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NINTH UNITED STATES CAVALRY

NINTH UNITED STATES CAVALRY. On July 28, 1866, President Andrew Johnson signed legislation that laid the foundation for the post-Civil War army. Part of the act recognized the valuable service rendered the Union by black troops; it provided for six regiments of black regulars, four of infantry and two of cavalry. One of these regiments was the Ninth Cavalry. Initially all of the black regiments were commanded by white officers; not until the late 1880s, when West Point graduates John H. Alexander and Charles Young were granted commissions, did the Ninth have any black officers. The regiment was no longer in Texas by this time. Col. (and brevet major general) Edward Hatch, with an outstanding record as a cavalry commander, was assigned command of the Ninth, and an officer of equal distinction, Wesley Merritt, was appointed lieutenant colonel. Since cavalry was needed badly on the turbulent Texas frontier, the Ninth was organized in great haste at Greenville, Louisiana. Officer procurement proceeded slowly, however, for many officers refused to serve with blacks. By contrast, the enlisted ranks were easily filled, though many of the recruits were unfit for military service.

Early in the spring of 1867 the regiment was ordered to Texas, although few officers had reported for duty and the enlisted men had not been properly trained and disciplined. On April 9 a mutiny occurred while ten companies were undergoing additional training at San Antonio. It was put down with great difficulty, and when the regiment was ordered to stations on the Texas frontier several weeks later, there were doubts regarding the soldierly qualities of the men and the future of the unit. The Ninth was one of only three cavalry regiments in the state. In cooperation with several infantry units, the cavalry was responsible for protecting and defending a vast region of West Texas, as well as hundreds of miles of Rio Grande frontier. It kept the vital San Antonio-El Paso road safe for travel and commerce, protected from Indian raiders, cattle thieves, and bandits. The Ninth soon demonstrated its effectiveness and removed doubts, except for those blind with prejudice, concerning the fighting qualities of the black troopers. With a full complement of officers and greater care in enlisted recruitment, training and discipline improved swiftly. Hatch established headquarters at Fort Davis, and companies operated out of forts Stockton, Clark, McKavett, and Quitman, among others. Constant patrols, pursuits, and frequent bloody clashes turned the Ninth into a tough, hard-striking, and combat-wise regiment. In the spring of 1870 a member of the Ninth won the unit's first, but not the last, Medal of Honor. Sergeant Emanuel Stance was awarded the medal for five successful encounters with Indian raiders. In 1874, with the outbreak of the Red River War, a battalion of the Ninth formed the backbone of one of five columns thrown into the field against hostile bands of Kiowas, Comanches, Southern Cheyennes and Arapahoes. The column, organized at Fort Griffin under Lt. Col. George P. Buell, Eleventh Infantry, conducted a relentless campaign of three months with little rest. The black troopers received high praise from Buell for their courage, durability, and cheerfulness under extremes of heat and cold and without adequate food and shelter.

After eight years on the Texas frontier the Ninth was ordered to New Mexico in 1875 to fight in the seemingly endless Apache wars. In 1877 the unit made a final contribution to peace and order in Texas. Quarrels over salt deposits near El Paso led to broad-scale violence and bloodshed that state authorities could not control, and Governor Richard B. Hubbard appealed for federal assistance. It came in the form of Colonel Hatch and three battalions of the Ninth on forced march from stations in New Mexico. Their arrival in San Elizario, center of the conflict, brought an abrupt end to the Salt War of San Elizario. After five years of hard service in New Mexico most of the regiment was ordered to Indian Territory to engage in the distasteful and unrewarding task of repelling Boomer invasions. After it was relieved of this duty the Ninth enjoyed a period of relative quiet, but at the close of the frontier period, a battalion of the regiment served against the Sioux hostiles after the catastrophe at Wounded Knee. Twenty-four years of continuous service in the American West had made the Ninth Cavalry one of the crack regiments in the United States Army. See also BUFFALO SOLDIERS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

John M. Carroll, ed., The Black Military Experience in the American West (New York: Liveright, 1971). William H. Leckie, The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Negro Cavalry in the West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967). Kenneth Wiggins Porter, The Negro on the American Frontier (New York: Arno Press, 1971). Dorman H. Winfrey and James M. Day, eds., Texas Indian Papers (4 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1959–61; rpt., 5 vols., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966).

William H. Leckie

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

William H. Leckie, "NINTH UNITED STATES CAVALRY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qln02), accessed July 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.