Black Warriors in Indian Territory
by Jimmie White
The contributions of the Blackmilitary units that served in IndianTerritory during the post-Civil Warperiod are often overlooked whenOklahoma’s past is reconstructed.For the protection of the Americanfrontier several camps and fortswere established in the territory.The most outstanding militaryregiments to be stationed in thefuture state of Oklahoma werethe all Black 9th and 10th CavalryRegiments of the United StatesArmy. These units were created inresponse to Black Civil War veteransdemands that they be allowedto continue their military serviceafter the Civil War. However, theArmy’s leadership ignored thedistinguished service records ofAmericans of African descent andwere reluctant to give these men thewell-earned privilege of peacetimeservice. These military commandersheld preconceived assumptionsabout the ability of Blacks to servein the role of soldiers, and as a resultBlack service men received unequaltreatment in every aspect ofmilitary life. However, the troopersof the 9th and 10th Cavalry overcamethe obstacles of prejudice anddiscrimination. They achieve anexcellent
combat record, and providedmuch needed protection to the Southwest during this turbulentpost-Civil War period.When examining the uniquehistory of this nation’s developmentseveral examples may be cited ofcourageous Blacks giving their livesfor the cause of liberty. CrispusAttucks, was the first of manyof these heroes to die duringthe American Revolution as heled Boston patriots against theBritish garrison during the BostonMassacre of 1770. With victoryagainst the British the UnitedStates was established but the peacebetween America and Britain wasshort lived when the two nationsengaged in war once again in 1812.Black heroes, once again, did nothesitate to further serve the causeof liberty by fighting at the Battleof New Orleans. In these wars,Americans of African descent werewilling to sacrifice their lives for theprinciple of liberty which in realityeluded millions of their brothersand sisters.The Confederate’s bombardment ofFt. Sumter April 12, 1861 becamethe opening shot of the Civil Warand would give American’s sablewarriors the opportunity to makeLiberty for all a reality. When
Abraham Lincoln learned of theattack on the Federal fort he madea call for 75,000 loyal Americanto volunteer to join the militaryto crush the Southern rebellion.However, Black men who answeredthe call were turned away fromserving because Lincoln, alongwith most other White Americans,believed that the waging of warshould be conducted only bythemselves. However, the unexpectedlong duration of the conflict,growing man-power shortage in theranks of the military, and pressurefrom Frederick Douglas and otherAbolitionist’s who demanded thatBlacks be allowed to officially serve,caused Lincoln to relinquish andorder the Army to form segregatedBlack regiments. The first of theseall Black regiments to be createdwas established April 12, 1862when General David Hunter waspermitted to form a regiment of ex-slavesfrom Florida, Georgia, andSouth Carolina. The most famousof the Black regiments establishedwas the 54th of Massachusetts, thatFrederick Douglas helped recruitmen to serve in.The first of these Black regimentsto see official action in the war wasthe First Kansas
Many young Black men eagerly enlisted for the five-year period atthirteen dollars per month pay plus food, clothing, and shelter.
Colored Infantry formed August 1862in Ft. Scott, Kansas.General James G.Blunt brought thesetroops to Ft. GibsonIndian Territory andthey engaged theConfederates of IndianTerritory July 17, 1863in the battle of HoneySprings which brokethe Confederate’s control of IndianTerritory. Throughout the CivilWar Black warriors demonstratedtheir valor in combat and eventuallythe Union forces prevailedagainst the treacherous South.With the conclusion of hostilitiesbetween the Northern andSouthern states, the nation revertedto its policy of maintaining a smallpeace-time Army. Within one yearthe military had been scaled downto its pre-war level. This reductionof the military’s forces created anuncertain future for Black veteranswho wished to continue their servicesince no regular all Black Armyunits had existed before the CivilWar for them to join. Many argumentsware mad before Congresson behalf of America’s sable warriorsto be included in the reorganizationof the United States post warmilitary forces. Finally, the Blacksolder’s continued service was securedJuly 28, 1866 with PresidentAndrew Johnson’s signing of theact authorizing the formation ofthe 9th and 10th Cavalries and the24th and 25th Infantries. However,the creation of the first Black Regular Army units and the prospectof Black soldiers participatingin America’s peace-time militarywas not welcomed by many in theArmy’s command.
When General U. S. Grant orderedthe formation of the two Blackcavalry regiments he recommendedthat Colonel Edward Hatch bemade commander of the 9th andColonel Benjamin Grierson thecommander of the 10th. ColonelHatch established his headquartersin Greenville, Louisiana andColonel Grierson’s headquarterswas in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.From these locations, the two commandershad to recruit troopersand officers. Hatch and Griersonencounter difficulty recruitingoffices to serve in their units becausethe Army’s requirement thatall officers must be White. It willbe many years after the units wereformed that the 10th Regimentwould receive its first Black officer,Henry O Flipper, who was the firstBlack man to graduate from theUnited States Military Academyin West Point, New York. Mostof the White officers that Hatchand Grierson approached to serve with them felt thatBlacks were unreliable,fearful, and notin possession of anyof the other virtuesthat a warrior shouldpossess. Therefore,they preferred to receivelower rank andslower promotionsto serving with Blackmen. However, the commandershad no difficulty in recruiting Blackpersonnel. Many young Blackmen eagerly enlisted for the fiveyearperiod at thirteen dollars permonth pay plus food, clothing, andshelter. They did so because theArmy provided many social andeconomic opportunities that civilianlife failed to extend to people ofcolor. However, some of the Army’scommand were determined to notprovide such progressive opportunitiesto Blacks. They implementedprocedures designed to deter Blacksfrom enlisting, and to curtail thesuccess of those who insisted onserving despite these obstacles.
General William Hoffman, commanderof Ft. Leavenworth, wascontemptuous of Black troopsand their White officers. Frictionsoon developed between ColonelGrierson and Hatch because of hisBlack soldiers. Hoffman did asmuch as he possibly could to makethe 10th Regiment’s assignment atFt. Leavenworth uncomfortable.This hostile situation would eventuallyforce the 10th Regiment tobe transferred to Indian Territory.