A Buffalo Soldier isn’t just the name of a Bob Marley song. These fierce warriors were named by the Plains Indians, who admired the bravery of the African-American troops that served on the frontier in the post–Civil War army.
Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at several forts in western Texas, but they are perhaps best known for their service at Fort Davis, where they spent nearly 20 years (1867–1885) protecting settlers. Several infantries and cavalry units earned distinction for their work at the fort, despite the lack of high-profile battles or significant military incidents.
The primary mission of the Buffalo Soldier regiments was to protect the established mail and travel routes, control movements of area Native-American tribes, and scout the terrain. One of the few military-related highlights occurred in 1879, when the army was waging a campaign against the Apaches, who were attacking settlers in West Texas.
Apache leader Victorio had fled to Mexico and was attempting to rejoin his tribe in the Fort Davis area when the Buffalo Soldier units were dispatched to prevent the regrouping. According to historians, several major confrontations occurred in the region, forcing Victorio to retreat to Mexico where he was later killed by Mexican troops.
Otherwise, life for all the soldiers at Fort Davis was somewhat tedious. Routine duties and fatigue details occupied most of their time, with occasional excursions to patrol the frontier, guard water holes, and escort government survey crews, wagon trains, and mail coaches.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition