ON OCTOBER 2, 1866, Emanuel Stance, the man who was to win the Medal of Honor for action in the post-Civil War period, approached a U.S. Army recruiting officer in Lake Providence, Louisiana. The recruiter, Lieutenant John Maroney, would record Stance's eyes as "black," his hair as "black," and his complexion as "black." His age would be recorded as 19 and his occupation as that of a "farmer." A more accurate description of his occupation would probably have been "sharecropper."
Most of the men like Stance who filled the ranks of the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry and the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry, the four segregated regiments whose African American enlisted men would become known as "Buffalo Soldiers," were fomer slaves. After emancipation, many ex-slaves remained on the same plantations as sharecroppers.
Stance, a native of Carroll Parish, La., was many things: bright-eyed, hardnosed, intelligent, well-spoken and wiry. One thing he was not, however, was tall. Because Stance was little more than 5 feet, Maroney hesitated before allowing him to enlist. But eventually Stance was allowed to sign his name, and he became a member of Company F of the 2-month-old 9th U.S. Cavalry. His occupation was now that of "soldier," and he would remain a soldier for the rest of his life.
Stance likely saw the U.S. Army as the easiest way to a new life out West. At New Orleans, he joined the rest of the green recruits of the 9th Cavalry and began six months of intensive training. In the winter of 1866-67, the organization of the regiment was put into high gear. By the end of February, Stance had been promoted to corporal and his company had been transferred to Carrollton, La.
His promotion undoubtedly came about because he could read and write. Education of slaves had been illegal in the South before emancipation, so literacy was a rare thing among Buffalo Soldiers during the early years of their regiments' existence. Literate Buffalo Soldiers like Stance were made noncommissioned officers, since paperwork came with those positions.
In March 1867, the 9th Cavalry was reassigned to San Antionio, Texas, where the men received two months of field instruction and got their first taste of frontier duty. That duty included policing American Indian tribes and American settlers, and protecting stage and mail routes. In June, Stance's Company F was among six companies of the regiment transferred to Fort Davis, Texas. In July, Stance was promoted to sergeant. That December, a detachment from Stance's company saved a stage attacked by 100 Mescalero Indians. In driving off the attackers, the Buffalo Soldiers lost one private and three horses.
In January 1868, Company F completed a change of station to Camp Quitman, which would later become Fort Quitman. That month, the company was among those besieged by a large band of Indians, Sixteen attacks were repelled by the men of the garrison.
On September 14, a detachment from Company F was among 60 members of the 9th Cavalry to successfully carry off a surprise attach against 200 Indians near Horsehead Hills. The Buffalo Soldiers killed 25 indians, wounded many more, and captured 200 horses and a large amount of winter stores. Only one soldier was wounded in the fight. Some months later Company F was transferred again, this time to Fort McKavett, Texas.
On September 16,1869, a detachment from Stance's company, along with detachments from three other companies, skirmished with some 200 Comanche and Kiowa on the Salt Fork of the Brazos River. In an eight-mile running fight, three Buffalo Soldiers were wounded while the Indians suffered 25 casualties. After being reinforced by another detachment from their regiment, Stance and his unit again skirmished with the Commanche-Kiowa party on the 20th and 21st.
In 1870 Emanuel Stance received the Medal of Honor, but his discipline problems plagued his long military career.
by Patrick A. BowMaster
This article first appeared in the February 1997 issue of Wild West Magazine.
Legendary Buffalo Soldier Emmanuel Stance
(by Artist: Bobb. Vann.)