From the Collections—Officer’s Uniform of Lt. William Harvey Smith, 1890-1898

13, December 2009

African American soldiers made significant military contributions while fighting for the Union during the Civil War. After the war, the U.S. Army created four black regiments—the 24th and 25th Infantry and the 9th and 10th Cavalry—as part of the Regular Army. These units were assigned to bases across the West, where they pursued outlaws, protected uneasy settlers and railroad workers, and clashed with American Indians. More famously known as Buffalo Soldiers—a name which originated with the Indians—the units mirrored the culture of the time by being segregated from white regiments with one exception—their officers were almost always white. The Buffalo Soldiers were among those called when America went to war with Spain in 1898. The 10th Cavalry served with distinction in Cuba as part of the force that captured San Juan with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. This uniform dress coat, trousers, and helmet belonged to Lt. William Harvey Smith, who was killed during the battle.