After the American Civil War, the military was used to "tame" the "Wild West." Among the troops given this duty were the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, which were composed of African American troops. Cheyenne and Commanche warriors who met the 10th in battle called them "Buffalo Soldiers" because of their courage, a name which was adopted by all African American units, including the 9th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments. Each of these units had white officers, as African Americans were not allowed to be officers.
Dog Soldiers, a company specializing in American Indian action figures, has chosen the 10th U.S. Cavalry First Sergeant (1870s Buffalo Soldier) as their third 12-inch action figure, following their Northern Cheyenne Warrior and the Chiricahua Apache War Leader.
The Buffalo Soldier is packaged in a fifth-panel window box, meaning that it has a flap that opens in the front so that you can see the figure in its packaging. The inside of the front flap gives the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, from the first African American troops allowed to serve in the Union Army in the Civil War, to the 10th Cavalry's participation in Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba with the Rough Riders. (You can also read the history on the Dog Soldiers site.)
The Buffalo Soldier action figure is unnamed, so we'll just call him "Sarge." (Actually, he's a 1st Sergeant, so he should be called "Top," but "Sarge" is more fun to say.) Sarge's head is a softish plastic which is reminiscent of some of the heads on the 9-inch Star Trek figures from Playmates Toys. He is articulated at the neck (twist), shoulders (ball joints), elbows (twists and bends), wrists (twists and flexes), waist (twist), hips (ball joints), knees (twists and bends), and ankles (twists and flexes).
Until about 1872, the Army equipped troops on the frontier with surplus gear and clothing from the Civil War. Due to the discrimination of the times, the African American units were the last to be given updated uniforms and gear. As a result, a soldier could theoretically be carrying items spanning two decades. Dog Soldiers has paid attention to this historical detail by equipping the Buffalo Soldier figure with the following gear, listed on the back of the box:
- 1872 slouch hat
- 1872 gray shirt
- 1874 uniform blouse with yellow cavalry trim and first sergeant insignia
- 1872 carbine sling
- 1851 sword belt with NCO buckle
- 1872 pistol ammunition pouch
- 1872 rifle ammunition pouch
- 1873 Colt Army revolver and holster
- 1872 Springfield "trapdoor" carbine
- 1861 mounted-pattern trousers with canvas reinforcing and yellow NCO stripes
- 1872 mounted-pattern boots
- 1872 cavalry spurs
In addition to that gear, Sarge also comes with a Bowie knife and sheath which fits onto his belt, and a stand. The stand is a 'crotch rocket' stand, meaning that he balances atop the stand rather than it going around his waist. The height of the stand can be adjusted with a small dial, much like the InToyZ stands, although those hold the figure up by wrapping around a leg. The hammer on the carbine can be pulled back, although the revolver is one solid piece. The pieces on the carbine sling all work to allow Sarge hold the weapon without looking awkward. The carbine can also be unclipped from the sling as needed.
See the Big Picture
You can see some of the details in Sarge's outfit on the picture page, including the full shirt under his uniform. Due to the size of the figures, toy companies often use sleeveless shirts to avoid giving the arms a bulky look. The sergeant insignia are embroidered patches on both sleeves of the outer blouse, but the gold trim on the collar and cuffs is piping which is sewn on.
The brass buttons on the jacket are purely decorative, as there are black metal snaps which hold the jacket shut. Sarge's gray shirt has similar (but smaller) silver decorative buttons, although the shirt pulls over the figure's head to get it on and off. The smaller silver buttons show up again on the waist of Sarge's pants where the elastic suspenders are attached. The pants close with a black metal snap. The pants also have front pocket flaps. The flaps and pockets are real, not faux, but the bottoms are not sewn shut, so anything Sarge slips into his pockets will end up in his boots. The spurs on the boots are removable.
Even though Dog Soldiers is a smaller company, that hasn't stopped them from using quality materials: two sizes of decorative metal buttons, thick elastic on the suspenders, real metal on parts of the carbine sling, varying fabrics in outfit, and sewn-on stripes on the pants. The quality of materials in this figure stand in stark contrast to the quality of supplies given to the actual Buffalo Soldiers who were often relegated to the worst equipment and supplies. Unfortunately these discriminatory attitudes weren't limited to these soldiers, nor did they stop in the 19th century.
More pictures of the Buffalo Soldier
|Where to buy the Buffalo Soldier: The Buffalo Soldier action figure (along with other figures from Dog Soldiers) is available on the on the Dog Soldiers site, for around $32 USD.|