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10th U.S. Cavalry Troop E "Buffalo Soldiers"

Sub-collection: The Aldon & Lea Cavalry Guidon Sub-Collection

U.S, Army Red over White Guidon, Troop E, 10th US Cavalry.
The legend of the African-American "Buffalo Soldiers" stands behind this 27" x 41" wool bunting service guidon from the time of the Spanish-American War. E Troop of the 10th U.S. Cavalry saw furious action in Cuba, with several of its men winning the Medal of Honor. However, fighting in Cuba neither began nor ended the long history of the 10th, which has also included service in the American West, Asia, Africa, and Europe. It should be noted this artifact of the Troop 10 or Company E is depicted in a color print rendering of this very flag and an action in the war where Private Augustus Walley is assisting a fellow soldier that has been wounded in a charge up a hill in Cuba. This very flag is depicted in the color print - see ZFC3765 in this Grouping of the scene showing Troop E's flag and Pvt. Walley assisting the American officer.

In the United States Army a guidon is a flag that a company carries to signify its unit designation and corps affiliation. A basic U.S. Cavalry guidon is rectangular with a wedge-shaped slice cut out, leaving a "swallow-tailed" appearance. The name guidon dates back to the middle Ages when a company of French dragoons would often use a small flag to guide men or "guide hommes." This became the English "guide upon" and, ultimately, "guidon." When the U.S. Army reauthorized a mounted service in 1833, its guidons followed the design of the pennants made famous by Polish lancers during the Napoleonic Wars: a red upper half above a white lower half.

Every guidon is a source of identity and pride for the unit it represents. However, one could at least argue that the special circumstances of black Buffalo Soldiers gave exceptional meaning to the guidons they carried. After all, these men fought and died for a nation which only grudgingly conceded their identity as first-class citizens. So perhaps the pride in service to that nation felt by the Buffalo Soldiers, tinged by the experiences of an oppressed people, amounted to a pride that differed subtly but significantly from the pride felt by white soldiers.

Activated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1866, the 10th became the last Cavalry regiment formed after the end of the Civil War as part of the expansion of the regular Army following demobilization of the wartime volunteer and draft units. The Civil War hero Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, remembered for his raid through Mississippi in 1863, was first commander of the 10th. The regiment's individual companies received silk Civil War surplus Stars and Stripes guidons which the troopers carried as they performed their early postwar duties: monitoring and promoting orderly westward expansion, protecting private and government property, exploring and mapping the frontier, and assimilating the Native American Indian peoples.

Although, as a regiment of African-American volunteers, the 10th was originally supposed to carry the title "Colored Cavalry" in its unit designation, Colonel Grierson insisted on the regiment's sequential numbering as regular cavalry. As racial tensions in Kansas forced Grierson into recruiting trips to eastern cities, he and his men found conditions intolerable at Fort Leavenworth, whose commander, General William Hoffman, opposed service by blacks in the regular army. Grierson eventually received permission to move his regiment to Fort Riley, Kansas.

In 1867 the regiment saw its first combat, against Native American Indians near the Saline River in Kansas, where they acquired the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers," owing to the courage of Private John Randall. According to the story, this soldier from Troop G came under attack by Indians while escorting two civilians who were ultimately killed along with the soldier's horse. Wounded by lance and gunshot, Randall defended himself with only his pistol until help arrived, leaving behind thirteen fallen warriors. The frustrated Indians honored Randall as a "Buffalo Soldier" because he had fought like a wounded, cornered buffalo who refused to die.

Many other stories persist about the origin of the term as well-for example, in the tightly curled hair of African-American soldiers. Whatever its origin, however, in time "Buffalo Soldiers" would come to refer to all African-American soldiers.

For the next several years, the 10th focused on subduing Native American Indian peoples, especially the Comanche, in Kansas and Oklahoma. But by 1875 the success of these efforts enabled the 10th to move west to Fort Concho, Texas, which would become headquarters for the Buffalo Soldiers until the fort's deactivation in 1889. In Texas they concentrated on protecting mail service, scouting and surveying, controlling Indian movements, guarding against raids by Mexican bandits, building telegraph lines, and opening new roads-while constantly looking out for hit-and-run attacks by renegade Apaches.

In the late 1870s, one such Apache, Victorio, left his reservation with a band of Chiricahuas to raid settlers' homes near Alma and to attack Fort Tularosa, both in New Mexico Territory. The 10th succeeded in chasing Victorio out of U.S. territory and into his death at the hands of the Mexican military.

