- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

Bowie City Council member William A. Aleshire’s research into Negro League baseball teams in Prince George’s County led him in a direction he never anticipated: writing a book about the forgotten war heroes known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

Mr. Aleshire’s book focuses on one soldier, Sgt. Thomas Boyne, of Prince George’s County, who was 18 when he became one of the 200,000 black men to join the Union Army to fight in the Civil War.

Following the Civil War, Boyne’s heroic actions in the Indian wars led him to receive the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military award.

“I don’t want to be a storyteller,” says Mr. Aleshire, 57, as he sits amid stacks of books, documents and computer technographics in his Bowie home.

“I want to try to educate our youth,” he says, attributing much of his endeavor to his wife, Clara Roe, a Prince George’s County librarian. “History books don’t talk about these black troops.”

Mr. Aleshire’s book is titled, “Medal of Honor Winner Sgt. Thomas Boyne and His Comrades.” His book has not yet been published.

Mr. Aleshire is a Vietnam veteran who retired from the Metropolitan Police Department after 21 years. He did not know much about Buffalo Soldiers or Boyne in 1995 when he first began researching sandlot baseball teams and Negro League teams in Prince George’s.

His interest in those teams led him to help the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission prepare a Rough Diamonds Exhibit for the Tricentennial Celebration and the opening of the Prince George’s Stadium, home of the Baysox, in 1996.

In April 1997, Louis Fields, executive director of the African American Tourism Council of Maryland, asked Mr. Aleshire to assist him in preparations for a program held in Baltimore celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s arrival in the major leagues.

More black baseball celebrations led Mr. Fields to invite Mr. Aleshire to help prepare for the first Buffalo Soldiers Day in Maryland on Feb. 20, 1999.

That’s when Mr. Aleshire came across the names of several Prince George’s County black men who fought with the Buffalo Soldiers in the Western Fron

In 1866, Congress passed legislation establishing two all-black cavalry and four all-black infantry regiments, each consisting of about 1,000 men. The mounted regiments were the 9th Cavalry and 10th Cavalry, later called “Buffalo Soldiers.”

Their infantry and calvary outfits, commanded by white men, were moved west of the Mississippi River, mostly to fight renegade Indians. Because of their skill and reputation, the Buffalo Soldiers consistently received some of the most dangerous and difficult assignments the Army had to offer.

According to legend, the Cheyenne and Comanche tribes called the troops Buffalo Soldiers because their fighting spirit reminded them of the buffalo. “‘Buffalo soldiers no good. Heap bad medicine,’” said Mr. Aleshire, quoting Indians from his research documents.

Mr. Aleshire says he began researching Boyne’s life because the sergeant was a Prince George’s native. He says little was known about Boyne’s life and why he received the medal.

“I was never able to find a birth date for Sgt. Boyne,” Mr. Aleshire says.

Mr. Aleshire found late 19th-century census and pension records that only showed that Boyne was married, but they did not list names of his wife, mother or father. The records, however, did show that Boyne was a laborer and a house servant before he enlisted in the Union Army.

Mr. Aleshire’s research focused on Army “muster rolls,” which recorded details about Buffalo Soldiers’ actions every two months.

Boyne was with Company C of the 9th Calvary in the Mimbres Mountains and Cuchillo Negro River in New Mexico. His heroic actions on May 29 and Sept. 27, 1879, led him to become the first of three Maryland blacks to qualify for, and then receive, the medal. First Sgt. Augustus Walley of Reisterstown and Cpl. William Wilson of Hagerstown were the two other soldiers to receive the medal.

The 9th Calvary was ordered to head off Chief Victorio, tribal leader of Mescalero and Chiricahua Apaches, as they fled from their New Mexico reservation to Mexico. Capt. Charles D. Beyer later cited Boyne for his gallantry and bravery as the soldiers and the American Indians fought halfway up a mountain.

Boyne also was cited for saving fellow soldiers. “I was engaged in bringing in a wounded man with a few men and was surprised by the Indians, my horse was killed and corralled by hostiles when Sgt. Thomas Boyne commanded a detachment sent to my assistance, flanked and gallantly charged the Indians, driving them off,” 2nd Lt. Henry H. Wright stated in the citation.

The Buffalo Soldiers fought more than 175 battles, but their duties were not limited to fighting. They built and rebuilt Army posts; strung miles of telegraph wire; patrolled the U.S.-Mexican border; escorted settlers, cattle herds and railroad crews; and developed and patrolled the national parks. In garrison, they drilled, stood guard and maintained horses, barracks and weapons.

“These soldiers helped to open and preserve the West while serving their country, and their story needs to be told,” says Mr. Aleshire, who also is seeking official exoneration of Henry Vinton Plummer. Plummer was born to slaves in Prince George’s on July 31, 1844, and became the first black chaplain in the Army.

The Buffalo Soldiers were segregated until after the Korean War, when they were integrated in the U.S. military, Mr. Aleshire says.

Boyne was a Buffalo Soldier for almost 23 years before he was honorably discharged because of a disability. On April 23, 1889, Boyne was admitted to the U.S. Soldiers’ Home, which is now called the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home, on North Capitol Street in the District with a monthly pension of $10. He died April 21, 1896, and was buried in the adjacent U.S. National Cemetery.

Mr. Aleshire has long been interested in history and even for a short time studied it at American University, but his job and family life kept him from getting a master’s degree in the subject.

Since researching Boyne and the Buffalo Soldiers, Mr. Aleshire joined the 9th and 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldier Association, and will participate in full uniform as a colonel in the battle re-enactments and programs.

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