West Point honors Buffalo Soldiers

Men working on large bronze statue of man riding horse (© Jackie Molloy/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
A bronze statue in honor of the Buffalo Soldiers, who instructed cadets, is installed at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, on August 31. (© Jackie Molloy/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York is honoring Buffalo Soldiers, members of the U.S. Army’s early African American regiments, who also taught horsemanship to white cadets.

Formed in 1866, Buffalo Soldiers served in combat through the Spanish-American War in 1898, earning a reputation for bravery. More than a dozen Buffalo Soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.

The new bronze statue celebrates the Buffalo Soldiers’ reputation as expert equestrians who trained cadets at West Point, located on the Hudson River in New York, from 1907–1947. The statue was installed at West Point on August 31 and will be officially unveiled in a ceremony on September 10.

President Barack Obama talking with two men (© Susan Walsh/AP Images)
President Barack Obama greets Buffalo Soldiers Louis Coffield and Sanders Matthews at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, May 28, 2014. (© Susan Walsh/AP Images)

The statue depicts African American Staff Sergeant Sanders H. Matthews Sr., who served at West Point in the 1940s, and is thought to be the last Buffalo Soldier to serve at West Point.

“The legacy of Buffalo Soldiers continues to inspire the next generations of cadets,” the U.S. Military Academy says in a video about the statue.

The bronze statue is the work of artist Eddie Dixon of Texas, whose sculptures adorn historical sites and national parks in the United States and around the world.

Buffalo Soldier regiments were sent to fight Native Americans on the Western frontier in the late 1800s, creating a complex legacy. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington has examined that legacy and tries to address “challenging questions about the relationship of the soldiers to the government they served as well as to the native peoples they fought.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has explored the soldiers’ military contributions and cultural impact, while the National Museum of the American Indian reexamines their combat against American Indians in the West, and the National Museum of American History shines a light on the soldiers’ lives beyond the uniform.