*Includes excerpts of contemporary accounts
*Includes a bibliography for further reading
During the Civil War, over 180,000 black men fought in volunteer units as part of the United States Colored Troop (USCT), but it was only after the end of it that they were allowed to enlist in the Regular Army. They did so in four segregated regiments, and they colloquially became known as Buffalo Soldiers. The evolution of these black units followed the course of the organization of the peacetime Regular Army. With the end of the Civil War came the demobilization of the millions of men who had volunteered to fight on behalf of the Union, including the USCT, which disbanded in late 1865. The first draft of a bill setting the organization of the Army sent to the House on March 7, 1866 called for the establishment of eight infantry regiments to be staffed by veterans of the USCT, but the legislation lacked similar provisions for black cavalry units. When the bill got to the Senate for approval, Senator Benjamin Wade succeeded in having a provision added that authorized black cavalry units.
The bill that passed on July 28, 1866 authorized a total of 10 regiments of cavalry and 45 regiments of infantry, and in 1867, the Regular Army raised two regiments of black cavalry, designated the 9th (Colored) Cavalry and the 10th (Colored) Cavalry. In addition, the Army raised four regiments of black infantry: the 38th (Colored) Infantry, the 39th (Colored) Infantry, the 40th (Colored) Infantry, and the 41st (Colored) Infantry. Ultimately, however, the number of black regiments did not stay at six for very long, because in 1869 there was a further reduction in the size of the Regular Army, with the number of infantry regiments reduced to 25. As part of the reduction, the number of black regiments was reduced from four to two, so the 38th and 41st were reorganized as the 25th (Colored) Infantry, and the 39th and 40th were reorganized as the 24th (Colored) Infantry. The enlistment in both the cavalry and infantry was for five years, with soldiers being paid $13 a month, plus room, board, and clothing.