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Re-enactors in St. Augustine portray Buffalo Soldiers, who broke barriers in 1800s

Posted: June 28, 2014 - 11:04pm  |  Updated: June 28, 2014 - 11:09pm
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Walter Anderson represents the Buffalo Soldiers of Florida at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park on Saturday.  Alex.Sanchez@staugustine.com
Alex.Sanchez@staugustine.com
Walter Anderson represents the Buffalo Soldiers of Florida at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park on Saturday.

ST. AUGUSTINE | President Theodore Roosevelt once admitted that if it weren’t for the Buffalo Soldiers, the Americans wouldn’t have won the Battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

The Buffalo Soldiers are referred to as the black members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on Sept. 21, 1866, by Congress.

They never called themselves Buffalo Soldiers; instead, they accepted it as a term of respect.

Many of the Buffalo Soldiers were the first park rangers of Yosemite State Park.

The 9th and 10th Calvary explored and mapped many parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

Since much of the history of the Buffalo Soldiers has been watered down, John Russell, a re-enactor at the Fountain of Youth, decided to establish the Buffalo Soldiers of Florida in 1992 to inform the public of the real trials and tribulations they went through.

“After my mother passed, I was cleaning out her place and found some books she had given me when I was in high school. I started looking through this book called ‘The Black West,’ and it had four chapters in it about Buffalo Soldiers. I read those chapters, which led me to this book called ‘The Buffalo Soldiers’ by William H. Leckie. So after that, I started collecting more information about them,” Russell said.

The soldiers were well known for their resilience and strength. The Native Americans were fearful of them, reminding them of the way buffaloes fought.

“I’m grateful for the sacrifices they made to make my life better. They swallowed their pride for the future benefit for the people of their culture,” Russell said.

During a historic re-enactment Saturday at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, visitors watched as members of the Buffalo Soldiers of Florida rode their horses around the park and did shooting and saber-fighting demonstrations.

Henry White of St. Augustine came to the Fountain of Youth just to see the Buffalo Soldiers.

“I was interested to hear the role black Americans played in the war and to hear the history and development of the country,” White said.

Henry Metz is the group’s coordinator and a retired Air Force officer. He feels a connection with the Buffalo Soldiers of Florida: Four of the seven re-enactors are retired veterans.

“I wanted to get them in the Fountain of Youth. This part of black-American history is so positive, and the barriers they broke and the things they accomplished are so important to our development as a country,” he said. “Many people, black or white, don’t know a thing about it.”

The Buffalo Soldiers of Florida is funded by the 450th Military Commemoration Committee and the Fountain of Youth.

Larry McCalley joined the Buffalo Soldiers of Florida six years ago because he wanted to tell others of their significance.

“The purpose is to educate. We want to tell it like it was. If we can educate one person, I feel like we accomplished something,” McCalley said.

The Buffalo Soldiers will be giving free demonstrations at 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday at the St. Johns County Equestrian Center, 8200 Smith Road, Hastings.

Comments (1)

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saltmarsh cracker
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saltmarsh cracker 06/29/14 - 04:28 pm
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I heard the indians named

I heard the indians named them the "Buffalo Soldiers" because of the soldiers' hair texture.

They killed many indians.

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