Saturday, February 2, 2008

Buffalo Soldier

After the Civil War, Calvin Williams worked as a hired hand on a farm in Tennessee for about a year, then re-enlisted in the Army. This is his enlistment paper into the 38th Infantry. Note the brief physical description at the bottom of the paper. (Click on image to enlarge.)

From Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, Calvin and his Company marched west through Nebraska and eventually southwest to Ft. Craig, New Mexico. W.B. Ball, an army buddy of Calvin's, wrote years later that during the long march 2-3 men died each day from dysentery. Not much is known about the 38th Infantry -- apparently many of their records were lost or destroyed -- but we do know that Calvin was stationed for two years at Ft. Craig before being transferred to Texas in 1870.

I enjoy reading and handling old documents like this one, and am amazed (and grateful) that many former slaves who joined the U.S. Army, like Calvin, have such a rich documentary record of their lives in our National Archives.

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