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buffalo soldiers

buffalo soldiers, name given to the African-American U.S. army regiments commissioned by Congress to patrol the American West after the Civil War. Consisting of two infantry and two cavalry regiments, they were the first such units chartered in peacetime. The troops, which formed one fifth of the army's forces in the West, served as guards for pioneer wagon trains and helped in the development of Western towns. Still known as buffalo soldiers, the all-black regiments distinguished themselves in the Spanish-American War and World War II. They continued in army service until the U.S. armed forces were integrated in 1952. Largely unsung until the late 20th cent., they were memorialized in a 1994 bronze monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kans.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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