(c) An editorial by Bob Rogers, 16 July 2012
The story line offered with the movie, “Buffalo Soldiers,” starring Danny Glover, describes the film as fact based. With the apparent noble intention of illustrating and informing their audience of the important contributions made by African American soldiers in the invasion, occupation and settlement of the southwestern United States, writers Jonathan Klein and Frank Military weave a tale of Company H, Tenth Cavalry and its attempt to capture an “Apache warrior named Vittorio” who slaughters settlers in New Mexico. Directed by Charles Haid, the film further promises to reveal “the truth about the Indian invaders.”
“Buffalo Soldiers” is a major disappointment. The great cinematography delivers misinformation at best and definitely sets back the education of the public with its false narrative.
In 1997, I saw this movie and shook my head. Because a number of people have mentioned it to me this year (2012) with praise, I saw it again last week. This time, I was appalled.
Black cavalrymen and infantrymen of Buffalo Soldier fame were well respected by their Indian adversaries. They earned grudging recognition from fellow white soldiers and genuine praise from their white officers. And, they certainly did not commit the repugnant crime purported near the end of the movie. Civil War hero Colonel Grierson was not the wimp portrayed in the movie, nor was he wounded by Indians during his twenty plus years as the commander of the Tenth Cavalry.
Chihenne Chief Victorio (not “Vittorio”) is known to scholars as well as buffs. Between 1970 and 1991, authors Eve Ball and Dan Thrapp wrote scholarly and complete volumes about Chief Victorio and why he led his Mimbres Apaches (sometimes called Warm Springs Apaches or Eastern Chiricahua Apaches) in a fourteen month war against the United States. Called America’s greatest guerilla fighter, Victorio was certainly not a Mescalero Apache as he was called in the movie, though a few Mescalero warriors joined his band.
At Rattlesnake Springs in West Texas, the movie makers missed a chance to depict the actual dramatic showdown. It was Grierson versus Victorio. The two generals deployed their troops expertly and with aplomb. That day, Grierson used his Companies A, B, C, G, and H – each a company of Buffalo Soldiers. Find the factual and exciting outcome in readable story form here along with a recommended bibliography for your reading pleasure. https://bobrogers.biz/Page_per_Book/First_Dark.html
“Buffalo Soldiers,” in addition to being an instrument of misinformation, is a teaching opportunity squandered.