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The Last Buffalo Soldier Tomie L. Gaines Has Passed Away at the Age of 93

Tomie L. Gaines, last Buffalo Soldier passes away at 93

Tomie L. Gaines, last Buffalo Soldier passes away at 93

The last living Buffalo Soldier passed away last weekend at the age of 93, in Greenville, South Carolina. Tomie L. Gaines served from March 1943 to December 1945 with the 27th Calvary, an all-Black unit, according to the Daily Kos. Gaines is survived by his wife of 51 years, Clara.

The Buffalo Soldiers included two regiments of all-Black cavalries, the 9th and 10th cavalries, which were formed after Congress passed legislation in 1866 that allowed African-Americans to enlist in the country’s regular peacetime military. states that many of the men in these regiments, commanded primarily by white officers, were among the approximately 180,000 African-Americans who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. The four infantry units — the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st regiments — were reorganized in 1868 as the 24th and 25th infantry. Black soldiers enlisted for five years and received $13.00 a month, far more than they could have earned in civilian life, according to the Buffalo Soldiers of the American West website.

Although women weren’t allowed to serve as soldiers at the time, Cathay Williams posed as a man and joined the United States Army. On November 15, 1866, Williams became the first African-American female to enlist and serve in the 38th infantry, thus becoming the first female Buffalo Soldier.

There have been a few possibilities as to how the Buffalo Soldiers got their name. First, Archivist Walter Hill of the National Archives  reported that, according to a member of the 10th Cavalry, in 1871 the Comanche bestowed the name of an animal they revered, the buffalo, on the men of the 10th Cavalry because they were impressed with their toughness in battle. Second, they were given the name because their fierce, brave nature reminded them of the way buffaloes fought. Third, it may have been because they wore thick coats made from buffalo hide during winter, as stated on the Buffalo Soldiers of the American West website.

In a period when nearly a third of white army enlistees deserted, Black soldiers had the U.S. Army’s lowest desertion and court-martial rates, mentions. From 1870 to 1890, 14 Buffalo Soldiers were awarded medals of honor, the army’s highest award for bravery. When they weren’t fighting, Buffalo Soldiers built forts and roads, installed telegraph lines, located water holes, escorted wagon trains and cattle drives, rode “shotgun” on stagecoach. Furthermore, soldiers from the 9th & 10th regiments fought in Cuba during the War with Spain and participated in the hunt for Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. The last all-Black units were disbanded during the first half of the 1950s.

According to the Carroll County History Project, William Decatur is a former Buffalo Soldier from the 10th Cavalry and is still living.

What people are saying

65 thoughts on “The Last Buffalo Soldier Tomie L. Gaines Has Passed Away at the Age of 93

  1. Fuji Knight says:

    Bullshit. Donald Van Blake is still alive in Plainfield NJ

  2. Sargeant Sanders Matthews Is 94 years old and the last living Buffalo Soldier living that was stationed at West Point…. Atlanta Blackstar you've got it wrong.

  3. Kevin Miller says:

    Where you stationed at Ft. Carson?

  4. The reason the Indians called them buffalo soldiers was because the black soldiers kinky black hair was the same as the short kinky black hair between the buffalo's horns just above the eyes.

  5. Senior Chief , from another, well said.

  6. From a USAF retired Msgt, wishing you a peaceful journey. RIP.Thanks for your service and fortitude. I salute you.

  7. The all Black 10th Cav that Elder Tommie L. Gaines served with was deactivated in 1944. It was reactivated in 1958 as an integrated unit.

  8. The reason the Indians called them buffalo soldiers was because the black soldiers kinky black hair was the same as the short kinky black hair between the buffalo's horns just above the eyes.

  9. Flimsy article fails to mention black soldiers were not allowed to ride through town but had to walk behind white calvary on horses. Blacks soldiers were paid less than whites and treated like shit just like black civilians.

  10. Leonel Rohan says:

    This is not true. My father, Staff Sergeant JUANITO ROHAN, is still alive. He served and saw COMBAT in Italy with the 5th Army, 92nd Infantry, 600 field artillery, A Battery. They were the Buffalo Soldiers. You can look it up. You dishonor my father and others with this shoddy, slip-shod journalism. Disgusting.

  11. Matt Clark says:

    This is all implied by the fact that they were black in 1800s America.

