Buffalo Soldiers in formation. Photo: U.S. Army

East Coast’s First Monument to Civil War Buffalo Soldiers Coming to Eastern Shore

A first-of-its kind historic site is coming to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, paying homage to the Black Americans who served in the U.S. Army after the Civil War, the Buffalo Soldiers.

After the war, the United States Colored Troops became 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry, serving to protect westward-bound settlers, guard mail routes, and act as guides and caretakers of national parks. They fought in the Spanish-American War alongside with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, whose success on San Juan Hill would have been impossible without them. They were given the name Buffalo Soldiers by Native Americans who were often their enemy in battle but considered them an opponent worthy of respect.

Today the nation’s largest African American motorcycle club bears the name National Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers MC to honor their legacy.

With the exception of The Buffalo Soldiers House in Easton, Maryland’s historic Hill community, few monuments to the men exist east of the Mississippi. But that’s about to change. Through a collaboration with the Preservation Trust of Wicomico and a grant awarded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Buffalo Soldier Living History Site will open in Allen, Wicomico County in 2025. Twenty-two acres of land purchased by Buffalo Soldier Thomas Polk and continuously owned by the Polk family will be transformed into an educational center to include “Hattie’s Trail,” a walking path named for Polk’s wife. The site will be used to educate both the local and broader communities as to the valor and courage of Black American soldiers who served in the Indian Territories and beyond.

Deborah Scott, manager of the site, is the granddaughter of Thomas Polk.  “This site is going to exhume the history of the Buffalo Soldier that has been buried for far too long. It will be the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River. Our goal is that visitors will come here to see historical displays and exhibits, participate in workshops and presentations, and experience reenactments,” says Scott.

The Buffalo Soldier Living History Site was a 2022 recipient of the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Veterans’ Engagement Mini-Grant Program, designed to support veterans’ groups that engage former servicemembers with healing and therapeutic services, outdoor recreation, and community engagement. 

“The members of the Buffalo Soldiers Committee are celebrating and bringing to life the history of this important group of veterans and their descendants. We are honored to partner with them through our veterans grant initiatives,” says Chesapeake Bay Trust president Jana Davis.

The Committee is made up of Buffalo Soldier descendants in partnerships with the Greater Washington, D.C. Chapter of the 9th and 10th Buffalo Soldier Horse Cavalry Association, Salisbury University, the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, and the Allen Historical Society. It is sponsored by The Preservation Trust of Wicomico County.

-Niambi Davis