The 10th Cavalry
ALAN NAFZGER’s The 10th Cavalry
The 10th Cavalry – Pecan Street Press
Lubbock ● Austin ● Fort Worth
The 10th Cavalry is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2020 Alan Nafzger
All rights reserved.
The 10th Cavalry
Written by Alan Nafzger
The 10th Cavalry FADE IN:
1 EXT. SOUTH CAROLINA PLANTATION – DAY – 1866 – The 10th Cavalry
We hear an auctioneer shouting at a cluster of two hundred people standing in front of a yard below a big white antebellum mansion. It is a post Civil War foreclosure auction.
Gabriel (35) a former slave is watching his former owner’s property being sold.
The auctioneers are selling off things which had belonged to the lady of the estate – her fine china. Next up are a makeup box and her modest jewelry.
In a barn, we see JULY (18) who is slightly built stable boy. He is grooming a fine horse. He seems happily working.
Gabriel glances at the old General (72) whose possessions are being sold. Gabriel is looking for some emotion. But the General is stoic and doesn’t flinch.
Gabriel watches two sweating black men who work as the auctioneer’s helpers, bringing out to the porch a tall grandfather clock.
FLASHBACK: Gabriel (5) remembers the last auction he attended, when he was the property being sold. He is little is clearly frightened. We see him tightly gripping his mother’s trembling hand.
Gabriel is grown now, but we can see that he remembers and is uneasy.
Now Gabriel stands six feet tall or more and is clearly one of the tallest and strongest men in the crowd.
There is a doll in the property. It is a homemade doll of considerable quality. However it is old. On a whim, the auctioneer begins.
This is an exceptional doll. How many fathers out there will give me 1 cent?
The crowd chuckles at the greed of the bankers – that literally everything is being liquidated.
There is a bid.
The crowd chuckles more.
Gabriel quivers. He looks at the doll. He looks at his former owner. The old General looks back at Gabriel. They have some connection and attachment to the doll.
Gabriel gestures for the General to buy the doll. Gabriel holds his hand out. The General digs into his pocket and brings out a nickel. It might be the last nickel of the man, but that isn’t clear.
FLASHBACK: Gabriel (15) has made a doll from scraps he’s found around the plantation. Feed sacks and remnants found in the trash. Gabriel is shy to approach the General and his daughter (5). He says nothing just holds the doll out to them. The daughter is delighted and looks up to the General for permission.
GENERAL – The 10th Cavalry
You made that?
Gabriel nervously nods.
The General is shocked; a slave has never done something so elaborate. The General nods his approval. The DAUGHTER runs and grabs the doll.
Oh, Gabriel. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
The General nods his appreciation. It makes the general feel a bit odd. The General and his daughter climb into the carriage.
At the last minute Gabriel bids on the doll and wins it for a nickel. Gabriel runs to the front. The auctioneer has already started on the next item – a fancy red buggy.
And now, you elegant Gentlemen, we have here a good spring carriage — Durham Buggy Co. — somewhat experienced but still capable of carrying a family of four to church or other destinations. Who’ll bid me twenty, make it twenty, I said twenty, got the twenty, somebody make it twenty-one…”
Gabriel arrives up to the front and tries to pay the auctioneer.
You dumb nigger. You don’t pay me. You pay him!
Gabriel grabs for the doll. And the auctioneer pulls it back. The crowd laughs. The General does not laugh; he is teary eyed. Each stroke of the auctioneer’s hammer half kills him, but this doll is the very end. The General turns and walks out into an orchard.
The auctioneer points to a man and the man gestures for Gabriel to come to him. Gabriel runs over there and gives the man the nickel and runs back to the auctioneer for the doll.
The crowd watches and laughs again, for whatever reason (foolery). The auctioneer stops his song.
Gabriel finally gets the doll.
Now let that be a lesson. There is literally something here for everyone.
The auctioneer begins where he left off.
We see a freshly washed black carriage is waiting. There are premium and well groomed horse harnessed to it.
2 EXT. slave quarters – DAY
Gabriel returns to the slave quarters with the doll. He looks especially proud of it.
