Buffalo soldier history shared

Jeff Guy
George Pettigrew talks about the history of Buffalo soldiers.

Storytellers and historical reenactors from Missouri gave a presentation Monday evening at the Raymond Frye Complex, about Buffalo Soldiers, as African American soldiers were known in the years after the American Civil War when the military segregated troops.

The performers from the Alexander/Madison Chapter of Kansas City, Missouri, National Buffalo Soldiers 9th and 10th Cavalry Association gave the presentation, “From Slave to Soldier.” The Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society in Wellington hosted the presentation.

Audience members wore masks. It was the first presentation the Cavalry Association had given since COVID-19 hit.

“This isn’t Black history for February,” George Pettigrew, one of the storytellers said. “This isn’t my history for being black. This is our history every day.”

Pettigrew began his presentation, saying that a Black infantry raised by a white U.S. senator from Kansas, Jim Lane, was the first Black military force to fight the Rebels in the Civil War. T

The men of the First Colored Volunteers went against “a rebel force greater in number, better trained, armed to the teeth” at Island Mound, Missouri and defeated them.

The Plains Indians, whom the soldiers fought, compared the Black soldiers to wild buffalo because of the way they fought.

“Why do they fight like that?” Pettigrew said. “Cuz’ we’ve been on the bad end of business for a long time.”

After 1870, journalists came up with the name Buffalo Soldiers for African American soldiers.

Pettigrew’s great grandfather, Isaac Johnson, a former slave from Alabama, joined the 38th Infantry K.

Donna Madison portrayed the only known female Buffalo Soldier, Cathay Williams, a former slave. She went by the name William Cathay and disguised herself as a man and was with the 38th Cavalry for five years until she was hospitalized with smallpox and her true identity was discovered. She received an honorable discharge from the Army.

Madison said Williams wasn’t the only woman to fight.

“We have women all over the U.S. buried under a man’s name,” she said.

J.R. Bruce, president of the Alexander/Madison chapter, portrayed a Sergeant Major from the 10th Cavalry and talked about the contribution of Buffalo Soldiers from the Spanish American to Korean Wars.

“They did fight,” Bruce said. “They fought to deserve a place in this country.”

Donna Madison portrays Cathay Williams, a former slave, turned Buffalo Soldier.