The 9th and 10th Cavalries of the U. S. Army fought valiantly during the Indian Wars in the West. Out of respect for their valor, Indians dubbed them “Buffalo Soldiers”. True to that tradition, both units fought courageously with Teddy Roosevelt’s white Rough Riders at San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Whereas Roosevelt and his units were rewarded with celebraty and fame for their heroics, their 9th and 10th Calvary counterparts were once again relegated to obscurity. Though I can no longer locate it, I once saw the roster of a Buffalo Soldier company with a trooper from my hometown of Roanoke listed.
Though Generals Ulysses S. Grant (left) and William Tecumsah Sherman (center) continue to be maligned in an American media biased with the defeated South’s perspective, they are considered military geniuses outside the United States. Grant was not the butcher as history books imply, winning the war and losing fewer men in battle than his revered counterpart, General Robert E. Lee. Sherman’s “total war” against rear supplies and supply lines, while infuriating civilians, spared lives on both sides of the conflict and brought the war to a quick conclusion. General George Thomas (right), a Virginian who remained loyal to the Union, was one of the war’s least recognized generals, despite being one of the North’s most successful.
History books are reluctant to acknowledge that the one-hundred eighty thousand United States Colored Troops who enlisted in the Union Army beginning in 1863 rang the death knell for the South. At the very time a desperate South found it impossible to replace its killed, wounded and deserted soldiers, black troops, such as distant cousin and escaped slave Benjamin Roberts (1837 - 1930) of Cleveland County, NC, turned the tide heavily in favor of the Union.
My uncle, Vaughn Whitworth, volunteered for the service on his eighteenth birthday. He wanted to be assigned to the Tuskegee Air Unit but that quota was filled. Recruiters tried repeatedly to convince Uncle Vaughan to settle for the infantry, not knowing that Brooks men do not settle. After many failed infantry offers, recruiters finally offered him the black marine unit which he accepted. Montford Point Marines went unheralded for sixty-seven years until Congress and Marine brass finally recognized them, including Uncle Vauahan, with gold medals in military and congressional ceremonies Washington, DC in 2012.
The 369th Infantry or Harlem Hellfighters was an all-black infantry unit who fought in France during World War I. Their remarkable story paralleled that of WW II’s Tuskegee Airmen though they fought and died heroically in trenches along the French front lines. Unwanted by General John Pershing who gave them to the French Army, they became French heroes receiving that country’s highest award, the Croix de Guerre. Pfc Robert H. Boland, a Roanoker and son of that city’s first black doctor and a leading entrepreneur, served in the 369th with distinction.
Camelot - 1861