Buffalo Soldiers in Alaska

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Buffalo Soldiers in Alaska

Company L, Twenty-Fourth Infantry

Brian G. Shellum

368 pages
37 photographs, 5 maps, 1 chronology, 4 appendixes, index

Paperback

November 2021

978-1-4962-2844-4

$29.95 Pre-order

About the Book

The town of Skagway was born in 1897 after its population quintupled in under a year due to the Klondike Gold Rush. Balanced on the edge of anarchy, the U.S. Army stationed Company L, a unit of Buffalo Soldiers, there near the end of the Gold Rush. Buffalo Soldiers in Alaska tells the story of these African American soldiers who kept the peace during a volatile period in America’s resource-rich North. It is a fascinating tale that features white officers and Black soldiers safeguarding U.S. territory, supporting the civil authorities, protecting Native Americans, fighting natural disasters, and serving proudly in America’s last frontier.

Despite the discipline and contributions of soldiers who served honorably, Skagway exhibited the era’s persistent racism and maintained a clear color line. However, these Black Regulars carried out their complex and sometimes contradictory mission with a combination of professionalism and restraint that earned the grudging respect of the independently minded citizens of Alaska. The company used the popular sport of baseball to connect with the white citizens of Skagway and in the process gained some measure of acceptance. Though the soldiers left little trace in Skagway, a few remained after their enlistments and achieved success and recognition after settling in other parts of Alaska.

 

Author Bio

Brian G. Shellum is an independent historian and is retired after service as a senior intelligence officer and historian at the Defense Intelligence Agency. He is a former U.S. Army officer, army attaché, and Gulf War veteran. Shellum is the author of African American Officers in Liberia: A Pestiferous Rotation, 1910–1942 (Potomac, 2018), Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young (Bison Books, 2010), and Black Cadet in a White Bastion: Charles Young at West Point (Bison Books, 2006).

Praise

“Brian Shellum has a knack for unlocking stories of Black soldiers in our military. With Buffalo Soldiers in Alaska he takes us beyond the racism-tainted news blurbs of early twentieth-century newspapers and gives life to these veterans who guarded the ‘Gateway to the Klondike’ and were part of the community. This is an important new chapter in Alaska history.”—Jeff Brady, author of Skagway: City of the New Century
 

“The history of Alaska’s turn-of-the-century gold rushes has been told a hundred times in a hundred different ways. Brian Shellum’s Buffalo Soldiers in Alaska shines much-needed light on a part of the story that has received little attention from scholars: the Black soldiers sent to keep order in Skagway and their interactions with white citizens and Alaska Natives and with Canadians on the other side of the border. This important book is a must-read for anyone interested in Alaska history.”—Ross Coen, editor of Alaska History
 

“Brian Shellum provides a wealth of facts about the lives of the Buffalo Soldiers who served in Alaska. It should be essential reading for anyone interested in the history of African Americans, Alaska, or twentieth-century military history.”—Catherine Spude, historian, author of Saloons, Prostitutes, and Temperance in Alaska Territory

“The author pays particular attention to the Black enlisted men who served in Alaska during the halcyon days of the Klondike Gold Rush. As such, this well-illustrated and carefully researched study sheds new light on a little-known story in U.S. Army history.”—John P. Langellier, author of Scouting with the Buffalo Soldiers: Lieutenant Powhatan Clarke, Frederic Remington, and the 10th U.S. Cavalry in the Southwest
 

“A thoroughly researched and well-presented account of a little-known episode in Alaskan history. No grand themes, pivotal events, or outsized personalities. The book is a welcome expansion of the story of African Americans in the nation’s military.”—Tom Phillips, independent historian, coauthor of The Black Regulars, 1866–1898
 

“Here is an extensively researched and detailed account of a little-known piece of Gold Rush history. What I particularly enjoyed was reading portions of the narrative that I have investigated myself but from a Canadian perspective. Well worth the read.”—Michael Gates, former Parks Canada curator and author of Dalton’s Gold Rush Trail and From the Klondike to Berlin
 

“Shellum has added yet another important and crucial volume to his works of untold military history stories by penning this book exploring the lives of the African American soldiers who proudly served on the Alaskan frontier. Readers will gain an appreciation not only for military history but for the way Buffalo Soldiers used baseball to connect with the white citizens of Skagway.”—Krewasky A. Salter, executive director of the First Division Museum
 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Chronology
Prologue
1. North to Alaska
2. Dyea Barracks
3. Fort Wrangel
4. Skagway Barracks
5. Company Reunited
6. Settling In
7. Command Change
8. Challenges
9. Departure
10. Aftermath
Postscript
Appendix A: Biographies of Officers and Soldiers of Company L
Appendix B: Buffalo Soldier Regiments
Appendix C: Minstrel Show Programs
Appendix D: Tribute to Captain Hovey
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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