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American History
Wetward Ho
contributed by Lu Hickey


From 1860 to 1862, Pony Express riders carried mail n relays from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA.  Riders were out of "St. Joe" had only a brief gallop to the wide Missouri River where ferry boats conveyed them over the river.  From St. Joseph the Pony Express followed the Oregon-California trail across northeast Kansas territory then ran north to the Platte river in Nebraska and west to Sacramento, California.  The Kansas section of the route had 11 stations.  The original station in Marysville still stands.  Relay stations were established 15-20 miles apart where riders would change horses.

The Oregon Trail  was known by many names, The Mormon Trail, the Platte Trail and the California Trail, as these were the most common trails used by the diverse settlers moving west to attempt to tame the west, the Indians, and  the new frontier.  The Oregon Trail was used by the Army, and stagecoaches and the Pony Express followed part of the trail.

In 1830, William Sublette took the firs wagons along the route to the rocky Mountains.  By the middle of the 1840s, traffic on the Oregon Trail was tremendous and the California gold rush increased its use even more in 1849 and 1850.

The trail continued to be heavily traveled during the Civil War, but as the Union Pacific railroad was built, the use of the trail declined.  By 1870 parts of it were still used locally but the Oregon Trail was no longer the great throughway it had been.

A very special Cavalry Unit was deployed along these trails during this time, a very elite policing group was selected by the government just for the protection of the settlers from marauding Indians, and especially to protect the Pony Express and the Telegraph lines.  This unit was vital to the central territories for this western movement in that the members could gain the respect and build an alliance and rapport with the Indians.

The recruitment of this group began in 1884 and formed from the 1866 units of the 9th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry groups of the Grand Army of the Republic.  The renowned group fought many battles, one being Battle of Beecher Island on the Colorado Border.  They traversed the territories of Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona and Texas.  They were awarded 23 Medals of Honor.  They were courageous and allied with the Plains Indians..who named the group::Buffalo Soldiers..::as the Indians correlated the black curly hair to that of the hair of the Plains Bison.  Henceforth, history in the making of the first Black Cavalry unit to serve in all the Indian Wars of the Midwest.

The story of the Buffalo Soldiers is a true and gallant story. What seemed strange was the President ordered the commanding officer to be a White man.  The white man was there to represent the authority of Washington DC and the black men were there to be peace keepers...

Today there are Buffalo Soldiers and they are from Nicodemus Kansas..The re-enactors number 14 members that organized in 1995.  One of the group's ancestor, Samuel Garland was an original Buffalo Soldier and fought at Beecher Island Colorado. This group is open for invitations and have performed nationally.  They buy all the gear necessary to participate up to and including a saddle horse and double bed roll. The group adheres to the commands of the First Sgt. Barry Thompkins in maneuvers.

The original Buffalo Soldiers were known around Fort Leavonworth and Fort Hays, two of the principal Army forts west of the Mississippi River.  Through their efforts of peace keeping, the western movement was a much safer escapade than ever thought possible and their rapport with the Plains Indians saved hundreds of lives of the eastern migration.


 

 


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