Last updated: May 21, 2018
Charles W. Grayson
- Buffalo Soldier
- Place of Birth:
- Muskingum County, Ohio
- Date of Birth:
- March 3, 1853
- Place of Death:
- Muskingum County, Ohio
- Date of Death:
- April 12, 1925
- Place of Burial:
- Zanesville, Ohio
- Cemetery Name:
- Woodlawn Cemetery
Charles W. Grayson was born on March 3, 1853 in Muskingum County, Ohio. He lived with his mother, Matilda Jane Tate, father Joseph, and three younger siblings. Census records indicate that Grayson remained in school at least through the age of 17.
Sometime before 1881, Grayson began his military career, and was assigned to Company B of the 24th Infantry. The 24th Infantry was one of the Army’s four Black regiments; the soldiers of these regiments became known as “Buffalo Soldiers.”
Grayson served at several military posts, including:
Columbus Barracks (Fort Hayes), Ohio
Fort Elliot, Texas
Fort Grant, Arizona
Vancouver Barracks, Washington
By 1881, Grayson had become a sergeant with Company B of the 24th Infantry.
On April 21, 1898, the United States declared war against Spain, beginning the Spanish American War. On April 20, one day before the official declaration of war, the 24th Infantry left Fort Douglas for the American South. They arrived in Georgia on April 24, and proceeded to Tampa, Florida, where they arrived on April 30. The 24th Infantry then joined an expeditionary force to Cuba that included 3,000 Black regulars and a total of 17,000 troops.
The Army’s four regiments of Buffalo Soldiers served in Cuba for four months, and fought in several battles, including the famed Battle of San Juan Hill. Captain Henry Wygant, the white commander of four of the 24th Infantry’s companies, including Company B, described their service in this battle as “Noticeably brave and heroic” and recommended one of Company B’s corporals, Richard Williams, for a commendation for bravery.
While in Cuba in August 1898, Grayson fell ill, along with many other men from Company B. That month, documents place the 24th Infantry at the yellow fever hospital in Siboney, Cuba. On August 26, the regiment left Cuba, and traveled via transport ship to Montauk, New York, and then on to Fort Douglas, Utah.
In April 1899, Grayson and Company B arrived at Vancouver Barracks. There, they spent the next thirteen months engaged in the regular assignments of garrison duty: drilling, practicing marching and marksmanship, improving the post’s infrastructure, performing maintenance and clerical work, and attending the post school. Reenlistment documents from May 1899 show that Grayson then held the rank of quartermaster sergeant.
While stationed at Vancouver Barracks, Grayson was among the soldiers of Company B who were detached and deployed to Wardner, Idaho. In late April 1899, long-simmering conflicts between miners and mine owners boiled over. A group of armed miners dynamited a mine in the Coeur d’Alene region of Idaho, and federal troops were called on to bring order to the area. Buffalo Soldiers from Company B left Vancouver Barracks on May 3, just days after the explosion. The Oregonian reported that “the men were equipped in heavy marching order.” The next day, Grayson and his company arrived in Wardner along with six other companies of the 24th Infantry. There, Buffalo Soldiers were responsible for imposing martial law. The detachment from Company B returned to Vancouver Barracks on May 15.
The 24th Infantry left Vancouver Barracks in May 1900. On October 16, they were transferred to Fort Wright in Spokane, Washington, and then to the Presidio of San Francisco. From California, they were deployed to the Philippine Islands, where they served for two years in the Philippine War. During this time, enlistment documents place Sergeant Grayson at Baler, in Central Luzon, Philippine Islands, in 1902.
Grayson retired from military service in 1904. On November 20, 1916, he married Ida M. Jackson in Zanesville, Ohio. Grayson died on April 12, 1925, and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Zanesville, Muskingum County, Ohio.
Most of what we know about Charles W. Grayson, and the other soldiers of Company B, comes from military and other government documents. We continue to search for documents that show the soldiers' points of view. If you have any information or family stories about Company B, 24th Infantry, U.S. Army, please contact us.