The name Buffalo Soldiers was first given to the 'Negro Cavalry' by the Native American tribes that they battled in the 1860s. Buffalo Soldiers eventually became interchangeable with the African-American regiments of the time.
The first Buffalo Soldiers serving at Fort Verde was Troop I, 10th Cavalry of the Buffalo Soldiers. After an illustrious career of military service during the Indian Wars of the Western frontier, the Buffalo Soldiers first arrived at Fort Verde in 1885 and remained until 1888.
On Feb. 15, Fort Verde State Historic Park will celebrate the Buffalo Soldiers with re-enactors dressed in period-appropriate replica uniforms and equipment issued by the U.S. Army during the 1870s Indian War period.
Since February is African American Heritage Month, "we felt it was appropriate to create an event that would pay tribute to those Buffalo Soldiers who served at Fort Verde," says Fort Verde Park Manager Sheila Stubler.
Beginning at 9 a.m., Saturday's events will include flag raising and flag lowering ceremonies and presentations on the history of the Buffalo Soldier. At 10 a.m., Jimmy Foster Jr., Greg Carter and Reggie Garnett Sr. will portray Buffalo Soldiers Emmanuel Stance, Sgt. Company D/9th Cavalry Henry Johnson and Lt. John H. Alexander, respectively.
The Buffalo Soldiers of America Motorcycle Chapter - Arizona, will present 'The History and Legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers from 1866-1900 at 1 p.m.
Hold the Fort company cook Bill Stafford and his partner Bob Tener will conduct a Dutch oven cooking demonstration. Stafford and Tener will cook a southern-style lunch of black-eyed peas, grits and cornbread with peach cobbler for dessert. Lunch is available for a suggested donation, Stubler also said.
"This way of cooking has been around for hundreds of years this is our way of giving back to our volunteers, by preparing a nice hot meal so they can just show up and do what they do best, tell their stories to the public," Stubler said.
"Dutch oven cooking is our hobby," Tener says. "Being able to prepare these meals on the fort's grounds using coals gives me great satisfaction."
Seven years ago, Stafford and Tener began doing the Dutch oven cooking demonstrations for each of Fort Verde's annual events.
Stafford and Tener will also be cooking up a special breakfast and dinner for the volunteers, with Mary's biscuits, grits and a rib stickin' breakfast casserole served for breakfast, and snap beans and ham, grits, beer bread and fruit cocktail cobbler for supper.
"We try to change the menu a little each year but we try to do southern cooking plus some of our favorites," Stafford said.
Instead of playing one 1860s-era baseball game, the Glendale Gophers and the Bisbee Bees will play a doubleheader. Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, known for saying "Let's Play Two," would be pleased. The first game starts at 11 a.m. The second game starts at 1 p.m.
For more information, call (928) 567-3275. Fort Verde State Historic Park is located at 125 E. Hollamon St.
If You Go ...
What: Buffalo Soldiers
Where: Fort Verde State Historic Park
When: Saturday, Feb. 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
How much: Park entry fee is $5 per person, $2 ages 7-13; free for ages 6 and younger. Lunch at the Dutch oven cooking demonstration is by donation.