Last updated: May 21, 2018
Ezekiel H. Hill
- Buffalo Soldier
- Place of Birth:
- Dayton, Ohio
- Date of Birth:
- circa 1857
- Place of Death:
- Portland, Oregon
- Date of Death:
Ezekiel H. Hill was born circa 1857 in Dayton, Ohio. He began his military career in 1875, at the age of 18, when he enlisted in the 25th Infantry, Company D, at Cleveland, Ohio. The 25th Infantry was one of the Army’s four Black regiments; the soldiers of these regiments became known as “Buffalo Soldiers.” Hill was discharged from this service in 1876 at Fort Davis, Texas, for an unspecified disability, but in 1878 he re-enlisted and was assigned to the 25th Infantry, Company G.
Hill served at several military posts, including:
- Fort Stockton, Texas
- Fort Davis, Texas
- Fort Hale, Dakota Territory
- Fort Thomas, Arizona
- Fort Huachuca, Arizona
- Fort Douglas, Utah
- Vancouver Barracks, Washington
- Manila, Philippines
- Fort Harrison, Montana
While assigned to the 25th Infantry in the American Southwest, Hill and other Buffalo Soldiers from Company G were detached in August 1880 to Yankton, Dakota Territory, to guard American Indian prisoners there. In the 1870s and 1880s, Buffalo Soldier regiments, including the 25th Infantry, were often engaged in “Indian Wars” – conflicts that erupted as federal troops attempted to relocate Indigenous peoples from their ancestral homelands to reservations.
In 1883, Private Grayson was transferred from the 25th Infantry to the 24th Infantry, Company B. With his new company, Grayson continued to serve at duty stations throughout the Southwest. In January 1888, Company B spent most of the month repairing and building telegraph lines near Fort Thomas, Arizona Territory.
By 1893, Hill had been promoted to corporal. By 1897, he had become a sergeant.
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, Sergeant Hill fell ill, along with many other men from Company B. That month, documents place 24th Infantry at the yellow fever hospital at 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, Hill 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.
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. Archival documents from 1900 to 1902 place Sergeant Hill in Luzon and Manila in the Philippine Islands.
Hill had returned to the United States by 1905, when he was stationed at Fort Harrison, Montana, as a first sergeant. He retired from his military career in 1907 at San Francisco, California.
Little is known about Hill’s later life. The 1910 Federal Census indicates that he owned a home in Portland, Oregon, and was widowed. Details about his wife have yet to be uncovered. Hill died in Portland in 1918.
Most of what we know about Ezekiel H. Hill, and the other soldiers of Company B, comes from official 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.