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Buffalo Soldier re-enactors work to keep history alive

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — Brighton’s own Buffalo Soldiers of the American West will be performing two re-enactments in Brighton June 7. The first re-enactment will begin promptly at 12:30 p.m at Eagle View Adult Center and the second re-enactment will begin promptly at 2:30 p.m. at Fat Brothers Burgers and Wings, 218 N. Main St. in Brighton’s Historic Downtown.

 

Those attending the events will hear a brief history presentation from First Sgt. Fred Applewhite. Then they’ll be treated to a re-enactment of mounted drills the 10th Calvary Regiment would perform from the 1870s to 1880s. The total performance is about an hour long. 

“Our unit is a non-profit educational unit, we are a historical unit and we are a reenactment unit and we tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers,” Regimental Quartermaster Sgt. John Bell said. “The Buffalo Soldiers were the black cavalry and infantry in the West.”

Bell explained the Buffalo Soldiers’ regiment was formed after the Civil War in 1866 — black enlisted men commanded by white officers. They served west of the Mississippi River from Nebraska to California and from Texas north to the Canadian Border. At one point, there were 8,000 Buffalo Soldiers serving in the West. 

Applewhite said the Buffalo Soldiers were involved in two skirmishes in Colorado — the Battle of Milk Creek, also known as the Meeker Massacre, and the Battle of Beecher Island, also known as the Battle of Arikaree. Bell said the Buffalo Soldiers were disbanded in 1944. 

Bell started the re-enactment group in 1986 because of his personal connection to the Buffalo Soldiers — his grandfather, father, uncle and cousin were all Buffalo Soldiers. Applewhite joined the group as an educator. The re-enactment group has approximately 25 members and is based out of Brighton, but Bell said they also have members flying in from Kansas and Texas to participate in the re-enactments. 

“We are the only mounted unit that does the things that we do. There are other units around the county but they don’t do what we do,” Bell said. “We do saber drills on horseback. We do shooting drills on horseback. The other groups in the country don’t necessarily do shooting drills or the saber drills because we do them at speed.”

Applewhite said said the groups philosophy is that “it’s not about the glory, it’s the story.”

“The number one mission is to tell the story of those men, who, for some reason in the studying of the West, contributions have been left out of the history book,” he said. 

Eagle View Adult Center is located at 1150 Prairie Center Parkway. For more information, visit the non-profit’s website at www.buffalosoldiers-amwest.org.