Just west of the main route through Sierra Vista is Fort Huachuca, headquarters for the U.S. Army’s Strategic Communications Command and the home of two fine military museums housed in three buildings on the fort.
One museum is dedicated to the history of the U.S. Army in the American Southwest. Of particular importance, it tells the story of the Army’s 10th Cavalry Regiment, the fighting unit more famously known as the Buffalo Soldiers, the all-Black regiment established immediately after the Civil War.
After the Civil War, the U.S. Army formed regiments of Negro men, most of whom were former slaves, and many of whom had served in the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.). The cavalry units were the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the infantry were the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st which several years later were consolidated into the 24th and 25th infantry units. Black infantry troops often fought side-by-side with the black cavalry.
These African-American soldiers were called “buffalo soldiers” by the Plains Indians. No one today is quite certain why. Some say it was because the men were as rugged as buffalo and others say that it was because the Indians saw a resemblance between the Black soldier’s hair and the buffalo’s shaggy coat. It has also been pointed out that many Black soldiers favored long buffalo-robe coats. Although the name was primarily applied to the cavalry, it was sometimes extended to include the Black infantry.
After the Civil War, African Americans faced horrific discrimination. Some men enlisted to escape hopeless poverty and gain a certain respect, even though they were segregated from White troops. The Buffalo Soldiers fought in the Plains Indian Wars, the Apache Wars, the Spanish-American War, and The Punitive Mission against Mexico ordered by President Wilson and led by General John Pershing. Pershing had earned his nickname, ‘Black Jack,’ by leading Black regiments early in his career.
By all accounts, these Black regiments distinguished themselves in service to their country, despite being given inferior horses and equipment.
The other museum, the Military Intelligence Museum is in a brand new space near the library. takes you through the evolution of Army intelligence-gathering capabilities. It has been totally redone and modernized. The museum is located in the MI- Library and Learning Center off Hatfield Road.
Both Museums have excellent exhibits.
“Buffalo Soldier” is a term bestowed on Black soldiers by the Native Americans they fought: the Cheyenne, Comanche, and Apache, among others. One can reasonably assume that the Indians thought the dark, curly hair of these men resembled the thick, black hair of the American Bison.
Over and over again, the soldiers of the 10th Cav. Distinguished themselves, despite horrific racial prejudice.
The last surviving Buffalo Soldier, Mark Matthews, died in 2005 at the age of 111. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
To learn about more worthwhile museums in Tucson, whether art, history, science, or just fun, see our list of the Best Museums here.