Then, in 1885 the growing threat posed by the Chiricahua warrior Geronimo provided the 10th with a new mission. With the entire regiment gathered for his pursuit, all twelve of its companies paraded together for the first time since the formation of the 10th nearly two decades earlier. That year the 10th also started carrying the new Model 1885 red over white guidons readopted by the Cavalry which had retired the Stars and Stripes guidons in use since the Civil War.

Geronimo's 1886 surrender preceded the chase and capture by members of the 10th of the remnants of Geronimo's band, led by Chief Mangus. Four years later a detachment of the 10th fought one of the last battles of the Apache Wars at the Salt River in Arizona. There, Sergeant William McBryar won the Medal of Honor for "coolness, bravery and marksmanship," according to the official citation.

Also in 1890, the different companies of the 10th received their newly introduced Service Guidons. Still 27" x 41" and featuring the red over white design, the new Service Guidons came in wool bunting, with hand-sewn letters and numerals, and replaced the less durable silk guidons in everyday use. The following year the Buffalo Soldiers took their wool guidons far to the north, to the arctic winters and scorching summers of the Department of Dakota-reaching their new regimental headquarters at Fort Custer, Montana during a blizzard.

In 1895 the most famous officer ever to serve with the 10th, First Lieutenant John J. Pershing, took command of one of its companies. The voluntary service by Pershing-later General of the Armies-with the Buffalo Soldiers earned him his nickname, "Black Jack."

Dismounted during the Spanish-American War because of limited sea transport space for horses, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th charged up Cuba's San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898 just as fearlessly as Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders who nevertheless won all the glory. During the bloody assault on San Juan Hill the 10th earned a distinction unique in the history of the United States Army. Color Sergeant J.E. Andrews of the 3rd took a bullet to the stomach and tumbled back down the hill, still clutching his regimental colors. At this point Sergeant George Berry of the 10th Cavalry took the standard from Andrews and carried it, along with his own regiment's standard, up the slope as he shouted, "Dress on the colors, boys, dress on the colors!" As American soldiers swarmed over the hill, Berry planted both standards on the summit, becoming the only man in U.S. Army history to carry two standards through a battle to victory.

Exactly one week before the Battle of San Juan Hill, at the Battle of Las Guasimas, the 10th had deployed on the right of the American line with the 1st Cavalry. Major James Bell of the 1st suffered a bone-shattering gunshot to the leg and Captain C. G. Ayers of E Troop of the 10th went to save him. Ayers quickly found himself pinned down by withering Spanish fire and the difficulty of carrying a man in agony from his wound, resulting in Private Augustus Walley of E Troop coming forward to help, rescuing Bell alongside Ayers. For his "extraordinary exertion in the preservation of human life," Walley received a Certificate of Merit-to add to the Medal of Honor he had won in "action with hostile Apaches" in 1881. The American artist Don Stivers' painting, A Day of Honor, memorializes Walley's heroism at Las Guasimas.

For their bravery in Cuba, D Troop Commander "Black Jack" Pershing earned the Silver Star and Sergeant Major Edward Baker, Jr., and four other troopers of the 10th received the Medal of Honor.
Once the Spanish-American War had ended, repatriation of the 10th to the United States was brief. In 1899 they shipped out to the Philippine Islands for combat against General Emilio Aguinaldo's Insurrectos, who resisted American acquisition of their homeland from Spain and sought an independent Philippines.
Despite the Buffalo Soldiers' subjection to quarantine after exposure to yellow fever in Cuba, the Army thought African-Americans were immune to tropical diseases and therefore especially suited for combat in the tropics. So, by late summer of 1899 all four of the Army's regular black regiments and two volunteer black regiments found themselves in the Philippines. Though African-American soldiers gave outstanding service there, Governor General William Howard Taft-the future President-ultimately barred "colored" regiments from the Philippines and, in 1902, forced return of the 10th to the American Southwest. Patrols and garrison life became routine for the regiment until its 1909 transfer to Fort Ethan Allen in Vermont for rest, recuperation, and retraining, after which they went back to the Southwest again in 1913.

This was three years into the Mexican Revolution, when its chaos sometimes swept north across the Rio Grande, prompting U.S. Cavalry incursions into Mexico to protect American border towns and ranches. From their base at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, the 10th took part in the invasion of Mexico aimed at punishing Pancho Villa for his raid on Columbus, New Mexico. During this Mexican Expedition under the command of "Black Jack"-by now General-Pershing, E Troop of the 10th made history by becoming the first military unit ever to use overhead machine-gun fire to support advancing friendly forces.

