Church News and Events

New Buffalo Soldiers Share History of Black Soldiers

Contributed By By Lucy Schouten, Church News staff writer

  • 30 July 2013

The New Buffalo Soldiers visited Salt Lake City for the week of July 24 by invitation of Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert. They set up camp at the rodeo grounds to explain their role in Utah history.  Photo by Lucy Schouten.

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert invited the New Buffalo Soldiers, a group that preserves the history of the original Buffalo Soldiers, to Salt Lake City for the Days of ’47 celebrations.

Larry Thornton, a New Buffalo Soldier in the 10th cavalry, explained that “buffalo” was a title of honor given by their adversaries, the Native Americans. “They said we had hair like a buffalo, which is true. Second, our skin is dark like a buffalo, and lastly we fought fiercely like the buffalo.”

The New Buffalo Soldiers own the antique guns and other equipment on display, and most are military veterans who can describe the life of a soldier from personal experience. 

“You get that military feel, and it helps us guys who were in the military to do this,” said August “A. J.” Simien, the group’s leader. 

The New Buffalo Soldiers’ first “mission” in Salt Lake City was as the honor guard to escort the governor to Liberty Park after the Youth Parade July 20.

Later, the New Buffalo Soldiers visited a Salt Lake cemetery and found more than 20 graves of Buffalo Soldiers from their time in Utah. Trooper Simien appreciated the Church’s attention to historical records. He plans to use the new information he found in Utah in the educational presentations he gives in communities nationwide.

“Your archives are so well-organized,” Trooper Simien said. “There’s information there … that you can’t find any place else. The preservation has been very well thought about.”

The New Buffalo Soldiers set up camp outside the Energy Solutions Arena before each rodeo July 19–20 and 22–24. Wearing authentic woolen uniforms, they displayed the guns, tents, and saddles used by black soldiers from the Civil War until World War I. They told the history of the black soldiers who helped re-tame the Wild West by building roads and telephone poles and fighting bandits.

One of Trooper Simien’s favorite stories is of the Buffalo Soldiers’ stay in Utah from 1893 to 1898. The initial reluctance of Utah settlers to have Buffalo Soldiers in Salt Lake City was overcome by the soldiers’ exemplary character.

“When they boarded the trains and left here, the same people who were reluctant to have them come were giving them a farewell at the train station,” Trooper Simien said.

Spectators gave a warm welcome to the New Buffalo Soldiers who rode through the July 24 parade 115 years after the original soldiers left the Salt Lake Valley.