Of all the tombstones in Ross Cemetery, Collin County’s historic black cemetery, the one placed on the grave of a man whose life spanned three centuries is the most thought-provoking.

His name was Jake Chamberlain, born in 1797.

The story is told of how the master left the care and protection of his family in the hands of Jake Chamberlain while he went off to battle those forces that would free Chamberlain from bondage.

When Chamberlain died in 1905, his tombstone was apparently placed on his grave by the CVA – the Confederate Veterans Association.

There are other instances were black men fought for the Confederacy. There’s little doubt that Bose Ikard of Goodnight Loving trail-driving renown served alongside his master and reputed father, Dr. Milton Ikard, as a Confederate soldier.

Of all the veteran’s graves in Ross Cemetery, the graves of soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry draw the most awe. The history of the 9th and 10th Cavalry is entwined with the history of Texas and the Red River Indian Wars.    

On June 19,1865, the people of Texas were informed that, “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

There were nearly 200,000 slaves in Texas when Union General Gordon Granger read that proclamation from the balcony of Union headquarters in Galveston. The reactions of the crowd ranged from pure shock to jubilation.  

Granger advised the former slaves to remain where they were and try to work for wages. They were informed that they “would not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they would not be supported there or elsewhere.” 

But a year later, things changed. In September 1866, the U.S. Congress established the 9th and 10th all Black Cavalry regiments. The regiments were formed to counter the Indian dominance of the western plains that had taken place while the North and South waged a civil war.    

In 1867, the 9th Cavalry was sent to Fort Scott in Kansas while the 10th Cavalry was deployed to San Antonio. The 10th’s mission was to keep the road open from San Antonio to El Paso.

Here in Texas, the 10th Cavalry would come face to face with the fiercest mounted warriors of the Staked Plains: the Comanche. It’s almost certain that it was the Comanche who gave the black cavalrymen the name “Buffalo Soldiers” because their hair felt like that of a buffalo.

In 1875, Fort Concho in Texas became the headquarters for both the 9th and 10th Cavalry.

During the Indian Wars, 13 enlisted men and six officers of the 10th Cavalry were awarded the Medal of Honor.

By 1910, the Buffalo Soldiers were headquartered in El Paso. It was from there that in 1916, Commanding Officer General John “Black Jack” Pershing ordered them to invade Mexico in retaliation for Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus.

In 1918, the Buffalo Soldiers fought their last battle with Indians when Yaqui tribesmen in of Arizona staged an uprising.

The last Buffalo Soldier, Mark Matthews, died at the age of 111 in 2005. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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