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Definition of BUFFALO SOLDIER
: an African-American soldier serving in the western United States after the Civil War
First Known Use of BUFFALO SOLDIER
Nickname given to members of African American cavalry regiments of the U.S. Army who served in the western U.S. (1867–96). An 1866 law authorized the army to form cavalry and infantry regiments of African American men under the command of white officers; the result was the 9th and 10th cavalries and the 38th through 41st infantries. The primary mission of the cavalry regiments was to control Indians on the western frontier (the nickname buffalo was given by the Indians). The soldiers took part in almost 200 engagements. Noted for their courage and discipline, they had the army's lowest desertion and court-martial rates. One of the 10th Cavalry's officers was John Pershing, whose nickname Black Jack reflected his advocacy on behalf of African American troops.