Two former slaves are there – large NAOMI (cook) and small JULY (stable boy) are standing there. They are all that remains of the plantation’s perhaps 70 slaves.
July is something of a Don Quite (Gus McCrae) and Gabriel is Sancho Panza (Woodrow Call).
It’s the damn Yankees. They runnin’ the government now. They sees an estate they wants, they just sets the taxes so high to where there can’t nobody pay them. Black boy steals a chicken, they string him up for it. Carpetbagger steals a farm, they just smile and say “help your self to some more of the General’s blue berry pie”.
Damn sad story. The fields and the big white house are gone. Gone are the Negro houses and the barns, my thoroughbred horses, the orchard. Look out there at that fine stand of cotton now setting its blooms. And they gonna take that from him. Hell, they are even gonna get his farm machinery. Sooner or later they will even get his chamber pot.
Hell, the General is gonna leave here with the black carriage, one horse to pull it, and whatever clothing and personal stuff he can put into it.
Boy you better worry about yourself.
I’m gonna be right here working for the new owners.
They ain’t gonna want you around here. They be afraid you will remain loyal to the General instead of to them.
Gabriel is only half listening. He looks at the doll, apparently remembering the old times. He looks and follows the General’s progress through the orchard. Gabriel looks worried and walks fast to catch the old man.
3 EXT. ORCHARD – DAY – The 10th Cavalry
Gabriel waits the noise of the crowd and the auctioneer are gone before he calls out.
General? General, sir?
The General stops, but he does not turn. He waits for Gabriel to come past him and face around.
I was wonderin’, sir, if you got any special work you want me to be doin’? You didn’t tell nobody what you wanted us to do.
Work? Damn you, boy, haven’t you got it through your woolly head that I’ve no longer got any work for you to do?
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to speak so sharply to you, Gabriel. You meant me nothin’ but good; I know that.
I don’t know what you are going to do. Best that you blacks be heavily dependent; manageable that way.
July hitched your good sorrel pacer to the buggy and it is waiting for you.
When everyone is left out with my things, please bring all the people, all my good old hands. I’ll have a few words to say.
There aren’t but three of us. But we are waiting for you. You want me to bring them out here? This is a nice place for a speech.
No. Come to think if it. I’ve already said everything there is to day.
Yea, I heard you let them have it the other day at the barbershop.
Gabriel chuckles but the General is not amused.
4 EXT. slave quarters – DAY – The 10th Cavalry
The 10th Cavalry
The 10th Cavalry Regiment is a unit of the United States Army. Formed as a segregated African-American unit, the 10th Cavalry was one of the original “Buffalo Soldier” regiments in the post–Civil War Regular Army. It served in combat during the Indian Wars in the western United States, the Spanish–American War in Cuba and in the Philippine–American War. The regiment was trained as a combat unit but later relegated to non-combat duty and served in that capacity in World War II until its deactivation in 1944.
Indian Wars 1866–74
A black and white copy of a painting by C. Taylor of the moving “hollow box” during the 8 hour, 15 mile combat by Captain Armes and Company F of the 10th US Cavalry.
“Wounded and lifted on Horse”- A painting by C. Taylor from the book “Ups and Downs of an Army Officer” written by George A. Armes. The painting describes when the then Captain Armes was wounded in the hip and lifted up on a horse during the Battle of the Saline River in August 1867.
The 10th U.S. Cavalry was formed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1866 as an all-African-American regiment. The 10th U.S. Cavalry regiment was composed of black enlisted men and white officers, which was typical for that era. By the end of July 1867, eight companies of enlisted men had been recruited from the Departments of Missouri, Arkansas, and the Platte. Life at Leavenworth was not pleasant for the 10th Cavalry. The fort’s commander, who was openly opposed to African-Americans serving in the Regular Army, made life for the new troops difficult. Colonel Benjamin Grierson sought to have his regiment transferred, and subsequently received orders moving the regiment to Fort Riley, Kansas. This began on the morning of 6 August 1867 and was completed the next day in the afternoon of 7 August.
