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“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”


~ Frederick Douglass


Portrait of Union solider by waterfall is concept of Cathay Williams (1868) by Garry Palm. Courtesy of Garry Palm. www.garrypalm.com.


Long before Buffalo Soldiers fought in the Indian Wars, there


were African Americans fighting for their country. The United States Colored Troops (USCT) branch of the U.S. Army was founded in 1863 to create regiments made up of black enlisted men who were commanded generally by white officers. Their courage and struggle for equal status during the Civil War was depicted in the 1989 film, Glory. The film centers around the story of Captain Robert Shaw, who was injured at the Battle of Antietam. Believed dead, he is discovered by a black grave digger and sent to a hospital where he recovers and is returned to duty. Shaw is promoted to colo- nel and put in command of the newly forming 54th Regiment, the first all-black regiment in the U.S. Army.


The courage of black soldiers is further tested when the Con- federacy issues an order that all black soldiers found in Union uniform will be summarily executed, as will their white officers. Due to this order, the opportunity was given to all black sol-


Tribute road marker to Walter Tate. Courtesy of Bob Cerullo.


diers in the 54th to take an honorable discharge, but none did. The regiment gains glory when Colonel Shaw volunteers his regiment to secure a foothold in Charleston Harbor. The task is to assault Morris Island and capture the heretofore impen- etrable Fort Wagner. The 54th leads the charge, proving for all time the bravery of African American troops. By the time the Civil War ended, it is estimated that 178,000 African American men had donned the uniform of the Union Army and served as soldiers. There were at least 5,723 black soldiers from Virginia who mustered into the U.S. Army. One of those was a man from Westmoreland County, Virginia named Walter Tate. Walter Tate was born in Zacata in 1854. In 1879, he jour- neyed to Fort Concho at what is now San Angelo, Texas, where he joined Company M of the 10th Cavalry Regiment. Tate fought with valor for five years and was wounded in 1884. He then returned home to Westmoreland County where he farmed and raised a family. His descendants number nearly 400. Tate’s grandson Samuel has worked to uncover the history of his grandfather’s service as a Buffalo Soldier. Two other Westmorelanders served as Buffalo Soldiers. Very little is known about James Arthur Dean, who came from Westmoreland County and lived there until the time he enlisted in the Union Army. He served with the 10th Regiment at the same time as Walter Tate and fellow Westmorelander Richard Johnson, but it is believed they never knew each other. The 10th Regi- ment moved to Fort Scott, Kansas, in April 1862, and performed duty there until June 4. Some companies went on expedition into Indian Territory with the 2nd Ohio Cavalry from June 13 to August 15. Their fighting ranged from Locust Grove in the Cherokee Nation, to Missouri and the expedition over Boston Mountains to Van Buren, Arkansas. Then the 10th Cavalry moved to Springfield, Missouri, where they skirmished with the infamous William Clarke Quant- rill at Paola, Kansas, on August 21, 1863. It is inter- esting to note that when the defeated Southern Army disbanded, Quantrill stayed behind and formed his own band of guerrillas known as Quantrill’s Raiders. Among them was teenager Cole Younger, as well as Frank James, the brother of Jesse James. At the end


The House & Home Magazine 35


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