THE TENTH U.S. CAVALRY IN PRESCOTT, A.T.
By John P. Langellier
any African Americans made great sacrifices while fighting for freedomin the Civil War that tore the United States asunder between 1861 and1865. Nearly 180,000 blacks served the Union cause in uniform during
that conflict. In 1866, shortly after the end of this national tragedy, AfricanAmericans, for the first time, were allowed to enlist in the regular army duringpeacetime.1 These black regulars would be assigned to the American West chieflyfrom Kansas to Texas, but not until the spring of 1885 did black troops report forduty in todays Arizona.
In that year the Tenth U.S. Cavalry regimentmoved from the Department of Texas to theDepartment of Arizona, marching along theSouthern Pacific Rail-road. As the columntook up its march fromFort Davis it comprisedeleven troops and theband. At Camp RiceTroop I joined the en-tourage. From thatpoint to Bowie Station,Arizona, the twelvetroops continued to-gether in a rare reunionbecause the regimenthad not been togethersince its establishmentafter the Civil War.Then, the short-livedgathering ended atBowie where thetroops separated to goto their several sta-tions. 2
So it was that regimen-tal headquarters underColonel Benjamin F. Grierson, a Civil Warveteran best known for his raid deep into theSouth, reported to Fort Whipple outside ofPrescott. With Grierson and his headquarters
contingent, came both the regimental bandand Company B, the three contingents total-ing about 92 non-commissioned officers,troopers, and bandsmen. The other elements
of the Tenth fanned outto Fort Apache (Com-pany A), Fort Thomas(Companies C, F, andG), Fort Grant (Com-panies D, E, H, K. andL), and Fort Verde(Companies I and M). 3
At this time few resi-dents of Arizona Ter-ritoryas was the casewith most nineteenthc e n t u r y A m e ri-cansknew little aboutthe valuable serviceperformed by thesestalwart blacks in ArmyBlue. As yet the buf-falo soldiers were farf r o m h o u s e h o l dnames.4 In fact earlyreferences about theTenth Cavalry in the
Prescott press possibly were some of the firstreferences to black troopers read by a major-ity of white residents of the area. For exam-ple, the initial coverage in the Weekly Arizona
Benjamin F. Grierson
Miner noted the Tenth Cavalry had reachedArizona and was heading to several garrisonsin throughout the territory. This inauguralarticle carried an unimpressive opinion that,The Apaches do not fear the colored troopsbut have a contempt for them. They have re-ceived this idea from the New Mexico Indi-ans.5
Soon after the African Americans took uptheir post at Fort Whipple, however, Prescottresidents were able to form their own viewsabout their new military neighbors. Theseconclusions were more favorable than theMiners preliminary announcement, whichhad been based on second hand information.The paper now indicated the unenviablereputation given the Tenth Cavalry by certainjournals in Southern New Mexico and Ari-zona were unfounded. In fact, these caval-rymen showed no disposition to rival thelegendary Bloody Fourteenth Infantry, aunit manned by white soldiers who had garri-soned Whipple previously. Instead, thetroopers of the Tenth Cavalry were well be-haved and as soldierly looking set of men thathave ever been stationed at Whipple.6 In-deed, one of Prescotts few African Americanresidents was so inspired about the an-nouncement of the Tenth Cavalrys posting atFort Whipple that supposedly as soon as thecolored sojers arrived he was qwine to jinede army.7
Perhaps the towns saloonkeepers were not asimpressed with the black soldiers as was thelocal African American townsman who in-tended to enlist. The reason for this possibledisappointment among the towns bar ownerswas based on a contention that the Tenthstroopers spent less money on ardent spiritsthan any other troops stationed at Whipple.Instead, allegedly: Their special weaknesswas swell clothing in the ultra dude design.8
Given the fact that most of the men previ-ously had served in relative isolation in Texas
for a long period the easy access to fashion-able civilian attire for off duty wear probablywas a welcome luxury.
