On July 28, 1866, the United States Congress passed legislation to establish two cavalry (9th and 10th) and four infantry regiments, (38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st) to be made up of African American enlisted men. (2) Three years later in 1869, the four infantry regiments were consolidated into two regiments, the 24th and 25th Infantry. The troops were paid thirteen dollars a month, plus room, board and clothing. Enlistment was for five years. Almost immediately these new regiments were transferred to the western states and territories for service on the American frontier.
The regiments spent their time scouting and patrolling vast expanses of challenging terrain, providing sentinels and security for the settlers, building roads, and installing telegraph lines. (3) They also spent endless hours on the necessary military tasks of drills, inspections, parades, and the care and maintenance of their horses and equipment. (4) The troopers faced a mix of danger and boredom accentuated by rigid military discipline. They fought in more than one hundred twenty-five engagements in campaigns against the Cheyenne, Apache, Kiowa, Ute, Comanche, and Sioux. (5) The Black regiments were frequently ordered to return hostile tribes to their appointed reservations. A large percentage of the troops had been born into slavery. Some soldiers were Seminole Negroes, whose ancestors had fled slavery and joined Seminole tribes in Florida. These activities involving Native Americans created feelings of moral dilemma and a sense of irony for many of the Black troops.