  12. RIP Gaines I would have enjoyed the opportunity to have met you. And been able to have listened too many stories about the war stories

  13. Aimee Bigham says:

    That is because THIS article is about a soldier who served in WWII, not the 1800's. He was part of the 92nd Infantry Division – (originallly formed in 1917). Infantry, not Calvary.
    They took the buffalo as their division insignia as an homage to the Original Buffalo Soldiers of the Civil War era (that you are talking about), and the nickname (Buffalo Soldiers) was actually inherited from the 367th Infantry, (one of the first divisional units organized in 1917) which DID call itself after the Original Civil War soldiers.

    They used modern military machinery of the 1940's and did NOT "have to walk behind white calvary on horses", though they were still paid less.

    The WWII Buffalo Soldiers were the only African American infantry division to see combat in Europe during World War II. They were part of the U.S. Fifth Army.
    They were SOLDIERS, they were NOT 'for show', and they earned every bit of respect and honor due to their memory. – NOT a bunch of racist mis-remembered history …
    Don't tarnish them by trying to lay the inequities of the Civil War on them … They were above that. WAY above that.
    They were fighting for this country, not because they were black, not beause of segregation, but because they were SOLDIERS.
    – Get it right or STFU !!!!!!!

  14. Aimee Bigham I don' t have to shut up. I am a Viet Nam veteran receiving as VA pension for my service in Da Nang , 1969. What did you do for your countruy?

  15. Aimee Bigham says:

    I have the utmost respect for your Father, and Please, tell him I send Great Thanks for his service. May he enjoy many more years.

  16. Leonel Rohan says:

    Aimee Bigham I will tell him of your generous remarks. Hope I did not over react but he has always been my hero.

  17. Sorry to hear, but he is not the last Buffalo Soldier. Check out Retired 1SG Albert Curley still alive and well in Junction City, Kansas. He also has a Facebook page.

  18. Aimee Bigham says:

    Leonel Rohan – actually, I was being Brief. I do FIRMLY believe that if it were not for the Soldiers of WWII … each single man of them, we would be living in a different WORLD right now.
    The Axis powers were variously dedicated to racial purity, Communism, and TOTAL government control … Had we Allies lost that war, we would not have Democracy anywhere in the world today. MEN like your father stepped up to save us from that. And the Buffalo Soldiers more than most … because they had to fight the enimies of predudice and racism HERE in order to gain the right to get over THERE to fight the enemy of Freedom itself … And they DID.
    Your Dad IS a HERO, and from the entire breadth and depth of my heart, I am grateful to him for what he has done.
    His services then and sacrifices cince then are WHY the "Greatest Generation" came to be known as such … He is one of the "Greatest" … and Thank you for letting me know he is still out there. 😀

  19. Aimee Bigham says:

    Samuel Augustus Jennings – I was BORN in it, to a Father who also served during Vietnam, himself born to a GERMAN immigrant who fought in the US army during WWII, and HIS father served in WWI, and I have some ancectors on mom's side who fought for the South in the Civil War … You think only 'soldiers' can have RESPECT for soldiers? Do you think only Soldiers who served during WAR are worthy of honor and respect? Do you not KNOW that there are people in this country who WERE raised to honor your service, and the service of the COUNTLESS other's who had the GUTS to get out there and do what YOU did?
    No, I am not a veteran. But veteran or NOT, I WILL NOT stand by and let falsehoods stand … especially when they lessen the efforts and sacrifices of people who should be held to the HIGHEST degree of respect and honor.
    In this case MY Service to "my country" is to NOT forget, not let it pass … to FIGHT in my own way to make sure that only TRUTH is told about the Soldiers who fought for our county …
    I was BORN in 69… and I STILL know that you were never given the honor and respect you deserved … it was a cra(ppy) war, and men DIED, and they still try to gloss over the fact that you WOULD have won if you had been allowed. I am sorry for that.
    However, with all due respect for your own service in a seprate and less clean war, get your facts straight about their war or STFU about it.
    And I sincerely hope that you understand that if anyone posts inaccurate information about the service of YOUR unit in the future, and I have the information and ability to set the Facts straight, I will be JUST as passionate about correcting them!
    I was raised to HONOR soldiers like you and to never forget the sacrifices they (and you) have made that enabled me to grow up in the freedoms and abundace of the USA, and I will not. Not ever. I have raised MY kids with the SAME respect for history and truth.
    I hope that YOU can understand that, even if you disagree with my less-than-polite manners.
    God Bless you, and Thank you for your service. I am Grateful to you beyond measure.
    Just fact check next time… okay?

