West Point Honors Buffalo Soldiers

The Buffalo Soldier statue is installed at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. on Aug. 31, 2021. The statue was sculpted by artist Eddie Dixon. (Jackie Molloy for The Washington Post)

The US Military Academy at West Point finally will unveiled a new monument dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers, a group of Black soldiers who played a key role in the westward expansion of the United States.

The monument — a 10-foot-tall bronze statue depicting a Buffalo Soldier on a horse — has already been installed at the military academy, but will not be officially unveiled until a ceremony on September 10.  “These Soldiers embodied the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country and ideals of the Army Ethic,” said US Military Academy 60th Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams in a statement. “This monument will ensure that the legacy of Buffalo Soldiers is enduringly revered, honored and celebrated while serving as an inspiration for the next generations of cadets.”
In addition to their role in the westward expansion, the Buffalo Soldiers were also once stationed at West Point to give instruction in riding skills to the cadets, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. They taught at the academy for 40 years.

WEST POINT, N.Y. — Aundrea Matthews stood in her black blouse, black skirt and sunglasses at the edge of Buffalo Soldier Field here and watched the construction crane lift the 2,000-pound equestrian statue of her grandfather.

“Here he is, West Point!” she called out — the man who as a little girl she knew as Papoo. “He’s going to be watching forever!” She covered her face with her hands and then clasped them as if in prayer.

The crane, which held the bronze image with heavy yellow bands, slowly turned the statue of African American Staff Sgt. Sanders H. Matthews Sr. until it faced north and lowered it onto its octagonal granite base.

And 114 years after they first came to the Army’s then-segregated academy to teach horsemanship to White cadets, the Black Buffalo Soldiers of West Point finally had their statue.

And at 2:10 p.m. Tuesday, the U.S. Military Academy raised its first outdoor statue of a Black man.

Etched into the granite are the words, “In Memory of the Buffalo Soldiers who served with the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments as part of the United States Military Academy Cavalry Detachment at West Point.”

West Point Buffalo Soldiers Ceremony of 10 Sep: https://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/27044

The statue was created by sculptor Eddie Dixon in his studio in a converted firehouse in Lubbock, Tex. Dixon worked with West Point historians and other experts to make sure that the uniform and horse equipment was historically accurate.

Eddie Dixon stands next to his statue of a Buffalo Soldier in his Lubbock, Tex., studio on May 3, 2021.

The rider’s leggings were made to look like those worn in 1907, said David M. Reel, director of the West Point Museum, who assembled a team of historical advisers. The saddle had to be the 1885 McClellan style, and the flag anchor in the rider’s right stirrup from 1904.

1SG Matthew Mark, the last living Buffalo Soldier

Mark Matthews (August 7, 1894 – September 6, 2005) was an American veteran of the Second World War and a Buffalo Soldier. Born in Alabama and growing up in Ohio, Matthews joined the 10th Cavalry Regiment when he was only 15 years old, after having been recruited at a Lexington, Kentucky racetrack and having documents forged so that he appeared to meet the minimum age of 17. While stationed in Arizona, he joined General John J. Pershing‘s Mexico expedition to hunt down Mexican general Pancho Villa. He was later transferred to Virginia, where he took care of President Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor‘s horses and was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers‘ drum and bugle corps. In his late 40s, he served in combat operations in the South Pacific during World War II and achieved the rank of first sergeant. He was noted as an excellent marksman and horse showman.

Leaving the United States Army a few years before it was integrated, Matthews then took a job as a security guard in Maryland, rising to the rank of chief of the guards and then retiring in 1970. After the war, he told stories of military experiences and grew to become a symbol of the Buffalo Soldiers. In his later years he met with Bill Clinton and Colin Powell and also dedicated a barracks in Virginia in honor of the Buffalo Soldiers. Having experienced excellent health for most of his life, Matthews died of pneumonia at the age of 111 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. At the time of his death, he was recognized as the oldest living Buffalo Soldier as well as the oldest man, and the second-oldest person, in the District of Columbia.