One of the first battles of the 10th was the Battle of the Saline River. This battle occurred 25 miles northwest of Fort Hays in Kansas near the end of August 1867. After a railroad work party was wiped out, patrols from the 38th Infantry Regiment (in 1869 reorganized into the 24th Infantry Regiment) with a 10th Cavalry troop were sent out to locate the “hostile” Cheyenne forces.
Captain George Armes, Company F, 10th Cavalry, while following an active trail along the Saline River were surrounded by about 400 Cheyenne warriors. Armes formed a defensive “hollow square” with the cavalry mounts in the middle. Seeking better defensive ground, Armes walked his command while maintaining the defensive square. After 8 hours of combat, 2,000 rounds of defensive fire and 15 miles of movement, the Cheyenne disengaged and withdrew. Company F, without reinforcements, concluded 113 miles of movement during the 30‑hour patrol, riding the final 10 miles back to Fort Hays with only one trooper killed in action. Captain Armes, wounded in the hip early in the battle, commented later, “It is the greatest wonder in the world that my command escaped being massacred.” Armes credited his officers for a “devotion to duty and coolness under fire.”
In 1867 and 1868, the 10th Cavalry participated in Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s winter campaigns against the Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Comanches. Units of the 10th prevented the Cheyenne from fleeing to the northwest, thus allowing Custer and the 7th Cavalry to defeat them at the decisive battle near Fort Cobb, Indian Territory.
A sketch of a Cavalry officer greeting another wounded Officer on Beecher Island, Colorado, with mounted trooper of the 10th Cavalry holding horse on 25 September 1868
A soldier offers aid to his wounded comrade after the Battle of Beecher Island. The Harper’s article states that this is “Bvt. Col. Louis H. Carpenter greeting Lt. Col. G. A. Forsyth” who was twice wounded by gunfire and who had fractured his leg when his horse fell. Notice officer shoulder boards.
In September and October 1868, two notable actions happened with Troops H & I under the command of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel (Captain in the Regular Army) Louis H. Carpenter. The first was the rescue of Lieutenant Colonel G. A. Forsyth whose small party of 48 white scouts, was attacked and “corralled” by a force of about 700 Native American Indians on a sand island up the North Fork of the Republican River; this action became the Battle of Beecher Island. The second was two weeks after Carpenter had returned to Fort Wallace with the survivors of Forsyth’s command. Troops H and I of the 10th Cavalry sallied forth for an escort and supply to the 5th Cavalry near Beaver Creek. Near there Carpenter combined command was attacked by a force of about 500 Indians. After a running fight and defensible stand the “hostiles” retreated. Carpenter would later receive the Medal of Honor for these two actions.
For the next eight years, the 10th was stationed at numerous forts throughout Kansas and Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), including Fort Gibson starting in 1872. They provided guards for workers of the Kansas and Pacific Railroad, strung miles of new telegraph lines, and to a large extent built Fort Sill. Throughout this period, they were constantly patrolling the reservations and engaging “hostiles” in an attempt to prevent Indian raids into Texas.
Indian Wars 1875–84
On 17 April 1875, regimental headquarters for the 10th Cavalry was transferred to Fort Concho, Texas. Companies actually arrived at Fort Concho in May 1873. At various times from 1873 through 1885, Fort Concho housed 9th Cavalry companies A–F, K, and M, 10th Cavalry companies A, D–G, I, L, and M, 24th Infantry companies D–G, and K, and 25th Infantry companies G and K.
The 10th Regimental’s mission in Texas was to protect mail and travel routes, control Indian movements, provide protection from Mexican revolutionaries and outlaws, and to gain knowledge of the area’s terrain. The regiment proved highly successful in completing their mission. The 10th scouted 34,420 miles (55,390 km) of uncharted terrain, opened more than 300 miles (480 km) of new roads, and laid over 200 miles (320 km) of telegraph lines.
A black and white map of the Western United States showing fort, battle and tribe locations from 1860 to 1890.
Western Indian Wars 1860–1890, battles, army posts, and the general location of tribes
The scouting activities took the troops through some of the harshest and most desolate terrain in the nation. These excursions allowed the preparation of excellent maps detailing scarce water holes, mountain passes, and grazing areas that would later allow for settlement of the area. These feats were accomplished while the troops had constantly to be on the alert for quick raids by the Apaches. The stay in west Texas produced tough soldiers who became accustomed to surviving in an area that offered few comforts and no luxuries for those who survived.
