Daily LifeDaily life for the troopers of the 9th and 10th Cavalries was harsh, but, for the most part, it was
similar to that of their White counterparts. During the 1860s and 70s, the frontier forts
resembled little more than rundown villages, and the enlisted men's barracks were often
poorly ventilated, vermin infested hovels. The only bathing facilities usually consisted of
the local creek. As a result, diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, bronchitis, and
tuberculosis were a common problem. Rations throughout the Indian campaigns consisted mainly
of beef or bacon, potatoes, beans, fresh vegetables from the post garden, and sometimes fruit or
jam. The work week was seven days, with the exception of the fourth of July and Christmas.
The monthly pay for a private was a meager $13 (reduced from $16 in 1871).
When available, many of the African-American troopers availed themselves of
after-hours schools established to alleviate the illiteracy mandated by slavery. The
schools were normally run by chaplains assigned to the Black units, in part for this
purpose. Other leisure activities were sparse, especially for the African-American
troopers stationed in west Texas. Only a small percentage of enlisted men were able to bring
their wives with them to the frontier posts.The small villages which grew up around the forts
were usually little more than a collection of saloons and gambling parlors, inhabited by some of
the more unsavory characters on the frontier. Here, partially due to the federal government's
harsh reconstruction policies, racial prejudice by both local citizens and law officers was severe.
When disputes arose among Buffalo Soldiers and locals, the local law and juries consistently
sided against the troopers.
The most serious problem faced by the Army during the Indian War period was desertion. In
1868, the desertion rate for enlisted personnel was approximately 25 percent. Desertions among
White regiments were roughly three times greater than those among Black units. Also, both
African-American cavalry and infantry regiments had lower rates of alcoholism than their White
counterparts. While in the field, both the troopers and their horses faced not only hostile Indians
and outlaws, but also extended patrols of up to six months and covering more than 1,000 miles.
Adding to their ordeal was the scarcity of water and the extremes of weather common to the
When not on patrol, the Buffalo Soldiers were engaged in endless drills, parades, and
inspections. At Fort Davis in 1877 a dress parade, complete with the post band, was
held each evening except for Saturdays. Regarding the African-American troopers, the
Post Surgeon noted that: "the troops seemed especially proud of their uniform and of
their profession as soldiers."