A Salute to Buffalo Soldiers

On July 28,1866, Congress authorized the creation of units made up of black enlisted soldiers to serve in US Cavalry and US Infantry regiments. The Plains Indians equated the skin color, hair type, courage and tenacity of these black soldiers with that of the buffalo — hence the nickname “buffalo soldier.”

Buffalo soldier units served in the 9th and 10th US Cavalry regiments and the 24th and 25th US Infantry regiments. Soldiers from all four of these regiments served at Fort Concho from 1869 to 1885, comprising half the soldiers stationed at the post. Fort Concho, in modern-day San Angelo, was built after the Civil War to establish law and order and to protect settlers from Indians.
buffalo-soldier-newsThis summer, Fort Concho observed the 150-year anniversary of the Buffalo Soldiers. My wife and I happened to be in the area so we attended the celebration at the fort. While there we had the opportunity to meet Paul Cook, a Buffalo Soldier re-enactor as well as listen to a talk by John Langellier, a historian and the author of “Fighting for Uncle Sam: Buffalo Soldiers in the Frontier Army.”
fort-conchoI had heard about the Buffalo Soldiers but did not know much about them. So, I was excited to attend Langellier’s talk. The contribution of these tough soldiers to the westward expansion of our nation must not be underestimated. Buffalo soldiers did everything from building roads to patrolling the frontier to a variety difficult civil and military tasks. Additionally, they distinguished themselves in campaigns against numerous Indian tribes.
buffalo-soldier-talkThe most amazing thing I learned about Buffalo Soldiers was the history of the all-black 25th Infantry Bicycle Corp. At a time when the military did not want to spend money providing horses for these black soldiers, a white lieutenant names James Moss persuaded the military to provide them with bicycles. The military agreed and provided the Buffalo Soldiers with heavy duty bicycles made by the Spalding Company.
buffalo-soldier-cyclistsTo show the practicality of the bicycle for military use, Moss organized a ride from Fort Missoula to Yellowstone National Park and back again — a trek of 800 miles over rugged terrain. He later organized a 1,900 mile ride from the fort to St. Louis. All of this at a time when there were few roads, bicycles were terribly heavy and had a single gear, and the men had to strap all of their gear to their bicycles.
25th-bicycle-infantryAmazing does not begin to describe the achievements of the bicycle regiment — a testimony to just how tough the Buffalo Soldiers were. As a mountain-biker who owns a pretty decent bike with lots of gears and suspension to make riding the trails easier, I have the deepest respect for the Buffalo Soldier cyclists. Wow! These guys were the definition of what it means to be tough.
fort-concho-buffalo-soldiersBuffalo Soldiers are an important part of our history. Their history is part of the fabric of our rich Texas history and deserves to be told and retold to future generations. They helped to ensure the settlement of frontier regions of Texas and beyond. Happy 150-year anniversary to the Buffalo Soldiers of yesteryear!

The Historic Murals of San Angelo

From earliest days, people have been compelled to record their history — the stories of how they lived, what they experienced, and what they accomplished. Ancient peoples cleverly devised ways to tell their stories.

The Egyptians painted hieroglyphs. The ancient Khmer empire recorded their history in the bas reliefs of Angkor Wat. Ancient cave dwellers left pictographs of animal and human figures, handprints, and curious geometric shapes on cave walls.

Even ancient peoples understood that history provides context to our existence. History helps us understand how our own personal stories fit into the larger narrative. Each of us are, after all, shaped by what happened before us and have the capacity to influence what happens after us. We can add to the narrative of history.
Ranch Heritage MuralOne of the coolest examples of recording history is found in the city of San Angelo. Situated along the Concho River, this Texas town is steeped in western history. San Angelo is unquestionably proud of its western heritage and dedicated to preserving and sharing its history and culture.
Public Transportation MuralIn 1997, a woman named Susan Morris founded The Historic Murals of San Angelo. According to their mission statement, this initiative was designed to provide the residents of San Angelo “with a clear, valid understanding of the history-rich legacy of our West Texas forefathers.”
Indians of Texas MuralTheir specific platform for achieving their mission: larger-than-life murals to “expose as many people as possible to the history of San Angelo.” Today, the magnificent history-intensive works of art are on permanent public display on the brick and mortar canvases of the city’s downtown buildings.
Blacksmith MuralThese history-themed murals certainly pique interest in the city’s past. However, to make the learning experience even more enriching, Morris’ educational organization has added an additional component — a self-guided cell phone tour. Each mural has a designated number that you can dial to hear an audio recording with detailed historical information. Brilliant!
Ranchers MuralIf you have never visited San Angelo you will be pleasantly surprised. It is now on my list of favorite Texas towns. This place has a lot to offer — historic places, a beautiful river walk, lots of interesting restaurants, great shopping, and a whole lot more.
San Angelo Visitors CenterStart your visit at the beautiful Visitors Center that overlooks the Concho River. The friendly folks there can get you started on your tour of the murals. There are currently a dozen murals with more in the works. You can either drive or walk to each mural since they are all clustered within a few city blocks of each other.

Kudos to The Historic Murals of San Angelo and their team of directors and artists. They have given a gift to both residents and visitors alike, one that will continue to educate and inspire others into the coming generations. Thanks for putting your rich history on display.