Remembering the Buffalo Soldier in Utah

- SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – It was 1896 when the 24th Infantry Regiment was assigned to Fort Douglas, Utah. It was labeled as a “colored unit” by the United States military and people in Salt Lake City were a little weary of their new neighbors.

"A lot of consternation amongst the local population that this many black soldiers were actually going to be stationed in Salt Lake City," says Robert Voyles, Director of the Fort Douglas Museum.

550 soldiers to be exact, nearly tripling the African American population in Salt Lake City.

It was the first time the regiment had come together as a unit and it didn't take long for the city to warm up to them. Three years later, when the unit returned from being deployed in the Spanish- American War the consternation they were originally met with turned to accommodation.

“They actually petitioned the War Department to have that regiment stationed back here, when they came back from Cuba, as opposed to having white soldiers here who a lot of the citizens saw as a threat to there daughters," says Voyles.

That same year, 1899, another “colored unit”, the 9th Cavalry Regiment was assigned to Fort Douglas.

Even though they were welcome, segregation was still a reality. Leaving soldiers on their own, outside of military duties, but that didn't stand in the way.

"The normal avenues of fun were closed to them, because they were black, but they put together a baseball team, they organized their own societies for acting, minstrels, their band was a big hit, both up here and in the community," says Voyles.

In 1900 both units moved on to new assignments. Although some never left, making Fort Douglas their final resting place.

"There are quite a few troopers from the 9th Cavalry, which was stationed at Fort Duchesne and the 24th Infantry who are buried at the Fort Douglas Cemetery along with their dependants," says Voyles.

You can check out the history of the Buffalo Soldier (which they were also known by) in Utah for yourself at the Fort Douglas museum.

Visit the ABC 4 Utah Facebook page for more photos of the buffalo soldiers. 

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