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The alleged bestowal of this name “Buffalo Soldiers” as a sign of respect by Indian warriors has not gone unchallenged.The most serious objection has come from contemporary Native American leaders, who were angered over the publicity attending the issue of a buffalo-soldier postage stamp in 1994 and resented the suggestion that there was some special bond between the soldiers and their warrior ancestors.Why is a story that has been told repeatedly from multiple perspectives over the last two generations widely labeled “untold”?
All Army units, white as well as black, received left-over Civil War equipment and mounts, from a Department of War that focused on cutting costs and reducing manpower. On the scholarly side this myth found expression as recently as 1999 in historian Charles Kenner’s assertion that the Buffalo Soldiers' "lives and deeds have largely been overlooked." Only the year before, Bruce Glasrud's bibliography on African Americans in the West contained over twenty-four pages and more than 300 entries devoted to the black regiments.
They fought in major wars against Indians, including conflicts against the Cheyenne in Kansas after the Civil War, the decade-long and brutal Apache war of the late 1870s and early 1880s, and the last major campaign on the Pine Ridge in South Dakota during 1890-1891.
Depending on which of three overlapping listings of combat engagements you choose, in the years between 18 they fought in between 135 and 163 of 939 to 1,282 battles and skirmishes.
He went from there to assert that the name might have reflected the Indians' respect for the soldiers because the buffalo was so important to their culture and they would not have made the comparison if it had not been respectful.
In a footnote, Leckie hedged his suppositions: "The origin of the term 'buffalo soldier' is uncertain, although the common explanation is that the Indian saw a similarity between the hair of the Negro soldier and that of the buffalo.