Sgt. Brown and Corporal Mays

Buffalo Soldiers Timeline(1866-1951)

Vertical Timeline

Prior to the Civil War (1861-1865)

African Americans were not allowed to serve in the US Army.

In 1866

The US Government passed the Army Organization Act, which allowed African Americans to serve in the Army.

From 1867 to the early 1890s

Buffalo Soldiers served in various posts in the U.S. Southwestern and Great Plains regions. They participated in military campaigns and earned a distinguished record, with 13 enlisted men and 6 officers receiving the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. They also served a range of roles along the frontier, including building roads and escorting the U.S. mail.


Buffalo Soldiers participated in the American Indian Wars, Spanish–American War, Philippine–American War, Border War, and World War I. They earned five more Medals of Honor during the Spanish-American War and were the only African Americans that fought in Cuba.

During World War II (1939–1945)

Buffalo Soldiers were mostly disbanded, and the soldiers were moved into service-oriented units.

After 1948

President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 which desegregated the military. During the Korean War, Black and White troops operated in integrated units for the first time. The 24th Infantry Regiment saw combat during the Korean War and was the last segregated regiment to engage in combat.

The Buffalo Soldiers were a group of infantry and cavalry units composed of civil war veterans and former slaves. They were known for their blue uniforms, yellow insignias, and curved sabers. They protected settlers, stagecoaches, and wagons in the Southwest and Western US from renegades and bandits. Unfortunately, they also participated in government-sanctioned wars to take the lands of the region from the indigenous population. The origin of their name is debated, but it is commonly believed to be due to their curly hair resembling the mane of a buffalo.

Sergeant Benjamin Brown and Corporal Isiah Mays

The Medal of Honor (MOH) is the most prestigious military award given by the United States Armed Forces to commend American soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardians, and coastguardsmen who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor.

Sergeant Benjamin Brown

Sergeant Benjamin Brown (on the left) and Corporal Isaiah Mays (on the right) were both “Buffalo Soldiers” who were awarded the National Medal of Honor in 1889 by President Harrison for their bravery during Wham Paymaster Robbery of 1889 near Pima, Arizona.

They were transporting funds of about $28,000 (about $900k today) to soldiers at forts in AZ when they were ambushed by bandits. Despite being injured with several bullets, they saved several of their comrades and survived. Unfortunately, the money was lost and has never been recovered.

Corporal Isiah Mays

Legacy Story for Sergeant Benjamin Brown

“My roots journey began with a picture of a man in a military uniform. A strange looking uniform, old fashioned, topped off with a silly looking hat. It was nothing like the uniforms I was used to seeing in the 60s and 70s. And it sat on the dining room of my grandmother’s house on the mantle.”

–Trudy Bradfield Taliaferro

The African American Museum of Southern Arizona preserved Sergeant Brown’s story through his great-niece, Trudy Bradfield Taliaferro. She tells the story of how she discovered the identity and heroic deeds of her great-uncle. 

Trudy visited the Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C. where Sergeant Benjamin Brown was buried and learned more about his life and the sacrifices he made for his country.

Make a medal for your shero/hero!

At our museum, you can learn more about the stories and history of the Buffalo Soldiers. These brave African American soldiers fought for our country’s freedom and justice. Their courage and dedication deserve our eternal admiration and commemoration.

We welcome everyone, including families and school groups, to come and visit our museum. For children, we offer blank medals that they can design and create themselves. It’s a fun and meaningful experience where they can, not only create a medal to express their gratitude, but also understand and learn about the stories and history of the Buffalo Soldiers heroes.

We hope children will express their appreciation for the Buffalo Soldiers and for the people they admire in their daily lives, such as parents, teachers, friends, or others. They can draw their sheroes/heroes images on the medal or write down their gratitude. It’s a chance to express their imagination and showcase their talents and creativity. Moreover, their work might become a part of our museum on display for everyone to see which will allow people to learn about their stories and gratitude for their sheroes/heroes.

Come and learn about the stories of the Buffalo Soldiers and create a medal for your shero/hero! Let’s express our gratitude and commemorate those who have done so much for us.

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