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opportunities for Cathay to desert the Union Army, but Cathay never did. Some historians believe Cathay was learning to like being part of the army of liberation for African Americans. On November 15, 1866, William Cathay enlisted in the Union Army at St. Louis, Missouri. Tall and strong, William Cathay was mustered in along with other able-bodied blacks who were eager to be a part of ending slavery, but William Cathay had a deep dark secret. William Cathay was actually a former slave woman whose real name was Cathay Williams. It is believed that she was able to conceal her real gender from everyone but two people — her cousin and her friend, both of whom were soldiers in the 38th, the same unit in which she served as a cook. Cathay marched and kept up with the best of her fellow soldiers. Marching and various illnesses finally caught up with her and she was hospitalized. It was then a surgeon discovered that William Cathay was Cathay Williams. Possibly quite shocked, her commanding officer, Captain Charles E. Clarke, gave her an honorable discharge on October 14, 1868. Cathay eventually returned to Trinidad, Colorado, where she ran a business. Although she applied for a military pension, it was denied, despite her having serious medical problems. It is not known exactly when she died, but it is believed to be in 1892. She would have been 49 or 50 years of age. In 2016, a bronze bust of Cathay Williams was erected outside the Richard Allen Cultural Center in Leavenworth, Kansas.


The story of Cathay Williams is a significant one, as are the stories of countless numbers of Buffalo Soldiers, including the Buffalo Soldiers of Westmoreland County, who despite wretch-


ed treatment as slaves and even as free blacks, believed in their country and fought to make it free for people of all colors, races and creeds. Perhaps Edward Cunningham said it best in his poem, The Buffalo Soldiers:


Bravely and surely and swiftly you ride Out of the mists of our past. Soldiers of color, of courage and pride, into the sunlight at last… Fierce in your loyalty, true in your trust. Strangers to glory and fame. Comrades of hardship and desert and dust. Buffalo Soldiers by name… Buffalo soldiers, black Buffalo Soldiers, Riding to destiny’s call, Buffalo Soldiers, brave Buffalo Soldiers, Ready to sacrifice all… Buffalo Soldiers, America’s Soldiers, Raising your banners of gold,


Honor and praise to the Buffalo Soldiers, Long will your legend be told!


Buffalo Soldiers like Walter Tate, Richard Johnson and James Arthur Dean refused to accept the hopeless future that was their destiny. These courageous people seized the opportunity to become Buffalo Soldiers and proved beyond any question of a doubt their equality, bravery and love of country. Well done, Buffalo Soldiers! H


38


May/June 2017


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