Vocabulary Building in the West: Buffalo Soldiers

Definitions and Context

Cavalry - They were soldiers trained to fight and patrol on horseback. They were armed with carbines (short rifles) and pistols.
Context- Cavalry regiments could travel greater distance than soldiers could on foot as they rode horses.

Infantry- They were soldiers trained to fight and patrol on foot. They were armed with rifles and bayonets.
Context: Infantry units were often reasonable for garrisoning forts and guarding outposts.

Regiment - During the Indian Wars, this was the largest organization of soldiers. A regiment contained between 800 and 1200 enlisted men and officers. A Colonel commanded each regiment.
Context: There were four regiments of Buffalo Soldiers, each having about 800 to 1000 men each.

Company - This is a division of a regiment. Each regiment had multiple company divisions. In the Cavalry, this was a unit of less than 100 men and officers. A Captain commanded a company.
Context: The Buffalo Soldiers were often deployed to various forts with only one or two companies of about 200 men.

Officer - This is a member of an Army who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers get their authority from the President. Their commission charges them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific company, regiment, or officer such as Paymaster.
Context: The officer was in charge of making orders and commanding the enlisted men during their various duties.

Non-Commission Officer - A subordinate officer (such as a sergeant) in the army appointed from among enlisted personnel by an officer. He had limited authority over a squad of enlisted men.
Context?Non-commissioned officers often had many more responsibilities than an enlisted man, but little respect from him.

Enlisted men - This is the basic soldier. He is the lowest rank and has no authority. They make up the majority of the army.
Context: When a man joined the army without a commission, he started at the lowest rank and was known as an enlisted man.

Enlistment - This is a contract that a member of the army signed when he joined the service. During the nineteenth century, enlistments normally lasted for five years.
Context: When you joined the army, you signed a contract called an enlistment.

Patrol - A detachment of soldier sent out from a fort to search for the enemy. They were often much shorter than scouts.
Context: Groups of soldiers were sent out on patrol to explore the area around a fort for potential enemies

Scout - A detachment of soldiers sent out to explore new paths, locate resources, and determine the position of enemies.
Context: The cavalry often spent many months on scouts trying to determine new roads, locate water, and even find enemies.

Haversack - A canvas sack carried over the shoulder of a soldier that held the necessities he needed.
Context: Infantry soldier carried their plates, food, and even tooth brushes in their haversack.

Saddlebag - A leather bag strapped to a saddle and used to carry the necessities of a cavalry soldier.
Context: Cavalry soldiers carried all of their basic needs like food and toothbrushes in their saddlebag.

Barracks - Generally, a long building with one large open room for soldiers to sleep in when at a fort.
Context: Enlisted men slept in one large room together called a barracks where they kept a cot or bed and a box (called a footlocker) for their gear.


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