African American soldiers distinguished themselves for valor during the Civil War and their service in defense of the Union went a long way toward securing the civil rights of all black Americans after the war. On the frontier, African American units of the U.S. Army (nicknamed “buffalo soldiers” by their Indian opponents) became renowned for fortitude, courage, and being able to handle difficult assignments. Despite this progress in the military, by the end of the nineteenth century, black folks at home were still being subjected to Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and continuous discrimination. Paradoxically, at the same time newspapers were reporting glowing accounts of the heroism of four black regiments during the Spanish-American War of 1898.
In an effort to bolster black pride and stem the increasing racism of the age, Dr. T. G. Steward, chaplain of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry, requested and received permission from the Army to publish this interesting account of the black soldier’s military service in Cuba. After summarizing the exploits of African American soldiers during all of the wars and conflicts leading up to the Spanish American War, Steward then concentrates on the war in Cuba. Among the many intriguing episodes recounted are the rescue of the Rough Riders led by future President Theodore Roosevelt, the capture of the stone fort at El Caney, the service of black infantrymen as volunteer nurses in the yellow fever camps, and long excerpts from the diary of Medal of Honor winner E. L. Baker of the Tenth Cavalry.
Enhanced by an extensive foreword by Frank N. Schubert, chief of Joint Operational History for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an expert on the Buffalo Soldiers, this work remains a model of careful narrative history and still the single best source of information on the role of the black soldiers in the war against Spain.