Tenth United States Cavalry

By: William H. Leckie

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: March 10, 2021

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The Tenth Cavalry, composed of Black enlisted men, was authorized by Congress in the summer of 1866. Col. Benjamin H. Grierson was appointed regimental commander. With the exception of Henry O. Flipper, who served with the regiment at forts Sill, Elliot, Concho, and Davis, all of the officers were White. Most of the twelve companies of the regiment were organized at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and by August 1867 nine of these were stationed along the line of the Kansas-Pacific Railroad, then being constructed across the plains of Kansas and under near-constant attack by Indian war parties. In numerous fights and skirmishes against these elusive foes the Tenth's troopers proved their courage and fighting ability. Before long, Cheyenne warriors were calling their antagonists buffalo soldiers, a title the cavalrymen promptly and proudly accepted. The Tenth played an important role in Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's winter campaign of 1868–69, which drove the hostile Southern Plains tribes into reservations in Indian Territory. At the close of these operations Sheridan assigned the Tenth the task of standing guard over the Kiowas, Kiowa-Apaches, and Comanches on their reservation. On a site that Colonel Grierson recommended and General Sheridan approved, troopers of the Tenth began construction of a permanent post, first called Camp Wichita and then Fort Sill. Controlling the Kiowas and Comanches, long accustomed to raiding in Texas, proved difficult for the Tenth. Under Indian policy, military forces on reservations could conduct operations against roving bands only when specifically called upon to do so by the resident Indian agent. Agents nominated by the Society of Friends under President Ulysses S. Grant's "peace policy" controlled Indian affairs at Fort Sill and were opposed to the use of force. Under these circumstances the Tenth could do little to stop attacks along the length of the Texas frontier. Texans and their elected representatives failed to appreciate the restrictions placed on the Tenth and came to regard Grierson, his officers, and his men as a collection of cowardly misfits. Grierson was falsely accused of inciting and arming Indian warriors, a charge that was denied not only by Grierson but by Gen. William T. Sherman, commanding general of the army.

In 1874 the outbreak of the far-flung Red River War gave the Tenth Cavalry an opportunity to display its combat effectiveness. All restrictions were removed, and in a campaign of five months the Tenth and a battalion of its sister regiment, the Ninth Cavalry, scouted more miles, destroyed more lodges and property, and captured more Indians than any other regiment in the field. In April 1875 the Tenth was transferred to the Texas frontier and headquartered at Fort Concho. For the next decade Grierson and his regiment were the principal military presence in far West Texas, and their contributions to peace, order, and settlement were significant. From forts Concho, Stockton, Davis, Quitman, and Clark, as well as from numerous camps, companies and detachments of the Tenth scouted, patrolled, and mapped thousands of square miles. Grierson's detailed reports provided invaluable information on sources of water and the nature of local soils and vegetation, as well as prospects for ranching, farming, and recreational opportunities. The Tenth's presence made the opening of new roads and the construction of hundreds of miles of telegraph lines possible. In the summer of 1880 the Tenth was called upon again to prove its mettle in combat. Victorio, one of the ablest of Apache chieftains, led his band across the Rio Grande and challenged Grierson and his buffalo soldiers to stop their march across the western reaches of the district of the Pecos. In a textbook case of guerilla warfare, fought in the mountain passes, valleys, and plains of western Texas, the troopers outmarched and outfought Victorio and his Apaches. The cavalry delivered a decisive defeat at the battle of Rattlesnake Springs and drove the demoralized Indians back into Mexico. Peace had come to the Texas frontier by the end of 1880. Troops were no longer needed at Fort Concho, and in 1882 the headquarters of the Tenth was moved to Fort Davis. By that time the misunderstanding and ill-feeling that had sparked clashes in 1878 and again in 1881 between troopers and citizens in Saint Angela (now San Angelo) had dissipated. Three years later the regiment was transferred to stations in Arizona to take part in the final roundup of hostile Apache bands. In September 1886 a detachment from the Tenth Cavalry captured Mangus, the last belligerent Apache chief on the Arizona frontier.

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). William H. and Shirley A. Leckie, Unlikely Warriors: General Benjamin H. Grierson and His Family (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984).


  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Military

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

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

William H. Leckie, “Tenth United States Cavalry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 21, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/tenth-united-states-cavalry.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
March 10, 2021

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