Seattle Buffalo Soldiers 1st. Sgt. Lenard Howze, right, and Trooper Larry Jones stand with their horses Rusty and Mystic during Saturday morning’s buffalo soldier encampment at Fort Walla Walla Days.
Photo by Jeff Horner.
WALLA WALLA — Buffalo Soldiers came out to role play at this weekend’s Fort Walla Walla Days.
Five reenactment soldiers from Seattle donned uniforms of the 10th U.S. Calvary — three brought their horses — to relive and recount an 85-year history of segregated military service by African Americans.
Saturday's Fort Walla Walla Days included an encampment by buffalo soldier re-enactors.
“As a kid I started studying history. And then I met veterans. And they told me a different story of history,” Buffalo Solder Sgt. Lenard Howze said.
All day Saturday, Howze and his fellow reenactment soldiers taught on the triumphs and trials of the Buffalo Soldiers, who existed under different names but still served as segregated Army personnel from 1866 until the Army disbanded its all-African American units in 1952.
“A lot of times the blacks from California had to learn how to live in the South,” Buffalo Soldier reenactment member Larry Jones said, noting that most of the training camps during World War II were in the South. “You couldn’t go into the officer’s mess, but some German prisoners could.”
Like most reenactment soldiers, Jones’ interests go beyond being a Buffalo Soldier. He also portrays members of the British Royal Air Force, a 10th Calvary Spanish-American War veteran, a British paratrooper and a cowboy action shooter. And he has more than a dozen mannequins at home with authentic military uniforms from different ages, as well as other military artifacts.
For Howze, his Buffalo Soldier reenactment started in 1993, when he participated in the Oregon Trail Sesquicentennial. What followed for him were years of studying, fact compiling and teaching about African American soldier accomplishments, which include the following:
More than 180,000 African American soldiers served in the Union Army before and during the Civil Wary, and 33,380 deaths were recorded during their service.
The Cheyenne Indians called the African Americans Buffalo Soldiers because of their “woolly hair,” courage and fighting skills.
Buffalo Soldiers received 18 Medal of Honor awards during the Indian Campaigns.
23 African Americans earned the nation’s highest honor for valor during the Civil War.
Another little known fact about Buffalo Soldiers was that they served at Fort Walla Walla at various times, with the last time being in 1904, when they were reassigned and never returned, museum Executive Director James Payne said.
“It was kind of serendipity that they said they were available this year,” Payne said.
Along with the return of the Buffalo Soldiers, this weekend’s Fort Walla Walla Days will also include the return of nearly 500 Civil War military artifacts, a Civil War field hospital demonstration by Frank “Rusty” Starr, music, dancing, a barbecue, ice cream and other entertainment and historical displays.
The museum is open today 10-5 p.m.
Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $3 for children six to 12 and five and under are free.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8325.