  20. My great uncle George was a buffalo solider and he's 96yrs young and still kicking!

  21. Leonel Rohan says:

    Aimee Bigham Thank you.

  22. Anita Gray says:

    Nooooooo this is not the last one period. There is one living in Pittsburgh, PA who is in his late 80s early 90s. He name is James Tillman. He was a Buffalo Soldier. I appreciate their service

  23. Aimee Bigham says:

    Samuel Augustus Jennings – Thank you. I am glad to 'meet' you Sir, and you have a lovely 'leap day' … 😀

  24. Aimee Bigham Thank you for making peace. I feel a whole lot better and I can see you do too. Its funny but sometimes the best friendhhsips emerge from "slippery" beginnings. CHEERS!

  25. Leto Rodin says:

    Different "Buffalo Soldiers" but much respect to your father and his compatriots, nonetheless.

  26. God Bless Him. I thank Him.

  27. Salute! Royalty fighting on the wrong sideline but fighting nonetheless!

  28. Dr. Rothaker Smith is also a Buffalo Soldier and still alive. Read his story in the book "No Way Out."

  29. The name "Buffalo Soldier" alone, means Pride, Honor, Bravery, Dedication to Duty, Personal Inner Strength, Love of Country, all displayed by Black American men, during a time of great racial discrimination!

  30. As a Vietnam veteran, It was a honor in following the footsteps of these men who walked the path before us. Rest in Peace Mr.Gaines. .

  31. Respect and gratitude.

  32. My Native people did give them the name of Buffalo Soldier, this is what was passed down to me. But my family could be wrong.

  33. Thank you for your service sir. R.I.P.

  34. God bless him. May he rest in peace.

  35. Marie Lawson says:

    We have a Buffalo Soldier in Coatesville, PA! He just turned 95!

  36. My grandfather was a Buffalo Soldier in a Calvary unit in France during WWII and as of 5 minutes ago he's alive and well at age 92 hahahaha

  37. True…thank you for bringing this fact to light… I was about to add my comment. Retired 1SG Curley is my uncle..,alive and well!

  38. Thanks for the clarification.

  39. Mr. Rohan, I do not believe Mr. Robinson intent was to disrespect your family. Actually, you must research back to the 1860's, when black citizens moved west. Many became law men, and "cowboys" who were part of settling the west. I also have family who served in WWII, and was KIA in northern Italy. It took me four (4) years to get his Purple Heart and others citations. There were units in the U. S. Army known as "Buffalo Soldiers. Senator Brooke, the 1st black senator from Massachusetts, graduated from Howard University and was a commissioned officer of one of the units. I have additional information with pictures of those those units, and a photo of my where my brother is buried in Italy.

  40. Michael Harper The article says he was in the 27th Cavalry (Regiment). They shipped overseas to North Africa as part of the 2nd Cavalry Division in 1944. Before they could see combat the division was broken up and the soldiers were assigned to other units. Most went to support (non-combat) units. Some may have been transferred to the all Black 92nd Infantry Division (Buffalo Div) that fought in Italy.

  41. Kerry Lundy says:

    If you are ever out in the Junction City,Kansas area there is a museum that is dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers take time visit it if you can and learn more about these great American Soldiers.

  42. True…thank you for bringing this fact to light… I was about to add my comment. Retired 1SG Curley is my uncle..,alive and well!

  43. Thank you for your service. RIP.

  44. Teddy Roosevelt, had a contingent of black soldiers, part of the rough riders, who took San Juan hill in Puerto Rico. Roosevelt said that if he had more black soldiers his campaign would have been more successful. Our history is available we just need to dig a little deeper to get it. Self knowledge provides pride, but that is not they want.

  45. Mike Dobbs says:

    Hey! The man put in his time and effort. He went above and beyond. Give him his due and leave politics out of this. I've met the last of the Red Tails and Code Talkers. These men gave a WHOLE lot to a country that the govermnet made 2nd class citizens. Keep in mind, the government made them 2nd class. Their neighbors didn't.

  46. Dave Tate says:

    May he RIP A TRUE HERO and a blessing to all Americans

  47. Floyd Bolton says:

    You should be respecting this Great Soldier death, not disrespecting by being s little selfish. If you know of any remaining soldiers from the unit just inform the government, the media and who else, but don't take away from Mr Gaines death like this. This is all about him today, please let's keep it that way. I thank you for your service Soldier.

