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Colonel Charles Young: Buffalo Soldier and Intelligence Officer

July 9, 2014

By Lori S. Tagg

Tagg. Lori S. " Colonel Charles Young: Buffalo Soldier and Intelligence

The Official Homage of the United States Army. (2014): n.pag.


Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

Charles Young graduated from West Point in 1889. Young would later
serve in the 7th, 9th and 10th Cavalry, command Fort Huachuca,
and retire as a Colonel. He is a member of the MI Hall of Fame.

FORT HUACHUCA. Ariz. (July 9, 2014) -- lMore than 10,000 black men
served in the regiments honorably called the Buffalo Soldiers. Some
of these men, such as Henry O. Flipper and Benjamin O. Davis, are
historically prominent and fairly well-known to students of American
history. However, a great number remain unknown or their
accomplishments buried as footnotes to history. One such man with
a significant link to Fort Huachuca and military intelligence is
Colonel Charles D. Young.

Charles Young was born in May's Lick, Kentucky, in 1864. In 1889, he

became the third African American to graduate from the U.S.
Military Academy. He was immediately assigned to the 10th Cavalry,
stationed at that time in Nebraska. Over the course of the next 28
years, Young was assigned to the black regiments of the 9th Cavalry
and the 25th Infantry, as well as the 9th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
during the Spanish American War. Young's military career introduced
him to a variety of responsibilities. He spent nearly four years as a
Professor of Military Science at Wilberforce University, Ohio, and in
1903, he served as the acting superintendent of parks at Sequoia
and General Grant (now Kings Canyon) National Parks in California.
One highlight of Young's career and for which he is perhaps most
renowned occurred during the Punitive Expedition in pursuit of
Pancho Villa who had murdered American citizens in Columbus, New
Mexico. On April 1, 1916, Major Young led his troops in a successful
cavalry pistol charge against Villista forces at Aguas Calientes,
Mexico, driving back approximately 150 enemy troops with no
losses to Young's squadron. Two weeks later, at the Hacienda Santa
Cruz de la Villegas, Young again rode with his troops to relieve a
severely wounded Major Frank Tompkins and his 13th U.S. Cavalry
pinned down by Mexican government troops. Young's reinforcement
of Major Tompkins at a critical time is credited by many historians as
preventing a larger war between the United States and Mexico. For
Young's brilliant and aggressive operations in Mexico, he was
promoted to lieutenant colonel in the 10th Cavalry in 1916. A year
later, he was promoted to colonel and served briefly as Fort
Huachuca's commander.

In addition to his brave service with the cavalry, Young's lesser

known accomplishments took place in the field of military
intelligence, particularly as a military attach. Young was the first
African American appointed to serve in that capacity since the birth
of the attach system in 1889. He was an accomplished linguist
fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and German. From 1904 to
1907, Young served in Port Au Prince, Haiti, where he made an
extended military reconnaissance of the country and the
neighboring Republic of Santo Domingo and produced maps of much
of the terrain. In 1912, he was selected for attach duty in Liberia,
where he advised the Liberian constabulary and supervised the
construction of new roads to provide military lines of
communication. For his services there, the NAACP awarded Young
the Springarn Medal, an annual award recognizing outstanding
achievement by an African American. Young remains the only
member of the U.S. military services to receive this award since its
inception in 1915. For his attach service, Young was also inducted
into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame in 1999.

Much to his dismay and despite an exceptional career, Colonel

Young was medically retired in 1917 for high blood pressure and
Bright's disease purportedly incurred during his attach service in
Liberia. He was, at this time, the highest ranking African American in
the U.S. Army, and one of only three black commissioned officers.
Anxious to command black troops in France in World War I, the 53-
year-old colonel rode on horseback from his home in Ohio to the War
Department in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate his fitness for duty.
Nevertheless, Charles Young's quest to serve during World War I was
denied, a decision described by some historians as a product of
prejudice on the part of senior leaders in the military and
Presidency. Young, however, was recalled to active duty in 1919 to
serve again as military attach in Liberia. He died on January 8,
1922, in that post. At the time he was on a research expedition in
Lagos, Nigeria. Although initially buried in Nigeria, his body was
returned to the U.S. and interred at Arlington National Cemetery in
Washington, D.C. in 1923.

On a personal note, Charles Young married Ada Barr in 1903 and

had two children, Charles Noel, born in 1907 and Marie, born in
1909. He counted among his friends the founder of the NAACP,
W.E.B. DuBois, and Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. He was not
only a fine soldier and leader, but also a poet, playwright, composer,
and musician. He was known for his generosity, politeness even in
the face of harsh racial discrimination, and dedication to his country
and his race. Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt marveled at
the man who "by sheer force of characterovercame prejudices
which would have discouraged many a lesser man.He approached
life with the single purpose of seeing what he could do for this
nation.[W]hat he has done will remain with us in the country as a
constant inspiration and guide of the generations to come."