University of Vermont

Vermont Buffalo Soldiers

Vermont Buffalo Soldiers

Keeping the Legacy Alive:
A Tribute to Our Ancestors


100th Anniversary, 10th Cavalry's Arrival in Vermont
Fort Ethan Allen Living History Day, August 1, 2009
(click link above to learn more)
Fort Ethan Allen, Dalton Drive, Colchester/Essex, VT
Parade at 11:00 am

In July of 1909, seven hundred and fifty 10th cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers” marched into Vermont for their assignment at Fort Ethan Allen, Colchester, Vermont. Prior to their arrival, they had been stationed in various other locations such as Cuba, Kansas, and the Philippines, all warmer climates. Their first fall and winter in Vermont found them ill equipped for the weather as they were still wearing summer issue clothing. Sgt. George Osborne said he “like to froze to death.” Capt. Edward Glass, the regiment's historian, reported “The first winter in Ethan Allen was a long, hard grind, with guard tours walked in blizzards, full pack inspection in weather that caused much comment from our men, who had just come from the neighborhood of the Equator.”

vermont buffalo soldiers
Vermont Buffalo Soldiers

The 10th Cavalry performed various maneuvers, parades and celebrations. They participated in the Hudson-Fulton celebration in Albany, New York and served as escorts for General Oliver O. Howard’s funeral. They took part in the dedication of the Saratoga Battle Monument and engaged in maneuvers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Virginia. The longest and most important maneuvers were held in the summer of 1913 near Winchester, Virginia with two white cavalry regiments, the 11th and 15th, testing new cavalry tactics.
 
Certainly their tenure in Vermont met with some discrimination and displeasure as evidenced by the initial reaction of some locals when they learned black troops would be sent to Vermont. As David Work noted, “Almost overnight Burlington acquired a substantial black community, a situation that clearly dismayed many residents. This led some residents to protest the assignment of black cavalry regiments to the local fort. On the other hand, one white officer, Major George Sands, marveled “at the sentiment antagonistic to a Negro regiment . . . in such a patriotic spot as Burlington.” He predicted that the African American soldiers would “give the people of “Burlington some lessons in patriotism.””

Sgt. Osborne related; "Relations between civilians and soldiers were excellent.” He could remember only one instance of unjust treatment. One sergeant was reduced to the rank of private for not offering his seat on the trolley to an officer’s wife. It seems that some of the officers from the southern states tended to be harsher on the colored troops than their northern colleagues.

The professionalism and conduct of the troops consistently impressed the community and attitudes gradually changed. By the time the black troops left for Fort Huachuca, Arizona in December 1913, Vermont newspapers and citizens were consistently praising their “courteous and gentlemanly conduct.” Some soldiers remained in the area after discharge or retirement. Several of the African-American veterans formed a tight knit community in Winooski, Vermont. They were well-respected, hard working, law-abiding citizens who raised families there. Some are buried in the nearby national cemetery; some descendants still live in the area.

Second Lieutenant John B. Brooks had just graduated from West Point and was assigned to D Troop. In a 1961 interview, he described the exchange of stations.

"...The summer of 1913 we had spent at Winchester, Virginia, testing the new Cavalry drill regulations, and we had hardly arrived back at Ethan Allen in October when we learned of this movement which was to take place in December. Hardly any one knew how to pronounce Fort Huachuca and nobody knew where it was. So there was a great scurrying around, especially among the junior officers to get atlases and find out where Fort Huachuca was and see if we could get the correct pronunciation, which we eventually did. …..we came directly to Fort Huachuca on the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad, where we arrived on the 19th day of December 1913.”

Sources:

  • Maj. Gen. John B. Brooks, USAF - Interview, Fort Huachuca Museum files, Arizona.

  • John Buechler, Buffalo Soldiers in the Green Mountains. Chittenden County Historical Society Bulletin, Vol. 5, Now. 2, November 1969

  • Rose Mary Graveline, Mary McCollum, Nick McCollum, Sharon McCollum, Mark Spencer and Reginald Wells, descendants of Vermont 10 th Cavalry soldiers. Oral histoy and military documents.

  • Frank N. Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II:  Biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866-1917 (Lanham, Maryland: Scholarly Resources Books, 2004)

  • David Work,The Buffalo Soldiers in Vermont, 1909-1913. The Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society, Vol. 73, Nos. 1 & 2, Winter/Spring 2005

  • St. Michael's College. The Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Ethan Allen.

Web Updates: Check back for updates to this web site. A work in progress.  If you have comments, corrections, suggestions or contributions of documents or info, please let me know.
Rose Mary Graveline <Rose.Graveline@uvm.edu>

vtbuffalosoldiers.org

Last modified July 17 2009 11:14 AM

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