Sunday, July 5, 2015

Buffalo Soldier Recruitment Letter Among Freedmen's Bureau Documents

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, National Archives Publication M1901 Roll 7

The 9th and 10th Cavalry as well as the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments of the U.S. Army are known by many as Buffalo Soldiers. These men enlisted in the US Army after the Civil War.

While recently studying the records of the Freedmen's Bureau recently, an interesting letter was found among letters in the Ouachita County Arkansas records. (1) The letter was sent to the  various agents of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. In the body of the letter were instructions to the agents to identify men from the newly freed population, and to encourage their enlistment in the army for the 10th Cavalry. The 10th Cavalry was one of the regiments that became known as Buffalo Soldiers and who made a name for themselves as they served on the western frontier.

Both pages are found on the Internet Archives site:
Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen &Abandoned Lands for the State of Arknasas, Roll 7

The letter reads:

"I am directed by the Assistant Commissioner, to inform you that he wishes the Agents of the Bureau  to render such service as they can, consistent with their other duties, in obtaining recruits for the 10th Regiment, U.S. Cavalry, (Colored). When it comes to the knowledge of any Agent, that there are colored men suitable for, and desiring to enlist in, this regiment, he will at once report by telegraph or letter to Capt. J. W. Walsh, 10th U.S. Cavalry, Little Rock, Arkansas.

All recruits are to be at least 5 feet, 6 inches high.  Capt. Walsh will soon furnish to the Agents a few posters giving all the terms of an enlistment. Any expenses incurred by telegraphing or otherwise in obtaining recruits will be paid by Capt. Walsh.

Agents will inform the colored men, through the medium of their preachers that recruits are wanted for this regiment, and the manner of effecting an enlistment.

                                                                                     I am very respectfully,

                                                                                     Your O B't Serv't

                                                                                      Jno. Tyler (signed)
                                                                                       1st Lt. 43rd, US Infantry
                                                                                       Act'g Ass't Adj't Gen'l

Joseph S. Thorpe

*****     *****     *****     *****

This is one of the more unique kinds of records to be found in this amazing record set. The records, also referred to as Record Group 105, contain many name rich records of newly freed slaves, southern whites and land owners. The typical records are labor contracts, marriage records, transportation records and a number of letters and complaints. This particular letter reflects some of the unique orders that were sent to and received by the various agents of the Freedmen's Bureau.

The critical lesson for genealogists is look beyond the lists of names. In the many letters, one can find other gems such as recruitment orders, local county stories and reports of unique incidents that never made it to published county histories.

(1) Bureau of the Office of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. National Archives Record Publication M1901, Roll 7.


Kristin said...

This would be a very interesting resource to find about an ancestor!

Jana Iverson Last said...


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!