Buffalo Soldiers Tucson Daily Citizen 070668
By Dan Pavillard EDITOR OF OLE MAGAZINE Using an upturned ammunition ammunition crate as a lectern, Yaphet Yaphet Kotto, his black face shining shining with sweat in the 110-degree 110-degree heat, read the morning sermon to the buffalo soldiers seated in the powdery dust west of Old Tucson. "Suppose we had passed up joining this cavalry outfit," he began. "Everything could have gone back to the way it was before Lincoln. Our freedom freedom could have slipped right back into the ground." He shifted his massive weight from one foot to the other, squinted into the glare and continued: "We have kept our energy; we have kept our courage; we have kept our pride and we have kept our manhood. "Suppose we had accepted our freedom without enlisting in this cavalry. Your own children children might grow up free and equal but they would have had it thrown in their faces that their daddy didn't fight for his own freedom. No one can ever say that about the 10th cavalry, company C." After a moment's hush, a soldier began to sing soulfully in a deep resonant bass: "Goin 1 to lay down my sword and shield, down by the river side, down by the river side. . ." He was soon joined by the remaining company which sang with increasing fervor until Joe Pevney yelled: yelled: "Cut!" The illusion of reality snapped and shattered, for this was not the making of history but the making of an episode of the National Broadcasting Broadcasting Company's television series "The High Chaparral." The speech Kotto had read was authentic. Director Pev- ney had dug it up in researching researching the famous buffalo soldiers, soldiers, those all Negro troops of Union soldiers who distinguished distinguished themselves in the Southwest following their formation formation in July 1866. The uniforms the men wore were also authentic to "the last detail. So were their side arms, rifles, -, saddles, canteens, canteens, everything, including their tactics and commands. The present U.S. Cavalry (Brevet) is as unique an organization organization as the original one after after which it is .patterned. Enlisting Enlisting primarily Los Angeles area Negroes, the cavalry unit's mission is "to inform the nation and the world about the part the Negro has played in preserving the American heritage." Organized in March, 1966, the 10th Cavalry set up parliamentary parliamentary procedures for business business activities, military procedures procedures for the cavalry, and determined determined to make a motion picture or a television series about the lOths' exploits. The men met, as they still do, twice to three times weekly, weekly, to practice stunt work -falling -falling off horses, picking up "wounded" .buddies at a gallop, gallop, Indian wrestling -- to ride through precision drills, to march, and to study the original unit's history. But they soon ran into a stone wall. "We learned we couldn't just go out and make a movie," said Sgt. Lenton Glascow, company spokesman. spokesman. "So we rode in parades, around the track at the Hollywood Hollywood Raceway. We made a 55-mile trip, covering 44-miles the first day, for Bill Burrud's documentary cameras, and appeared on the Ralph Storey television show in Los Angeles." Angeles." That's where "The High Chaparral" producer-director William S. Claxton saw them, heard about their aim, and asked Walter Black to come up with an original script featuring featuring them. The script is called "The Buffalo Soldiers." While the exact origin of name is Cavalry transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, and later moved westward into territories territories of Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona. They patrolled borders, put down Indian uprisings uprisings and helped control lawlessness on the frontier of the then raw and often savage west. And that is what its latter day counterpart portrayed for NBC in the sahuaro-armed. desert west of Tucson. The script called for the belea- Citizen Photos By Art Grasberger shrouded, the popular inter-* pretation by historians has it that Southwest Indians saw a similarity between the hair of the Negro soldier and that of the buffalo. The Negro soldiers soldiers apparently accepted the name because they knew the buffalo was sacred to the Indian, Indian, and being named after the animal was an unmistakable unmistakable sign of respect. The first 10th Cavalry was- commanded by Col. Benjamin Benjamin Grierson. All soldiers were Negro; all officers white. And while it was relatively relatively easy to enlist Negroes who were eager to avoid their former slave