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Buffalo Soldier


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This is part of the song Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley.

Troddin' through San Juan in the arms of America;

Troddin' through Jamaica, a Buffalo Soldier -

Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival:

Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta.

My question is: is "San Juan" a reference to the charge in the Span-Am War, when the Rough Riders, assisted by the Buffalo Soldiers charged up the San Juan Hills? What should I make of the "in the hands of America" phrase?

While I am at it...I am in the process of writing a report on the Buffalo Soldiers. What I am trying to find out is to what extent Bob Marley was right suggesting that the Rastafarians of Jamaica can identify with the so-called Buffalo Soldiers...You may have some comments on this as well.


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The United States Army had 10 regiments of cavalry. The 9th and 10th Cavalry were Afro-American regiments led by white officers. Highly respected by the Native Americans these men were called Buffalo Soldiers because their short curly hair resembled that of the buffalo. They played an active role in the Indian Wars and took part in campaigns against the Sioux, Comanche and Apache. Eleven of these soldiers received the Medal of Honor. The first black officer was Henry O. Flipper, who served in the 10th Cavalry.


It is well worth looking at the career of Flipper. He took part in the Indian Wars and fought against Victorio and the Apache in 1880. Colonel Benjamin Grierson wrote that "He came under my immediate command during the campaigns against Victorio's band of hostile Indians, and from personal observation, I can testify to his efficiency and gallantry in the field."

After being transferred to Fort Davis he became quartermaster. When Colonel William Rufus Shafter became commanding officer of Fort Davis in 1881, he immediately sacked Flipper as quartermaster. Flipper suspected what he later called a systematic plan of persecution, and is said to have been warned by civilians at the post of a plot by white officers to force him from the army. The following year, when he discovered post funds missing from his quarters, he attempted to conceal the loss until he could find or replace the money. When Shafter learned of the discrepancy, he immediately filed charges against him.

Flipper was accused of embezzling $3,791.77 from commissary funds. Flipper denied the charge and claimed that he had been framed by his fellow officers, who hated him because he was African American. A court-martial found him not guilty of embezzlement but on 30th June, 1882, convicted him of conduct unbecoming an officer and ordered him dismissed from the Army.

In 1893 Flipper became a mining engineer for the Justice Department. He also worked as a consultant for the Sierra Mining Company (1908-1912) and as resident engineer for the William Greene Gold-Silver Company (1912-1922). Fluent in Spanish he was interpreter-translator for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations investigating Mexican Affairs (1922-23).

Flipper continued to prosper and was appointed assistant to the Secretary of the Interior (1923-1930) and held a senior position at the Pantepec Company in New York until he retired in 1931. His memoirs, Negro Frontiersman: The Western Memoirs of Henry Ossian Flipper, was published after his death.

Henry Flipper died in Atlanta, Georgia, on 3rd May, 1940. His supporters continued to campaign to overturn the sentence of the court-martial that had taken place in 1882. This was finally achieved in December 1976 when he was granted a posthumous honorable discharge. On 11th February, 1978, he was given a full military funeral at Thomasville, Georgia.

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