MEDAL OF HONOR
Emanuel Stance, the first Buffalo Soldier to receive the Medal of Honor following the Civil War, was born in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, in 1847. Prior to joining the Ninth Cavalry in 1866, Stance was a “farmer,” often a euphemism in Army records for former slaves. Stance was short, known for being a good scrapper with a bad temper. More important than size or disposition, however, was literacy, a quality that distinguished him from many peers and secured him promotion.
Stance joined the 9th Cavalry Regiment on October 2, 1866, less than two months after it was formed, and was promoted to Sergeant in March 1867. The initial commitment was to last five years. Farmer was the occupation noted on his oath of enlistment. It was also noted that Stance could read and write, making him a highly desirable recruit. He received a two-month leave at the end of March 1867.
Upon returning from leave in May 1867, Stance was stationed to Troop F at Ft. Davis in Western Texas. For three months of 1868, Stance was in charge of soldiers on extra duty in the Quartermaster Department. While there, it is possible that Stance was responsible for constructing and maintaining the fort - operating a sawmill, a stone quarry, or an adobe brickyard - as this was also expected of soldiers in Texas forts. He led his first reconnaissance patrol in September 1868 with eight privates.
Sometime in 1868 or 1869 he received a fine of $10 at a court martial hearing over threats made and punches thrown when a “horse comb” was misplaced. This distinction obscures his checkered personal life and military career. Although Stance eventually held the rank of first sergeant, he was reduced to private five times in twenty-one years of service. He barely avoided discharge many times, his two courts-martial and various arrests highlighting his alcoholism, abusiveness, and sometimes violent nature.
Stance fought in two major Indian battles in the Fall of 1869. In September, a force of 100 troopers killed 25 natives from a group of 200 natives formed from the Kiowas and Comanche tribes near Middle Brazos River. In October, while on the same mission, the 9th Cavalry, the 4th Cavalry, and some native scouts fought 500 enemy natives near the Middle Brazos River. At this October battle, forty enemy natives were killed without any loses from the cavalry troops. Stance was stationed with Troop F to Fort McKavette at the end of 1869.
Medal of Honor Actions
At the time of his actions, Stance was serving in Troop F of the 9th Cavalry Regiment at Fort McKavett. On May 20, 1870, he was sent with a patrol to find the Apaches who had kidnapped Herman Lehmann and his younger brother, Willie, four days earlier.
The Kickapoo Springs Skirmish
On the morning of May 20, 1870, Sgt. Emanuel Stance and a patrol of 10 troopers of Co. F, 9th Cavalry left Fort McKavett for a scouting mission north along the Kickapoo road. These men were sent to determine if any evidence could be found concerning the Kickapoos that were raiding the settlements in the area and to recover, if possible, any of the children that had been recently kidnapped. Fourteen miles north of Fort McKavett, the patrol discovered a party of Kickapoo with a herd of stolen horses. After a brief skirmish, the Indians abandoned the horses and fled. The Apaches abandoned their stolen horses and fled, enabling Willie Lehmann to escape during the chaos. The troopers, and their newly acquired herd of nine horses, continued to Kickapoo Springs where they camped for the night.
At six o’clock the following morning, Sgt. Stance and his patrol started toward Fort McKavett with the horses in tow. The patrol had only travelled two miles when they came across a second party of 20 Kickapoo preparing to advance on two government wagons heading toward Fort McKavett. In his after-action report, Sgt. Stance described this skirmish in detail:
“I SET THE SPENCERS TO TALKING—"
…I immediately attacked them by charging them. They tried hard to make a stand to get their herd of horses off, but I set the Spencer’s to talking and whistling about their ears so lively that they broke in confusion and fled to the hills, leaving us their herd of five horses. Resuming the march towards Camp, they skirmished along my left flank to the eight-mile water hole, evidently being determined to take the stock. I turned my little command loose on them at this place, and after a few volleys they left me to continue my march in peace. I reached camp at 2 pm of the 21st with 15 head of horses captured from the Indians.
Sgt. Stance’s actions at Kickapoo Springs, combined with his actions in four other engagements, led Capt. Henry Carroll of the 9th Cavalry to recommend him for the Medal of Honor. None of Stance's men were injured. For his bravery on this mission, Stance was cited for "gallantry on scout after Indians" and became the first Buffalo Soldier to receive the Medal of Honor a month later, on June 28, 1870.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company F, 9th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Kickapoo Springs, Tex., 20 May 1870.
“GALLANTRY ON SCOUT AFTER INDIANS”
Stance was reduced to private sometime between July 1870 and April 1871, possibly due to fighting, drinking, or failing to report for duty. He completed his first enlistment on October 2, 1871 as a private under the name Edmund Stance. He reenlisted to Troop M under the Edmund Stance name shortly afterward. In December 1872, Stance got into a fight with First Sergeant Henry Green and bit off a portion of Green's lower lip after Green reported Stance as being drunk on duty. Stance was demoted and spent six months in the guardhouse.
Stance was among the troops that fought Apache chief Victorio in New Mexico. Stance was also among the troops that chased Sooners off native land in Oklahoma before the U.S. government gave approval to settle in those lands. Stance enlisted back to Troop F in 1880. Stance would reach the rank of Sergeant at least four more times, twice with Troop M and twice with Troop F. While First Sergeant with Troop F at Ft. Robinson in 1886, the troop celebrated his 20 years of service with a dinner and a dance given in his honor.
FT. ROBINSON, CRAWFORD, NEB.
In the late 1880s, Stance was directly involved in four of ten disciplinary incidents with privates and non-commissioned officers. F Troops sergeants and privates frequently clashed. The sergeants used browbeating techniques they had possibly learned from Lieutenant Edward Heyl and other earlier leaders, and the newer recruits chaffed under that style of leadership. Stance was found shot on Christmas morning of 1887 on the road to Crawford, Nebraska. He was shot with a service revolver and all evidence pointed to Stance's privates. Private Miller Milds of F Troop was charged with murder but was freed for lack of evidence. His obituary writer called Stance a strict disciplinarian, but also said that his style of leadership was necessary for his troops.
Stance was buried at Ft. McPhearson Cemetery, Maxwell, Nebraska.