Danger along the Mexican border kept the 10th at home during the First World War. In 1918, E Troop engaged in a running battle with Yaqui Indians traveling to Sonora to help Yaquis involved there in a lengthy war against the Mexican government. E Troop thus fought in the U.S. military's last recorded battle with Native American Indians.

Yet in August 1918, the 10th saw action against Imperial German military advisors-fighting beside Mexican soldiers at the Battle of Ambos Nogales. This became the only WWI battle in which Germans faced U.S. soldiers in North America.

Still at Fort Huachuca in 1921, postwar reduction of the regular Army saw demobilization of seven of the twelve troops which had made up the 10th. That same year, the Army eliminated silk guidons for all purposes in favor of the more durable wool bunting service version, which now began appearing even in parade displays. This ended the tradition of use of silk guidons by U.S. mounted troops reaching back to 1833. Then in 1931, the year of the regiment's dispersal to various posts around the country-including Fort Meyers in Virginia, Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, and the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York-the Army discontinued its large 27" x 41" guidons and introduced the smaller, less visible 20" x 27" model in use today.

In 1944 the 10th arrived in North Africa for deactivation as a regiment. Its personnel, trained as combat soldiers, filled out the ranks of combat support and combat service support units, though some former troopers from the 10th experienced combat in Italy as replacements with the largely African-American 92nd Division.

The Cold War saw reactivation of the 10th as a unit, as well as President Harry Truman's Executive Order 9981, issued in 1947, desegregating the Army. Therefore the 10th would serve as a racially integrated unit in Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, and Iraq where they are today assigned to the Fourth Infantry Division.

Americans have not reached a consensus about the extent to which-or even whether-the nation must make further progress toward racial equality. The debate over the role that considerations over skin color have played in our history, and should continue to play in our future, may animate Americans for many more years. But whether or not the United States needs to make further progress toward racial equality, service by the African-American General Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from 1989 to 1993, and the more recent election of a black President, imply huge strides toward racial equality since the days when the 10th had to protest to avoid being excluded from the rest of the cavalry and called merely the "Colored Cavalry".

In sum, this old wool bunting service guidon reminds us not only of deadly military combat as far away as Asia, but of very different kinds of struggles here at home, among Americans themselves.

Exhibition History:
Private Exhibition

Washington Flag Congress, 2011
24th International Congress of Vexillology and
45th annual meeting of the North American Vexillological Association.
Washington, DC & Alexandria, VA
July 31-August 6, 2011

ZFC Significant Flag


• Troop E, 10th U.S. Cavalry, 1895 - 1931
• Acquired by Thomas F. Aldon Collection, until passing in 2009.
• Sold via Cowan's of Cincinnati, Ohio to Zaricor Flag Collection, 2010


Quartermaster General US Army, U.S. Army Uniforms and Equipment, 1889, reprint, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1986.

10th Cavalry Regiment (United States), Wikipedia, 12 November 2011, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_Cavalry_Regiment_%28United_States%29

10th Cavalry Regiment History "Ready And Forward", 12 November 2011, From: http://www.first-team.us/legacies/subunits/10cr_rgt/

Powell, Anthony L., 10th Cavalry Roster - Spanish American War 1898, 12 November 2011, From: http://www.coax.net/people/lwf/10TH_SAW.HTM

Plonese, Carl, Ready and Forward Again. . .A Unit History of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, 12 November 2011, From: http://www.spanamwar.com/10thcavhist.htm

Hynes, Dan, Capt. Charles Greenlief Ayers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry, E Troop, 12 November 2010, from:

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection

Hoist & Fly

Width of Hoist 27.5
Length of Fly 41


Width of 1st Stripe 13.75
Width of 3rd Stripe 13.75
Width of Last Stripe 13.75
Size of Hoist 2


Is it framed? no


Are there stars on obverse? no
Are there stars on reverse? no


Number of Stripes 2
Color of Top Stripe Red
Color of Bottom Stripe White
Has a Blood Stripe? no
Comments on Stripes Hand-sewn "10" over "E".


Description of Crest/Emblem This 1895 style service guidon is machine sewn with hand sewn numerals and letters giving it a likely issue date early than the issuance dates for this type of service guidon.


Nation Represented United States


Fabric Wool
Comments on Fabric Bunting


Stitching Combination
Comments on Stitching Machine stitched construction with hand sewn letters
Hand & Machine stitching


Type of Weave Plain


Method of Attachment Pole Hem & Tabs


Applique Sides Single Faced = Mirror Image Reverse

PDF Files
Auction Catalog
10th Cav Troop E








Research Documents


Condition Good
Damage Used, worn, soiled and faded.
Displayable yes


Date 1898