West Point Dedicates Monument To Buffalo Soldiers
by Jorge Garcia, POA
United States Military Academy at West Point
September 25, 2021
In 1973, history was made.
First, West Point renamed a vast stretch of grassland, Buffalo Soldier Field. Then, a stone boulder with a plaque etched in its center sat at the far northeast corner of the field as a memorial to the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments who served at West Point between 1907-47. The tribute was befitting.
Yet, nearly 50 years later, West Point would continue honoring the Buffalo Soldiers’ legacy by unveiling a sculpted monument on September 10, 2021 at the U.S. Military Academy.
The U.S. Military Academy (USMA) officially unveiled the Buffalo Soldier Monument on September 10, 2021 at West Point with approximately 600 guests in attendance. The sculpture represents the Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments who embodied the Army's values during their service to the Corps of Cadets between 1907-47. Gifted to the academy by the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, the 10-foot-tall bronze trooper mounted on horseback at Buffalo Soldier Field now epitomizes their enduring legacy and serves as a reminder, to all, of their commitment and dedication to the Army mission. (Photo by John Pellino, USMA PAO)
“We at the West Point Museum worked with the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, and the artist they eventually chose in Eddie Dixon, to make sure that the Buffalo Soldier uniform, the horse saddle and accessories are historically accurate to the period in which we are depicting in the sculpture,” David Reel, the executive director of the West Point Museum, said. “In this case, we’re depicting a Buffalo Soldier in 1907 when they first arrived here at West Point.”
Reel added that one of the main tasks the West Point Museum performs at the academy is to provide subject matter expertise to the creation of outdoor monuments and memorials. Additionally, Reel closely works with artists as they evaluate all the historical details of the time period to ensure the proper full-dress uniform that an enlisted Soldier would have worn is accurate.
“We wanted to make sure we had the correct insignia on the uniform (of the Buffalo Soldier) and the right guidon. So, we looked back at historical photographs to make sure we accurately depicted all the accouterments,” Reel said. “The rider would have worn the proper gauntlets and leggings while sitting atop a model 1885 McClellan saddle riding a Morgan horse breed, which were the type of horses they had at West Point at the time.”
Members from the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of West Point pose in front of the newly unveiled Buffalo Soldier Monument Statue on Sept. 10 at the U.S. Military Academy. (Photo by Jorge Garcia, USMA PAO)
In 1907, due to their prowess in horseback riding, the academy wanted to replace their existing cavalry detachment with members from the Buffalo Soldiers. Subsequently, the 9th Cavalry was sent to West Point while the rest of the regiment stayed out in the west, serving their term. Finally, in 1931, a detachment from the 10th Cavalry replaced the 9th and remained between 1931-47, instructing cadets, Lt Col. Frederick Black, an assistant professor in the Department of History, said.
“... I think of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Montford Point Marines, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the 761st Tank Battalion Black Panthers, the ‘Triple Nickle’ 555 Parachute Infantry Battalion, among others. These are all contributions made by African American warriors and patriots to serve this nation for so long,” USMA Class of 1980 Vincent Brooks said. “But among them, none shine brighter or more enduringly in their impact than the collection of warriors known as the Buffalo Soldiers.”
Finally, the crowd watched with anticipation as cadets removed the tarp covering the monument, revealing a bronze, sculpted Buffalo Soldier holding a guidon while riding his horse atop a granite base.
The audience responded with applause and celebration as they viewed the monument, took photos and engrossed themselves in the history and relevance of the moment.
Four cadets proudly stand in front of the newly unveiled Buffalo Soldier Monument Statue on September 10, 2021 at the U.S. Military Academy. (Photo by Delancey Pryor III)
“On this field, we can feel them. We can sense their stoic discipline in the heat of the West Point summer, in the gloom of the West Point winter. We can imagine their impressive and impeccable uniforms and their equipment mounted atop perky eared horses and sturdy Army mules,” Brooks said. “We can draw inspiration from them now and we will for generations to come. As we dedicate this monument, let us be reminded of the noble service and the sacrifices they contributed so immeasurably to the history of West Point and our nation.
“And let us ever be reminded, as we marvel at its beauty and the strength that it portrays that once upon a time, there really were giants that roamed the plain,” he added. “The cavalry plane, now known as Buffalo Soldier Field, and this is what they looked like.”
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