The Buffalo Soldiers that Deserted and Became Heroes
In order to get a good understand of the history of the Buffalo one must read Gerald Horne’s book, “Black and Brown: African American and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920.” This book explains how the Buffalo soldiers were used to hunt Pancho Villa after he attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico and killed whites, and how General Pershing used the Buffalo to cross into Mexico to capture him. The Buffalo soldiers and General Pershing did not catch Villa, and for the first time the Buffalo soldiers were defeated. The only defeat that the Colored Calvary would suffer was at the hands of Pancho Villa and his Black Troops.
Unknown too many historians is the fact that many Buffalo Soldiers refused to fight racist wars for whites, and in fact deserted for a more worthy cause. During the period between 1910- and 1920 Black troops were often sent into battle first so that they would die for the cause of white supremacy. Pancho Villa himself was part black as he came from a valley in Mexico that had many African descendents from the Spanish slave trade. Some Black newspapers even called him a black hero at the time of his raid into the United States.
The Battle of Carrizal is where the Buffalo Soldiers suffered their first defeat. W.E. B. Dubois called the hunt for Pancho Villa a “foolish adventure” because he reasoned that Black men were being used to fight while being denied basic freedoms themselves. According to Horne, one of the reasons why Blacks were being forced to defend white supremacy was because many Blacks refused to fight in WWI, and in fact leaflets were passed out in the Black community of San Antonio and elsewhere saying that, “It was War Department policy to place blacks in the front lines so as to save white soldiers.” Professor Horne goes on to say that many Blacks left San Antonio in the early 1900s to keep from being drafted into the army and went to Mexico.
This hidden history reveals that many Buffalo Soldiers deserted the white supremacist army of the United States and joined Pancho Villa in Mexico. William Ryan was one such deserter who became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Mexican Army of Pancho Villa. He was reported to be the man that was in charge of a machine gun battery that helped to defeat the Buffalo Soldiers at the Battle of Carrizal. The problem for General Pershing was his treatment of Black soldiers. Blacks were tired of being mistreated by whites in the military during this period and began to think of fighting for the other side or refusing to fight at all as long as Jim Crow was alive and well in the military. Since Black troops were used to do the bulk of the fighting for whites, it stands to reason why many thought it better to fight white supremacy than Pancho Villa.
Many of the original Black Seminole Indians who became Buffalo Soldiers went to Mexico and refused to fight for the United States because of its racist practices. The leader of the Black Seminoles, John Horse, never returned to the United States because he believed that the white Americans could never be trusted. He is buried in Mexico City. Blacks had hoped that military service would make them acceptable in the minds of whites, but it did not. Service for white supremacy only got them hanged on the Salado Creek at Ft Sam Houston after the riot in Houston in which Black soldiers tried to defend themselves against a racist police force.