask the Almighty to hold off the storm until we finish our ceremony."
Then, with a Pattonesque nod, Powell sat down.
Reichley remembered that when the chaplain, a major general, took the podium he seemed to be sweating a bit more than usual even when you consider the humidity of a Midwest summer day. The chaplain did invoke the Lord's assistance for the concern at hand. Reichley believes that this was the first he had heard about this added responsibility.
"Well, the rains held off and the ceremony proceeded," recalled Reichley. "And just as everybody got to their cars, the heavens opened up and it rained for three days.
It is the frontier post of Fort Huachuca that has endeavored to tell the story of the Buffalo soldiers through World War II. It is in Arizona that the Buffalo Soldiers played out their final act on the stage of history. Fort Huachuca was at one time or another the home of the most famous African-American regiments.
The 24th Infantry Regiment served along the Pecos River in Texas and is remembered at Fort Davis at 4 p.m. daily when a recording of a cavalry retreat ceremony is played.
Across the deserted parade ground an unseen adjutant receives reports from invisable first sergeants. Then, to the strains of "Garry Owen" and the jangle of cavalry movement, phantom troopers pass in review.