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THE 9TH CAVALRY IN MONTEREY 1902-1904



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THE 9TH CAVALRY IN MONTEREY 1902-04 (A TOUCH OF GLORY)

Black Buffalo Soldiers leave their mark on the Presidio of Monterey
By Dr. James McNaughton, DLI command historian

At the end of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection at the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. Army decided to build a modern Army post in Monterey where the Spanish had once maintained a small presidio. Two units rotating out of combat in the Philippines were selected to do the job.

The first unit, the 15th Infantry, was sent in September of 1902. Their initial task was to clear an open area for a bivouac site on some level ground a few hundred yards uphill from the ruins of Fort Mervine, built by American soldiers in 1846 following Commodore Sloat’s landing. This simple clearing later became “Soldier Field.” At first the post was simply called the “Monterey Military Reservation.”

In November they were joined by 425 black cavalry troopers of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, under the command of Captain G. W. Read. They pitched their tents near the Chinese fishing village that once stood in Pacific Grove, near the present-day Hopkins Marine Station.

This regiment brought with it one of the most interesting and un-usual histories of any unit in the Army. They were among the first black soldiers to be stationed any where in California.

Theirs was one of four black Regular Army regiments created after the Civil War as a direct result of the achievements of black troops during the Civil War (as featured in move Glory). Between the Civil War and the Spanish-American War the regiment had fought countless campaigns until the Indians Wars ended in 1891.

(Note: the buffalo soldiers receive their name from the Indians who thought their hair was like buffalo hair).

When the Spanish-American War erupted in 1898, they fought with Teddy Roosevelt’s volunteer Rough Riders in Cuba. From there they shipped out to the Philippines, where they fought a tough counterinsurgency campaign in the southern islands.

It was during their tour of duty in the Philippines that Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., who many years later became the Army’s first black general, had been briefly assigned to the regiment. But when he received his regular commission in 1901 as a second lieutenant, he was transferred to the 10th Cavalry, another black regiment.

(Note: the 10th Cavalry would later replaced the 11th Cavalry when they were transferred from the Presidio of Monterey to Camp Seeley and then Camp Lockett before the beginning of the Second World War).

After a year in combat the 9th was sent to Monterey to rest and refit. The regiment was split among three West Coast posts: the 2nd and 3rd Squadrons were posted to Walla Walla, Washington state, and the Presidio of San Francisco, respectively. According to one report, 15 of the troopers even brought their Filipino wives with them.

During their first year in Monterey the 15th Infantry and the 9th Cavalry worked together on constructing the wooden buildings on the lower portion of the post, many of which have remained in continuous use to the present day. The 9th Cavalry also received new horses to break in and new recruits to train. In those days each regiment had to train its own recruits.

In the summer of 1903 when the first buildings were ready for use, the post was renamed “Old Barracks.” The following year it received the name that finally stuck, the “Presidio of Monterey.”

One of the regiment’s leaders during this time was later to come to national attention. Captain Charles Young, the third black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy (Class of 1889), was a regimental officer at the time. In 1904 he left regimental duty and was assigned as military attaché to Haiti, the only black-ruled country in the western hemisphere at that time.

On the eve of the First World War in 1917 when Young had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel, the War Department attempted to force him into retirement for “medical” reasons, rather than risk having him exercise command over white officers. In protest – and to prove his fitness – he rode on horseback all the way from his home in Ohio to the nation’ capital. The Army was forced to reinstate him, and later assigned him to be military attaché to Liberia, then one of the few black-ruled states in Africa.

In the spring of 1904 the troopers buried one of their members, Pvt. George S. Johnson, who had joined the regiment from Alabama. Johnson was the first soldier – of any race – to be interred in the post’s new cemetery.

Later that year in marksmanship competition on the new constructed rifle range, near the present-day Combs and Kendall Halls, the black soldier took top honors. According to the local newspaper – in the style of the time, “They dusky troopers have done some fine shooting.”

Later that spring the whole squadron left for duty patrolling the remote areas of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, which in the days before the National Park Service were policed by the U.S. Army. That fall, when winter weather began to make the Sierra impassable, they returned to Monterey on a 245-miles mounted road march.

Later that year they left Monterey for Fort Riley, Kansas, and the following spring a part of the regiment was sent to Washington D.C., to participate in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade, where, according to the regimental history, they “were the subject of much favorable comment upon their fine appearance.”

Although the 9th Cavalry’s far-flung duties never brought the regiment back to Monterey, one by one a handful of troopers returned after their enlistments were up.

Two more members of the regiment found their final resting place in the tiny post cemetery – as did one of their wives. Retired members of the regiment were said to have played an active part in the local community, such as in the founding of the First Baptist Church in the Pacific Grove in 1909 and the first local chapter of the NAACP in 1927.

In this way the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry had a lasting impact on Monterey. Although there time was short, they left a legacy that is still visible today.

“And they gave the new post a touch of glory that lingers still.”

(Source: GLOBE March 7, 1991, DLIFLC & POM Archives)

END


THE BUFFALO SOLDIERS PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO
Source: Nation Park Service

There are eight chapters that are worth reading on this webpage.

Chapters:
On the Western Frontier
Spanish American War
Philippine War
Presidio Garrison
Patrolling Sequoia National Park
Pursuing Poncho Villa
World War I
The Final Years

Click on the below link:
The Buffalo Soldiers Presidio of San Francisco



RETURN TO THE 11TH CAVALRY HOMEPAGE:
Click on the below link:
11th Cavalry Presidio of Monterey


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Click on the below Homepage links:

76TH FIELD ARTILLERY REGIMENT PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, 1922 TO 1940
Click on the below link:
76th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Battalion


FORT ORD U.S. ARMY STATION VETERINARY HOSPITAL (HORSE) WW2
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Fort Ord U.S. Army Station Veterinary Hospital (Horse) WW2


THE ARMY VETERINARY SERVICE DURING THE GREAT WAR, WW1
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Veterinary Corps in WW1


SERGEANT LEONARD MURPHY VETERINARY HOSPITAL NO. 18, A.E.F., WW1
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Leonard Murphy in WW1





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U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Historical Preservation Group is a group of individuals that are concerned about the preservation of the History of the Veterinary Corps, Remount Service and Cavalry or wherever our country’s history is being lost in conjunction with our beloved “Horse and Mule”. There is no cost to join and membership is for life. We believe by uniting together in numbers we will be a more powerful force to be heard. Our membership list is private and only used to contact our members. Email us and become a member.

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FACEBOOK: U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Historical Preservation Group

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U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Historical Preservation Group