Archive for Sunday, March 29, 1992

BUFFALO SOLDIERS

March 29, 1992

Advertisement

— In 1866, black soldiers lived in tents pitched on swampland while white soldiers lived in regular barracks on this historic post.

Congress needed the black men to help pursue post-Civil War westward expansion, said Cmdr. Carlton G. Philpot, who's stationed at the fort today. But Col. William Hoffman, who in 1866 was fort commander, wouldn't allow the black men to live inside barracks like their white counterparts.

"Hoffman treated them so badly," Philpot said, "they finally left," moving on to Fort Riley.

Today, on the same campsite, Philpot is overseeing the creation of a monument to those black soldiers called buffalo soldiers by the American Indians and others who followed in their wake.

THE $850,000 monument, near the post's entrance, includes reflecting pools, a waterfall and two bronze sculptures a buffalo soldier's bust and a buffalo soldier mounted on his horse. The monument is to be dedicated July 23.

Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed the tribute in the early 1980s when he was a one-star general stationed at Fort Leavenworth, according to Philpot, who is chairman and project director of the Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee of the Fort Leavenworth Historical Society.

Philpot, an instructor in the Army Command and General Staff College at the fort, arrived there in 1989 and began turning Powell's idea into reality.

Texas sculptor and historian Eddie Dixon created the statues, now being cast in bronze at Art Castings Foundry in Loveland, Colo., Philpot said. Lee Brubaker of Kirkwood, Mo., designed the monument within which the statues are to be placed. He also created a limited edition print of Dixon's 14-foot horse-and-rider statue.

FUNDS for everything from the statues to the stairways and wheelchair ramps have been raised through contributions, Philpot said, and only about $108,000 more is needed.

As momentum for the monument's creation built, so did interest in the historic contributions of buffalo soldiers, who came into being in 1866 and remained in existence until 1952, when the regiments were integrated.

Philpot said that in 1866 Congress established six regiments of black Army soldiers four infantry units and the 9th and 10th cavalry units, headquartered at Greenville, La., and Leavenworth.

One of every five soldiers serving in the West was black, he added, noting at least one buffalo soldier was a woman. Cathy William of St. Louis enlisted as William Cathy and served from 1866 to 1868 with the 38th Infantry as a cook.

PHILPOT said American Indians called black soldiers "buffalo soldiers" because, like the native buffalo, they conducted themselves courageously in battle plunging onward "with their heads down, never to retreat."

Black cavalrymen in the West had the harshest duty of all, the commander added. While white soldiers were regularly rotated East for less rigorous duty, black soldiers "were never relieved." Gens. Philip Henry Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman even attempted to intervene on their behalf, he said, but to no avail.

Another white Army officer, writing in 1873 in the "Army-Navy Journal," noted black soldiers "were braver, more resolute and more intelligent" than their white counterparts, Philpot added.

Buffalo soldiers fought with distinction in the Cheyenne War from 1867 to 1869, the Red River War of 1874-1875, the Ute War of 1879, the Apache Wars from 1875 through 1886, and the Sioux War of 1890-91.

THEY ALSO escorted wagon trains, built roads and towns, delivered the mail, and were involved in the capture of Geronimo, Pancho Via and Billy the Kid.

During the Spanish-American War, Philpot said, they saved Teddy Roosevelt during the assault on Kettle Hill only to have Roosevelt later discount their effectiveness as soldiers for political expediency. They also served with distinction under John "Black Jack" Pershing in the Spanish-American War and under Harry Truman in World War I.

"Buffalo soldiers made some significant contributions," Philpot said.

In the 1920s, black regiments returned to Fort Leavenworth. In 1936, Harry H. Hollowell joined Company A of the 10th Cavalry there.

Hollowell, who grew up mostly in Eureka and now lives in Leavenworth, said he was troop clerk and recruiting sergeant for a time in a barracks building that stands within sight of the new monument.

A CAREER military man, Hollowell eventually left his regiment to attend bandleader school, after which he served as bandleader on Army posts around the world including Fort Leavenworth, where he was the first black bandleader. He retired in 1968 at the rank of chief warrant officer.

Today, he said, it is important to him to help make the contributions of buffalo soldiers known, "so the children will have role models."

"This is an opportunity to memorialize the minority as well as the majority," he added.

Recently, Hollowell and a few other surviving buffalo soldiers assisted Maj. George E. Knapp of Fort Leavenworth in compiling a booklet, "Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Leavenworth in the 1930s and Early 1940s."

"The old 10th has made marvelous contributions," Hollowell said, noting in particular the civil rights work of his brother, Donald, who also was in the 10th Cavalry during the 1930s.

DONALD HOLLOWELL, of the Atlanta law firm of Arrington and Hollowell, was the Rev. Martin Luther King's attorney in the late 1950s and early 1960s and regional director for the Southern district of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Emory University has a named professionship in his honor.

Another member of the 10th, Adolph Holmes, became director of the Urban League, a civil rights organization, and Harry Hollowell said others in the regiment made significant contributions to their country over the years.

"It's most rewarding at this stage," he said of all those efforts. "If it's anything we need, we need to acknowledge that all American subjects have made contributions to the American way of life. We have to learn to live together and appreciate the golden rule.

"It will be a wonderful monument to the American people to all soldiers. They've all paid dues."

PHILPOT said that in his research, he'd talked to a number of buffalo soldiers and found many like Hollowell who were not angry about the racism and discrimination they faced in military duty.

"The country has never appreciated what they've done," he said.

Beyond the monument, Philpot said, his committee had other goals the most important being to get accurate information on the buffalo soldiers into history books by the year 2000.

"This monument will turn to dust," he said, "but if you put it in the books, it will be there for thousands of years to come."

Philpot said other recognitions the committee hoped to gain for the buffalo soldiers include a postage stamp "Since Elvis got his, we think we'll get ours" a national Buffalo Soldiers Day, a Kansas research library dedicated to the subject and a permanent buffalo soldiers exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.