  48. Please do your research, there is a 91 year old Buffalo soldier still alive living near West Point NY by the name of Mr. Sanders H. Matthews.

  49. Diane Royer says:

    Much respect and appreciation for Tomie L. Gaines. Just for clarification, my Dad – Roy Caldwood – is also a Buffalo Soldier (92nd Infantry). He just released a new book (sharing his stories as a retired Assistant Deputy Warden at Rikers Island who was once a hostage during one of Rikers Island's infamous riots). Roy Caldwood is an advocate for criminal justice reform and recently received a Medal of Honor from the NYC Mayor's Office and the Dept. of Correction Guardian's Association (Feb 2016). His book is " Making the Right Moves: Rikers Island & NYC Corrections".

  50. Karen Tisdale I may have a picture of him. I have a book with photo's of the 92nd.

  51. …great story….

  52. Gary Villa says:

    The 9th Calvary also fought in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. After fighting in Cuba, they were sent to fight as counterinsurgents in the Philippines. The reason I know this is because my classrooms at the Defense Language Institute on the Presido of Monterey, where I studied Russian while in Military Intelligence, were the barracks and stables for the 1st Squadron of the 9th Calvary, which they built themselves, when they returned from the Philippines. Furthermore, when they first arrived in Monterey in 1902, they were living in tents next to the Chinese fishing village in Pacific Grove. Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, where I later did my PhD, moved from the next point over to that site in 1917. So I have a sigificant, though indirect, connection to the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Calvary. Some of the most memorable parts of my life were shaped by their earlier presence. I am sad to see the last of them go. Many of us owe them debts of which we may not even be aware.

  53. Jeri Ballard says:

    RIP SIR and thank you for your service

  54. Thank you for your service Mr Gaines! We owe you and all who've served this nation a great debt.

  55. Jeri Ballard says:

    RIP Sir Thank you for you for your service.

  56. David Martin says:

    I, and all I know who love and respect ALL who have served our Country, Respect and Salute YOU and send our heart felt gratitude for your service to our country. I personally thank you for the freedoms we have today that you commited your life to defend. Rest In Peace now, SIR. You are in our LORD'S ARMY and I know you greeted HIM with, "Reporting As Ordered, Sir." Tell my father hello when you see him. I will be along soon and will stand beside you when the horns are sounded. May Our Lord Bless and Comfort your family in your passing. Yes, HE will COME AGAIN, and will raise those who believe for HIS army, to take back the WORLD from EVIL.

  57. Brother Gains I thank you for your service and sacrifice. …
    I would like to let all know, Buffalo Solider Monument Dedication at the Ft. Buford Masonic Site on May 28th. In Williston ND.
    Partly because of this man and men like him my husband was able to become the first and is the only African American A.F.&A.M. To be raised in ND.
    All is welcome and urged to attend this historic event.

  58. Albert Jones says:

    I just met a buffalo soldier today his Name is Clive jones a great man and a tall one aswell.

  59. Thank you to ALL of our men and women who served and are still serving. There are a lot of comments saying there are still some Buffalo soldiers living. Perhaps this article is simply referring to SC? It would be interesting to learn just how many are still out there. Perhaps the author of this article will provide the nation with those facts??

  60. Aimee Bigham : People to day have no idea what true sacrifice is and those that lived during WWII know.

  61. May you Mr. Gaines, now Be At Peace. Thank you for your Service

  62. I’m ashamed of some of the comments written on this post. This article is for South Carolina…not all over the world. Why as human beings can’t we just give honor to this man for what he has done to help make this country what it is? My father fault as well and I know for a fact that these men went through hell…not only for this country, but for African American like myself so that we could have a better life, the right to vote (and still many of us don’t). I didn’t say a perfect life, but a better life than he had. For anyone to get on this site and begin using profane language is sickening. Shame on you.
    This article is about Mr. Tomie L. Gaines and him being the last Buffalo soldier passing in SC…not the world. Yes…this article could have been written a little better, but some of you didn’t even read the article and was still disrespectful.
    On this day I resolve to salute Army Buffalo Soldier Tomie L. Gaines and pray that his transition was peaceful.

  63. Venis Montgomery Strong TRUE WORDS
    But if it were YOUR dad, grampa, brother, etc.
    which it is NOT…you very well might spew fire at being ignored…
    As indeed many of these fighters and gentlemen were.
    IGNORANCE destroys.


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