25th Infantry Regiment, San Juan Hill, Cuba, 1898
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When the United States Army was reorganized on July 28, 1866 for peacetime service after the American Civil War, six regiments were reserved for black enlisted men. These included four infantry regiments, numbered 38th to 41st. The 25th Infantry was created during a reduction in March 1869 by merging the 39th and 40th. Consolidation took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the regiment was sent to Texas. Colonel Joseph A. Mower was its first commander. Colonel John Andrews, the senior commanding officer, chaired the unit from January 1871 until his retirement on July 4, 1892.
The regiment remained in Texas until 1880. Then it moved to the northern plains and served in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana until the late 1890s. In the early 1890s, he became involved in the Pine Ridge campaign. Later in the decade it served in labor disputes that pitted the owners against the Western Federation of Miners, including the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Mine War of 1892. The regiment also protected road property of iron during the strike of 1894. Its units were dispersed at several posts, until 1897, when all companies of the regiment were assigned together for the first time, at Fort Douglas, outside Salt Lake City, Utah .
In 1896-1897, Company B of the regiment took part in a trial by the Ministry of War on the bicycle as a means of transporting troops. Lt. James A. Moss commanded the “Bicycle Corps,” the test of which ended with a summer ride from Fort Missoula, Montana, to St. Louis, Missouri, a distance of 1,900 miles.
Like the other black regiments, the 25th went to Cuba in 1898. The regiment fought at El Caney, just north of San Juan Hill, on July 1, losing ten enlisted men and two officers. One of his men, Corporal Thomas Butler, was credited by eyewitnesses with capturing the Spanish flag at the blockhouse. Soon after, the unit sailed to the Philippines and served there from 1899 to 1902, and again from 1907 to 1909.
While at Fort Brown, Texas in the summer of 1906, the men of the First Battalion were accused of shooting Brownsville civilians and killing a bartender. President Theodore Roosevelt attributed the inability to prove the soldier’s guilt for the attack to a conspiracy of silence and discharged the battalion’s 167 men without honor. Fourteen were later allowed to re-enlist. First Sergeant Mingo Sanders, a Cuba and Philippine combat veteran with 25 years of service, was the oldest of those discharged and became a symbol of the injustice committed by the president.
During the First World War, the regiment was part of the 93rd Infantry Division and elements fought with French troops in the Champagne, Verdun, Aise and Anould sectors of the front. The regiment was demobilized in March 1919, and only reactivated, at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in March 1942. It was sent to the Pacific theater, where most of its troops had logistical and administrative assignments. Parts of the regiment fought on Bouganville Island, before returning to the United States in January 1945. The regiment was inactivated at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1947.