My favorite books about the Buffalo Soldiers

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I dreamed of being Margaret Mead. When I realized that Margaret already had that job, I turned my anthropologist’s eye for the defining details of language, dress, and customs to fiction. I love to tell the untold tales--especially about women--who are thrust into difficult, sometimes impossible, circumstances and triumph with the help of humor, friends, perseverance, and their own inspiring ingenuity. In my eleven bestselling novels, I have been able to do this well enough that I was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Prize and in 2021 was honored with the Paul Re Peace Award for Cultural Advocacy for promoting empathy through my work.


I wrote...

Book cover of Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

What is my book about?

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is an epic page-turner inspired by the true story of Cathay/Cathy Williams, the only woman known to have served with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers and the first to enlist in the peacetime U.S. military. Born into slavery, freed by the Civil War, Cathy refused the cruel future that awaited all women-- especially an unmarried, uneducated, Black woman like herself--in the defeated South. Instead, she made the majestic decision to disguise herself as a man and ride west toward grand adventure and true freedom with the Buffalo Soldiers.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Cavalry in the West

Sarah Bird Why did I love this book?

Published more than a hundred years after the first Black regiments were formed during the Civil War, historian William Leckie’s marvel of a book was a landmark achievement. For the first time, the extraordinary contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers were documented and celebrated in exhaustive detail.

The Buffalo Soldiers was the Rosetta Stone I used for translating the few bald facts we have about Cathy’s life into a language vivid and vibrant enough to match her courageous decision to risk everything in pursuit of a life of freedom and dignity.

First published in 1967, the book is still in print. Attesting to the volume’s enduring popularity, nearly a dozen revisions and updates have been released since then.

By William H. Leckie, Shirley A. Leckie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Buffalo Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1967, William H. Leckie's The Buffalo Soldiers was the first book of its kind to recognize the importance of African American units in the conquest of the West. Decades later, with sales of more than 75,000 copies, The Buffalo Soldiers has become a classic. Now, in a newly revised edition, the authors have expanded the original research to explore more deeply the lives of buffalo soldiers in the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry Regiments.

Written in accessible prose that includes a synthesis of recent scholarship, this edition delves further into the life of an African American soldier in…


Book cover of New Mexico's Buffalo Soldiers: 1866-1900

Sarah Bird Why did I love this book?

Drawing from military records, newspaper articles, personal correspondence, and other source materials, historian Billington shows that despite often extreme prejudice, inferior equipment, and intense bigotry from the citizens they were protecting, the Buffalo Soldiers not just survived but triumphed. I particularly appreciated his focus on New Mexico as Cathy was posted in that state.

Billington has excavated a wealth of detail about the daily life of a Buffalo Soldier. He writes of them storing pickled meats, molasses, pickles, and vegetables, making 25,000 adobe bricks, burning smoky fires to control mosquitoes, and repairing hard to replace shoes.  I found this granular examination of daily life invaluable in bringing Cathy to life.

By Monroe Lee Billington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked New Mexico's Buffalo Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Billington, Monroe Lee


Book cover of The Buffalo Soldier Tragedy of 1877

Sarah Bird Why did I love this book?

I based one of the most riveting portions of Daughter on Carlson’s meticulously-researched account of what one newspaper called the “Staked Plains Horror.” And horror it was.  In the middle of a dangerously dry summer, forty Buffalo Soldiers led by white officers set off on a routine scouting expedition. Several days later three Black troopers returned to report that all the men of Troop A were missing and presumed dead.

Eventually, all but four of the party made it back to Fort Concho with tales of having survived by drinking the blood of their dead horses and their own urine. Carlson’s careful examination of the records of the court-martial trials that followed reveal what a large role the officers’ bigotry and ineptitude played in triggering this catastrophe.

By Paul H. Carlson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Buffalo Soldier Tragedy of 1877 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the middle of the arid summer of 1877, a drought year in West Texas, a troop of some forty buffalo soldiers (African American cavalry led by white officers) struck out into the Llano Estacado from Double Lakes, south of modern Lubbock, pursuing a band of Kwahada Comanches who had been raiding homesteads and hunting parties. A group of twenty-two buffalo hunters accompanied the soldiers as guides and allies.

Several days later three black soldiers rode into Fort Concho at modern San Angelo and reported that the men and officers of Troop A were missing and presumed dead from thirst.…


Book cover of Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay: The Enlisted Soldier Fighting the Indian Wars

Sarah Bird Why did I love this book?

