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Buffalo Soldiers and Officers of the Ninth Cavalry, 1867-1898: Black & White Together, by Charles L. Kenner

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. Pp. x, 384. Illus., maps., notes, index. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 0806144661.

A Classic Study of Blacks and Whites in the Frontier Army

Originally published over fifteen years ago, Prof. Kenner'sBuffalo Soldiers and Officers of the Ninth Cavalry broke new ground in the study the Frontier Army’s black cavalrymen, by weaving together an account of their activities on the plains during the last of the Indian wars with a look at the relationships between the officers and the men who served in the 9th Cavalry. 

The book is divided into five parts, which cover the regiment’s history from its formation in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War to the eve of the Spanish-American War. These can be summarized briefly; the formation of the regiment and its first commander, Col. Edward Hatch: the first dozen or so years of the regiment’s existence, during which it battled both Native Americans and American racism; the heyday of the regiment’s service during the 1880s; episodes from the lives of the troops and their officers;  the waning years of the Frontier Army and the reinvigoration of American racism.

The book includes many battles, both physical and moral, with Native Americans of course, but also with bigots and racists, civilians, soldiers, politicians, and journalists. There are a lot of heroes, black and white, and some cowards as well in both groups. 

Kenner also usefully compares some of the experiences of the black troopers with those of their white comrades, something often ignored in accounts of black troops, which tends to inflate the degree of racism to which the men were subject. He demonstrate that poor treatment of troops, white or black, was rather a commonplace in the Old Army, so that, for example, complaints by black troops of receiving inferior mounts or poor rations were echoed by white troops throughout the period. 

Although not updated, given the amount of new work that has occurred since its first publication, this remains an excellent work on the “Buffalo Soldiers” and the Frontier Army, giving us a look at many officers who had gained fame in the Civil War or would go on to do so in the Spanish-American and Philippine Wars.

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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