At the outbreak of the Civil War, the government was fighting the Indians in the west. It withdrew most of its men and resources from the Indian wars, to concentrate on ending the rebellion. At the end of the Civil War, 186,000 black soldiers had participated in the war, with 38,000 killed in action. Southerners and eastern populations did not want to see armed Negro soldiers near or in their communities. They were also afraid of the labor market being flooded with a new source of labor. General employment opportunities in these communities was not available to blacks, so many African-Americans took a long hard look at military service which offered shelter, education, steady pay, medical attention and a pension. Some, such as Cathay Williams, the future female Buffalo Soldier, decided it was much better than frequent civilian unemployment. In a news paper article, she said "I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent of relations or friends." Of course in some quarters, it was thought this is an good way of getting rid of two problems at the same time.
When Congress reorganized the peacetime regular army in the summer of 1866, it had taken the above situation into account. It also recognized the military merits of black soldiers by authorizing two segregated regiments of black cavalry, the Ninth United States Cavalry and the Tenth United States Cavalry and the 24th, 25th ,38th , 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry Regiments. Orders were given to transfer the troops to the western war arena, where they would join the army's fight with the Indians. In 1869, one year after Cathay Williams' discharge from the army, the black infantry regiments were consolidated into two units, the Twenty-fourth United States Infantry and the Twenty-fifth United States Infantry. The 38th U.S. Infantry became the Twenty-fourth United States Infantry. All of the black regiments were commanded by white officers at that time.
Initial recruiting efforts concentrated on filling recruitment quotas with little regard for the recruit's capability and soldiering skills. These recruits had to be discharged and replaced, causing a delay in some regiments arriving at their assigned posts."
The army surgeon might have examimed Cathay superficially, or not at all. The result was still historcal. William Cathay, the new recurit, was declared "fit for duty", thus giving assurance of her place in history as the only documented female Buffalo Soldier, and as the only documented African-American woman who served in the U.S. army prior to the 1948 law, which officially allowed women to join the army.
The Buffalo Soldiers had the lowest desertion rate in the army, though their army posts were often in the worst country in the west. Official reports, show these soldiers were frequently subjected to the harshest of discipline, racist officers, poor food, equipment and shelter."
Excerpt from "BUFFALO SOLDIERS & INDIAN WARS"