In 1877 four soldiers of the 10th were lost under the command of Captain Nicolas Merritt Nolan. The Buffalo Soldier tragedy of 1877 also known as the “Staked Plains Horror” occurred when a combined force of Buffalo Soldier troops of the 10th and local buffalo hunters wandered for days in the dry Llano Estacado region of north-west Texas and eastern New Mexico during July of a drought year. The two groups had united forces for a retaliatory attack on regional Native American bands who had been staging raids on white settlers in the area, during what came to be called the Buffalo Hunters’ War. Over the course of five days in the near-waterless Llano Estacado, they divided and four soldiers and one buffalo hunter died. Due to the telegraph, news of the ongoing event and speculation reached Eastern newspapers where it was erroneously reported that the expedition had been massacred. Later, after the remainder of the group returned from the Llano, the same papers declared them “back from the dead.”
The 10th Cavalry played an important role in the 1879–80 campaign (Victorio’s War) against Victorio and his band of Apaches. Victorio and his followers escaped from their New Mexico reservation and wreaked havoc throughout the southwest on their way to Mexico. Col. Grierson and the 10th attempted to prevent Victorio’s return to the U.S., and particularly his reaching New Mexico where he could cause additional problems with the Apaches still on the reservations. Knowing the importance of water in the harsh region, Grierson decided the best way to intercept Victorio was to take control of potential water holes along his route.
The campaign called for the biggest military concentration ever assembled in the Trans-Pecos area. Six troops of the 10th Cavalry were assigned to patrol the area from the Van Horn Mountains west to the Quitman Mountains, and north to the Sierra Diablo and Delaware Mountains. Encounters with the Indians usually resulted in skirmishes; however, the 10th engaged in major confrontations at Tinaja de las Palmas (a water hole south of Sierra Blanca) and at Rattlesnake Springs (north of Van Horn). These two engagements halted Victorio and forced him to retreat to Mexico. Although Victorio and his band were not captured, the campaign conducted by the 10th prevented them from reaching New Mexico. The 10th’s efforts at containment exhausted the Apaches. Soon after they crossed the border, Victorio and many of his warriors were killed by Mexican troops on 14 October 1880.
Indian Wars 1885–98
10th Cavalry at Diamond Creek, 15 miles West of Chloride, New Mexico, c. 1892.
In 1885, the regiment was transferred to the Department of Arizona. Once again the 10th was involved in the arduous pursuit of Apaches who left the reservations under the leadership of Geronimo, Nana, Nachez, Chihuahua and Magnus.
The 10th Cavalry continued to fight Apaches after Geronimo’s surrender in 1886. A detachment of 10th Cavalry would fight one of their last battles of the Apache Wars north of Globe at the Salt River during an expedition on 7 March 1890. After the battle Sergeant William McBryar, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the pursuit of the Apache warriors.
After twenty years of service on posts in the southwest, the regiment, now under the command of Colonel John K. Mizner, was transferred to the Department of Dakota in 1891 The regiment served at various posts in Montana and Dakotas until 1898. During this time, a young white lieutenant, John J. Pershing (later known as “Black Jack” for his time with the unit) commanded a troop from Fort Assinniboine in north central Montana. Pershing commanded an expedition to the south and southwest that rounded up and deported a large number of Cree Indians to Canada.
In summary, from 1866 to the early 1890s, the 10th Cavalry Regiment served at a variety of posts in the Southwestern United States (Apache Wars) and Great Plains regions. They participated in most of the military campaigns in these areas and earned a distinguished record. Thirteen enlisted men and six officers from the Buffalo Soldiers (four regiments including the 10th) earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars.
1896 version of the Medal of Honor with a golden five pointed star being clutched in the claws of an eagle. The eagle is suspended from a red and white striped ribbon
Medal of Honor – Indian Wars
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States. Three members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. They were:
Railroad labor disputes
In 1894, the 10th Cavalry was involved in protecting property of the Northern Pacific Railroad from striking workers.
Originally posted 2021-01-17 13:21:37.