Buffalo Soldiers in California


Buffalo Soldiers in California

Charles Young and the Ninth Cavalry, 1902–1904

Brian G. Shellum

310 pages
30 photographs, 2 illustrations, index


August 2024


$26.95 Pre-order

About the Book

When Captain Charles Young and the Ninth U.S. Cavalry stepped ashore in San Francisco in 1902, Young was only one of three Black officers serving in the U.S. Army. He had graduated from West Point as its third Black graduate, established the first Black officer training program at Wilberforce University, was appointed a major to command an Ohio volunteer battalion during the Spanish-American War, and served as a troop commander during two years of brutal guerrilla warfare in the Philippine-American War.

In Buffalo Soldiers in California Brian G. Shellum follows the experiences of Captain Young and the Ninth Cavalry in the Golden State, from life at the Presidio and the challenges of army life in a large city to summers patrolling Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks to missions training with the California National Guard. Young’s career success depended on the professionalism and dedication of his enlisted men—the backbone of the Buffalo Soldier regiments—and those men delivered. Young and that “rowdy gang of mine,” as he called them, were an important part of the history of California and our national parks, as well as the broader history of the United States.

Author Bio

Brian G. Shellum is a retired army officer, decorated with the Bronze Star Medal and the Order of St. George, and a former intelligence officer with the Department of Defense. He was also previously a government historian with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He is the author of Buffalo Soldiers in Alaska: Company L, Twenty-Fourth Infantry (Bison Books, 2021) and Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young (Bison Books, 2010), among other books.


Buffalo Soldiers in California establishes Brian Shellum as the leading scholar on the military career of Colonel Charles Young, and this book provides important insight into San Francisco’s race relations at the turn of the twentieth century, the day-to-day life of Buffalo Soldiers in a western urban city, and the largely unknown role of Black soldiers as both ‘guardians’ and a superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant National Parks. Most critically, Shellum reveals an important phase in the life of a remarkable man and an important Black leader.”—Albert S. Broussard, author of Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the West, 1900–1954

“Historian Brian Shellum documents a too-little-known chapter in the lives of pioneering African American Army officer Charles Young and the Buffalo soldiers he commanded. . . . These soldiers, who helped Young develop his effectiveness as a cavalry officer, are given their own voice through their personal memories and those of others who knew them.”—Floyd Thomas, curator emeritus of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center

“Shellum combines solid research and narration skills in this detailed examination of the service of African American regular army enlisted soldiers and their officers in early 1900s California.”—Thomas D. Phillips, coauthor of The Black Regulars, 1866–1898
Buffalo Soldiers in California is Brian Shellum’s latest effort to reveal the untold stories of Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers. Brian has labored hand-in-hand with my family members to shed new light on Young’s exemplary achievements in San Francisco and at Sequoia National Park. Brian’s research has directly supported the Brigadier General Charles Young Foundation’s efforts to promote his legacy.”—Renotta Young, descendant of Charles Young and CEO of the Brigadier General Charles Young Foundation
“I found Brian Shellum’s meticulously researched and expertly written history of the Buffalo Soldiers at the Presidio in San Francisco particularly fascinating as it highlights Captain Charles Young’s remarkable year at Sequoia National Park and my hometown of Three Rivers. It is a legacy I have long been aware of, but I now have such greater understanding and appreciation of all that Young accomplished, and the intelligent, kind man of great integrity he truly was.”—Jay O’Connell, author of Co-operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony

“As a first-generation Californian, I came of age not knowing a thing about the contributions of African Americans in my home state. It wasn’t included in our primary or secondary education. For this reason, I am extremely grateful and humbled by Brian Shellum’s effort in putting together such an amazing literary work, telling the story of great African American patriots, the Buffalo Soldiers, who served our country with bravery, distinction, and honor during the nineteenth century. . . . Shellum’s inspiring book is a must-read for all Americans and, in particular, those of African American heritage.”—Gloria Richard, descendant of Trumpeter Frank McKenzie, I Troop of the Ninth U.S. Cavalry

“Brian Shellum has done a most admirable job in portraying the life of Colonel Young and his soldiers as he followed them in their later years. In addition, his inclusion of Colonel Pearson, another early-day resident of Three Rivers, went a long way to complete this history and give it extra meaning. I look forward to reading it and adding this book to my personal library.”—Sophie Britton, author of Pioneers in Paradise: A Historical Biographical Record of Early Days in Three Rivers, California

“Granddaddy Peggy was proud to have served with Colonel Young and spoke of him and the Buffalo Soldiers often. . . . Thank you, Brian Shellum, for providing so much information about Granddad.”—Pam D. Jones, descendant of Cook Abner Jones, I Troop of the Ninth U.S. Cavalry

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Rowdy Gang of Mine
2. Time, Place, Men
3. Settling In
4. Presidio Garrison
5. Park Guardians
6. Celebration and Departure
7. Return to Garrison Life
8. Racism, Routine, Change
9. Park Duty and Encampment
10. Rotation Issue
11. Postscript: Army and the Parks
12. Aftermath: Men of the Ninth
Appendix A: Fiddlers' Green
Appendix B: Biographies of I Troop Officers and Soldiers

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