Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Captain Paul Matthews of the Buffalo Soldiers sent the following letter to Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson regarding the controversy over his push to create a Texas Confederate Battle Flag license plate.
October 13, 2011
The Honorable Jerry Patterson
Texas General Land Office
1700 N. Congress Ave. Suite 935
Austin, Texas 78701
Dear Commissioner Patterson:
We write regarding your repeated comparison of the Buffalo Soldiers to the Confederate army. We find such an analogy purposefully inflammatory, insensitive, and inaccurate, and we want to meet with you on Monday to discuss this matter.
Perhaps some background information on the Buffalo Soldiers would be of assistance. In 1866, a year and a half after the conclusion of the Civil War, the U.S. Army reorganized and established the first peacetime army for the United States. The reorganization included the establishment of six all-Black units: the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments and the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry regiments. In 1869, the four infantry regiments became the 24th and 25th Infantry. These four regiments, the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry and the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry, went on to become what we now commonly call the Buffalo Soldiers.
The Buffalo Soldiers were the peacekeepers in the American west. They built camps, forts, railroads, delivered the mail, strung telegraph wire, and charted the land. In addition, they chased outlaws and comancheros. As a matter of fact, without the Buffalo Soldiers and the rest of the United States cavalry, the westward movement would have been delayed fifty years.
The Buffalo Soldiers participated in the Indian Wars from 1867 through 1888. The campaigns included encounters with Nana, Victorio, and Geronimo. The name Buffalo Soldiers was given to the Black soldiers by the Cheyenne warriors in 1867, as the Black soldiers’ naturally curly hair and ferocious fighting spirit reminded the Indians of the buffalo.
You are thus comparing military units in the U.S. Army with a mission to protect and defend America against all enemies both foreign or domestic to the Confederate army with a mission to destroy America. Buffalo Soldier units have participated in America’s military engagements from 1866 to present, including the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War. Currently, the 9th and 10th Cavalry is part of the 1st Cavalry Division stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
There are no parallels you can draw between the Buffalo Soldiers and the Confederate army. Your attempt to sanitize the mission and record of the Confederacy with an inappropriate reference to the honor and legacy of one of America’s most dedicated fighting force is indefensible.
As stated above, we want to meet with you on this subject on Monday, October 17 in Austin. We ask that your office contact Senator Ellis’ so that we can arrange a time that works for all parties.
Captain Paul J. Matthews
Founder & Chairman
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum