Colonel Charles Young
Kentucky-born Charles Young graduated from West Point in 1889, the
third African-American to do so. His entire field career was spent in
black regiments - the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the 25th Infantry. He
was most renowned for his leadership during the 1916 Punitive
Expedition which marched into Mexico in pursuit of the revolutionary
leader Pancho Villa. On March 9, 1916, then Major Young led a cavalry
charge against the Villista forces with no losses to Young’s squadron.
On April 12, 1916, at Santa Cruz de la Villegas, his squadron rode to
the relief of Major Frank Tompkins, who was severely wounded. Major
Young’s reinforcement of Major Tompkins at this critical time is
credited by many as preventing a war with Mexico. Young’s brilliant
and aggressive operations in Mexico won him a promotion to Lieutenant
Colonel in the 10th Cavalry in 1916. A year later he was promoted to
full Colonel, the first African-American to reach that rank, and
briefly served as the Commander of Fort Huachuca.
Although suffering from high blood pressure, Colonel Young was anxious to command his black troopers in France in World War I. The then 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. He was denied the opportunity to command troops in Europe, but was later recalled to active duty to serve as Military Attaché to Liberia. He died in 1922 in that post. He is interred at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Photo courtesy of National Archives & Record Administration.