8 Facts about Cathay Williams, Female Buffalo Soldier

Cathay Williams, Female Buffalo Soldier

“The first African American female to enlist in the United States Army”

1. On November 15, 1886, Cathay Williams became the first African American female to enlist and serve in the United States Army.

2. Cathay Williams had to pretend to be a man to enlist into the United States Army. She went by the name of William Cathay while enlisted.

3. Due to her being frequently hospitalized due to strain and smallpox, the post surgeon discovered that Cathay Williams was a woman. He reported this information to the post commander and on October 14, 1868 Captain Charles Clarke discharged her honorably from the military.

Cathay Williams, Female Buffalo Soldier

Cathay Williams, Female Buffalo Soldier

4. Though other women who disguised themselves as men were previous granted military pensions (Molly Pitcher and Deborah Sampson), Cathay Williams was never approved to receive a pension or disability even though she suffered from diabetes, had all her toes amputated and could only walk with a crutch.

5. Over 400 women posed as male soldiers during the Civil War, most enlisted with their husbands, brothers or other family members, however, it is unknown if any other women served in the military during the Indian Wars like Cathay Williams.

6. Cathay Williams was born in Independence, Missouri in September of 1842. Her mother was a “slave” and her father was a “free man of color”.

7. During her two year stint in the military, Cathay Williams primarily did regular garrison duties and there are no documented records that can verify that she saw actual combat.

8. Cathay Williams’ life after the military and after she was denied a pension is primarily unknown and most scholars think she died sometime between 1892 and 1900.

  • Joleika Powellat

    Great story!

  • http://www.rescueatpineridge.com Buffalo Soldier 9

    Keep telling that history:

    Read the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge, “RaPR”, where Buffalo Bill Cody meets a Buffalo Soldier. A great story of black military history…the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers.

    How do you keep a people down? ‘Never’ let them ‘know’ their history.

    The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn’t for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry.

    Read the novel, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, 5 stars Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the youtube trailer commercial…and visit the website http://www.rescueatpineridge.com

    I hope you’ll enjoy the novel. I wrote it from my mini-series movie of the same title, “RaPR” to keep my story alive. Hollywood has had a lot of strikes and doesn’t like telling our stories…its been “his-story” of history all along…until now. The movie so far has attached, Bill Duke directing, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman, James Whitmore Jr. and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with…see imdb.com at; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0925633/

    When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; http://www.alphawolfprods.com and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for Wells Fargo in Montana, in the 1890’s, “spread the word”.


  • http://www.rescueatpineridge.com Buffalo Soldier 9

    Also, please correct the listed date…

  • Jeff

    These dates don’t make sense. According to this information she was honourably discharged BEFORE she enlisted!

    (The problem is, is that as the comments are hosted by Disqus instead of the actual site, the likelihood of the actual site-owners ever becoming aware of them is considerably reduced and it’s been FIVE YEARS since the errors were reported!)