When you think about buffalo soldiers, you don't think about women. Women weren't even allowed in the military during the 1800s. But Cathay Williams posed as a man and joined 38th Infantry to fight during the Civil War. As a result, she became the first and the only known female buffalo soldier.
Williams was born into slavery in Independence, Missouri in 1842. She worked as a house slave until her master's death. About the same time, the Civil War started and the Union soldiers freed her.
She worked for the Army as a paid servant. Throughout her time working for the Army, she also had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans, Savannah, and Macon.
After the war, Williams joined the Army by enlisting as William Cathay. She served in the 38th United States Infantry, Company A. She was able to do so because a medical examination was not required. Only her cousin and a friend were aware of her real identity.
It wasn't until she became ill that a post surgeon discovered that she was a woman. Shortly after the Army discharged her.
Cathay Williams, woman of courage.