Another motivation for acquiring this newsartorial splendor may have stemmed from adesire to please the women who were thewives, daughters, laundresses, and others ofthe fairer sex who would be joining the caval-rymen at their new assignments in Arizona.Among these ladies four arrived in advance ofthe troopers on May 14 via stagecoach. Theywere Mrs. George Washington LafayetteJohnson, Mrs. John Quincy Adams Jefferson,Mrs. Patrick Henry Andrew Jackson, andMrs. George Trumbull Buchanan.9
The status of women in the U.S. Army at thistime was precarious at best. For example,starting in 1802 laundresses were permitted toperform washing services for troops andeventually were given transportation to newposts. These women often were married tosoldiers even though military customs of themid to late nineteenth century were such as todiscourage married men in the ranks. By1878 the practice of transporting laundressesto new posts with the company they servedbegan to phase out and around 1883 suppos-edly had ceased. Thus the fact that the fourwomen came to Prescott on the stagecoachwas in keeping with the revised practice oftransporting laundresses and other civilianwomen.10
While the news of these women brought briefa wry remark in the press about their hus-bands names, one history of the black soldiersuccinctly explained the importance of Tak-ing a heros namein the days after emanci-pation. For instance, enlistments of AfricanAmerican men between September 1866 andAugust 1867 included twenty-four mennamed George Washington. In fact, Everypresidenteven Martin Van Burenhad anamesake among the black regulars.11
In the case of Mrs. George WashingtonLafayette Johnson, her husband probably wasCorporal George Johnson of the regimentalband, which Papers of Southern Arizonapraised for their talent.12 Indeed, these mar-tial music makers had developed an impres-sive library of musical scores and gained areputation for excellence. Little wonder giventhe fact that the Tenth Calvarys colonel inearly life had been a music teacher.13
Prescottonians quickly had the opportunity tojudge for themselves about the quality ofthese bandsmen. Just over a week after theTenth Cavalry arrived they were called on tolead the Decoration Day (now known as Me-morial Day) observances to decorate thegraves of Comrades who lie buried in theCitizens, Masonic, and Military [Fort Whip-ple] cemeteries under a grand marshal whowas one of their regiments young officers,Troop Bs commander Robert GenoSmither.14 The band headed the procession,and after the ceremonies in the CourthousePlaza returned to the fort in a wagon. Unfor-tunately a wheel broke along the way injuring
some of the bandsmenone so severely asto cause a doubt to whether he would recoveror not.15
But this mishap did not deter local interest inthe band. One of the communitys militiacompanies lost little time in securing thegroup to perform for their benefit. In earlyJune residents were informed of the Prome-nade Concert given by the 10th Cavalry Band,under the auspices of the Prescott Rifles, atthe new City Hall Tickets were availablefor gentlemen and ladies at $2.16 Such popu-lar performances prompted the Miner to ex-hort: The excellent band of the Tenth Cav-alry would confer a favor on the citizens ofPrescott by following the example of the mu-sicians of the Third [Cavalry] by giving aweekly concert in the Court House Plaza.17
It is not clear from existing sources whetherthis suggestion was acted on, although nearthe end of their stay at Fort Whipple the bandevidently did play for Company B before thetroopers departed for San Carlos in May1886. To commemorate this event: The col-ored soldiers gave a farewell dance at Whip-
The Tenth Cavalry band forms on the left and Troop B on the right for a dressparade at Fort Whipple c. 1885.
ple last evening prior to taking their departuretoday.18 Moreover, as part of this farewellthe regimental adjutant Lieutenant SamuelWoodward had the 10th Cavalry band out to-day for mounted drill with their instrumentsand favored our town with a general serenade.The entire band was mounted on white steedsand presented a fine appearance, while theydiscoursed sweet strains of music.19 Andagain later in the month the musicians of theTenth did the honors at Decoration Day ob-servances for 1886 much as they had the prioryear all under the baton of English-born ChiefMusician Charles Goldsbury who had risen tohead the regimental band nearly three yearsafter his enlistment in the Tenth Cavalry onMay 3, 1883.20
While Goldsburys namedid not appear in thePrescott press, occasionalreferences to black soldierscould be found in print. Inone instance a report abouta trooper named Jones in-dicated that he had inflicteda mortal wound on himself,but an addendum in thesame issue of the Minerstated that the death mayhave been the result of astabbing by a Chineseman.21 Regrettably, nofollow up appeared pro-viding accurate detailsabout this violent incident.Another similar article toldof a colored soldier, be-longing to the tenth cavalry[who] attempted suicide atthe regimental corral atWhipple this afternoon, byshooting himself throughthe head with a carbine.Although the unnamedtrooper lost a portion of his
nose, he did not inflict serious injury.22
Of course, not all deaths or wounds occurredat Fort Whipple. An intriguing story ran inthe January 9, 1886, Arizona Journal Minerabout a Tenth Cavalry detachment from an-other Arizona fort, which alleged that twoblack soldiers had been killed. Supposedly,On the evening of