masters and oppressive oppressive living conditions, it was extremely difficult to sign white officers. Forced out of Fort venworth, Kansas by a cholera cholera epidemic in 1867, the 10th guered citizens of early Tucson Tucson to send for troops to establish establish martial law against a band of ragged ruffians known as The Ring, one which did terrorize the community community in 1869 and 1870. Riding out of Ft. Grant, the buffalo soldiers showed up, much to the consternation and chagrin of the local citzenry who had expected the Army regulars. The climax of the show is a pitch battle outside the town between the charging soldiers and the "baddies," as the "lawless" were continually referred to at old Tucson, movie movie studio and set in Tucson mountain park. Right, decency, decency, and the buffalo soldiers prevail, of course. While new camera set ups were being made, Leo Johnson, Johnson, the troop's top kick, Striking similarity is revealed in the positions of a horse and rider in a Frederic Remington engraving (above) and a photograph by Citizen Photographer Art Grasberger, taken 80 years after the former was made on a patrol-the artist took with the buffalo soldiers. spoke about his organization: "We limit our membership to 40 men. They take six weeks training learning mounted and dismounted drills and tactics from Army manuals of 1861, 1862 and 1872. "The men have collected quite a bit of authentic cavalry cavalry equipment, McClelland saddles, sabers, 10th cavalry hat pieces and rifles of the 1870 era. But we need more of the same, because we do ev- rything strictly by regulations." regulations." Johnson said the men's uniforms, uniforms, conversions of the Marine Marine dress blues of the period, cost about $50 each to make. That is only a fraction of the $700 to $800 each man has invested invested in equipment. A good side arm will set him back $100; the 45.70 Springfield carbine carbine he needs for authenticity another $70 to $100 ($200 for one in excellent condition), etc. And, even with his equipment, equipment, the soldier has other expenses; horse rentals ($2.50 an hour in Los Angeles), parade parade entry fees, ($20 per man) etc. The troop's roster tells quite a story. Leo Johnson, professional professional football player (Chicago (Chicago Bears, farm system); Lenny Glascow, track runner, "presently unattached;" Alex Brown, reporter for Wave Publications; John Mitchell, quartermaster sergeant, painter-sculptor; and Izack Fields ("I'm Corporal Higgins in this episode, an electrical contractor by trade"). The names? As American as July Fourth. Alonzo M. Brown Jr., William W. Warren, Warren, Ronald M. Wright, Eddie Smith, Earl Brown, Harold Jones, William Martin and Houston Johnson, to name a few. Luuliialuana K. Strode is the 10th's business manager. The new 10th Cavalry made only one condition to NBC: All commands had to come through Johnson. They did. . And, according to Kent McCray, unit manager on the show, the system worked flawlessly. "If he says, 'you do this,' believe me, brother, they do it," McCray said. McCray said only Kotto, who jokingly calls himself "the famous Japanese actor" and Fields are professional actors. Kotto is guest star in the episode. "But as a group, they perform perform extraordinarily well. They ride well. Theyre just a darned nice bunch to work with," MCCray volunteered. At this point, Cameron Mitchell, Mitchell, who plays Buck Cannon on the series, and Don Collier, as Sam the Cannon ranch foreman, rode up in a swirl of r dirt to where the series star, 'Â·'Leif Erickson (Big John Can- on||jvas standing with Kotto, ' a n t major. (Mariolito), (Billy Blue John's son) . stood byi 'J$- . "\ Â·'Â· ' : Â· ' V "* '~f Â· you was Â·right 'as rain. McAtee is' going /Â·Â· to have hisself an army." Erickson: "How Many?" Collier: "If you multiply by two all the saloons we were in.." Mitchell: (interrupting) "What he's trying to tell you, continued on page II the tenth cavalry rides again! 3 *"'-/^Â°/ : " -vc,r\ \ -' V''"- -Â«, c -.'*"'- -'Vy- ^-" '^*' : - ;Â¥ -'^ : - 'Â· /^'-.*f"--vÂ»'-*,^X^4%f'^^ ? ***** *=',- " k ' -,, Â· % w y Â·Â· Â·. * ^f f ^ - f* Â», ^. j These three action photographs (from top to bottom) show the new U.S. 10th Cavalry moving forward at a walk with sabers at the ready, charging at full tilt across the west end of Ryan Field west of Tucson, and finally smashing through the lines of "the enemy," mounted extras portraying frontier rowdies. All but four of the soldiers' 30 sabers were real, and even though the scenes were Hollywood make believe, the danger to horse and horseman alike was real.