I was delighted to discover this compilation of personal accounts by enlisted men who’d served in the U.S. Army during the settling of the American West. Though the educated class of officers left extensive documentation of their lives on the frontier, the mostly illiterate rank and file were unable to chronicle their experiences. Rickey filled this void in the early sixties by interviewing over three hundred troopers, both black and white, who were still alive at that time.

The wealth of detail they supplied was invaluable to me in creating both Cathy’s voice and the world she passed as a man in.

By Don Rickey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The enlisted men in the United States Army during the Indian Wars (1866-91) need no longer be mere shadows behind their historically well-documented commanding officers.

As member of the regular army, these men formed an important segment of our usually slighted national military continuum and, through their labors, combats, and endurance, created the framework of law and order within which settlement and development become possible. We should know more about the common soldier in our military past, and here he is.

The rank and file regular, then as now, was psychologically as well as physically isolated from most of his…


Book cover of The Wolf and the Buffalo

Sarah Bird Why did I love this book?

If you’d like to understand why Elmer Kelton was voted the greatest Western writer of all time by the Western Writers of America read The Wolf and the Buffalo. Though every word of the dozens of books he authored are saturated in the authenticity of the Texas cattleman that Kelton was, this novel holds a special place in my heart.

Published in 1980 before there was a widespread appreciation for the achievements of the Buffalo Soldiers against great odds, Kelton presents fully-realized portraits of the formerly enslaved men tasked with protecting white settlers. 

All Kelton’s writing is alive with the language of the frontier. I am grateful to the master for helping me feel the rhythm of 19th Century, Western speech. On just one page, Kelton has his characters speak of fires that they “get to goin’,” of someone departing rapidly “skinning out the door,” and of how, if a character were younger he’d “like as not” answer the call of adventure.

By Elmer Kelton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wolf and the Buffalo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of "The Far Canyon" and "The Good Old Boys" comes this poignant story of a freed slave who goes west with the army and confronts much more than the hostilities of the Comanche and Kiowa.

The Civil War has ended and Gideon Ledbetter is feed from slavery. Like many, he has no land, no money, and no means to make a living. Gideon is drawn into the army by a recruiter who paints an alluring picture of cavalry life out in the west. The Indians called the black men "Buffalo" soldiers, as their tightly twisted hair reminded…


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Trans-Mongolian Express

By David L. Robbins,

Book cover of Trans-Mongolian Express

David L. Robbins Author Of War of the Rats

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve penned (so far) seventeen novels, most set during some historical conflict or other, all of them revolving around intense personal relationships (loyalty, love, betrayal, those sorts of profound truths). I tend to read the sorts of books I wish to write. I also teach creative writing at a university (VCU); I tell my students that if they want to really know what a character is made of, shoot at them or have them fall in love. In my own work, I do both.

David's book list on love and war and describing both battlefields

What is my book about?

In the harrowing aftermath of Chornobyl's meltdown in 1986, the fate of Eastern Europe hangs by a thread.

From Beijing, American radiation scientist Lara, once a thorn in the Russian mob's side, is drawn back into the shadows of the Soviet Union on the Trans-Mongolian Express. She isn't alone. Anton, a Soviet scientist exiled for predicting Chornobyl's catastrophe, is on a quest to expose the truth. Amidst them, Timur, a Chechen giant fueled by vengeance, plots to destroy the already crumbling Soviet Union.

Suddenly, a murder on the remote tracks of the Gobi thrusts them into a deadly game of cat and mouse. As Chief Sheriff Bat races to solve the murder, their lives are thrown into jeopardy. Lara finds an unexpected ally in Gang, a reluctant assassin sent to end her life, and an illicit romance blooms amidst the chaos. But Gang isn't the only killer onboard. A hidden menace lurks, threatening to unravel all their plans.

In this electrifying ride across a historical backdrop, suspense and passion collide in an unyielding dance of survival and redemption. Who will survive the Trans-Mongolian Express?

Trans-Mongolian Express

By David L. Robbins,

What is this book about?

In the harrowing aftermath of Chernobyl's meltdown in 1986, the fate of Eastern Europe hangs by a thread.

From Beijing, American radiation scientist Lara, once a thorn in the Russian mob's side, is drawn back into the shadows of the Soviet Union on the Trans-Mongolian Express. She isn't alone. Anton, a Soviet scientist exiled for predicting Chernobyl's catastrophe, is on a quest to expose the truth. Amidst them, Timur, a Chechen giant fueled by vengeance, plots to destroy the already crumbling Soviet Union.

Suddenly, a murder on the remote tracks of the Gobi thrusts them into a deadly game of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Buffalo Soldiers, the American West, and African Americans?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Buffalo Soldiers, the American West, and African Americans.

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