Corporal Isaiah Mays receives Arlington burial

The remains of Corporal Isaiah Mays, a Buffalo Soldier and the recipient of the Medal of Honor were laid to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery. After his death in 1925 Cpl. Mays was buried in an Arizona hospital cemetery.

Cpl. Isaiah Mays’ was wounded in 1889 while defending a government pay wagon. Despite his injuries he was able to crawl two miles for help and he was awarded the Medal of Honor a year later.


Buffalo Soldier gets Arlington burial after 100 years

By Bob Kovach

ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) — It was a journey that took more than a hundred years.

Missing for decades, the remains of Cpl. Isaiah Mays, a Buffalo Soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, were laid to rest Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Paying respects were African-American veterans, U.S. Army soldiers and those who rode for days as part of a motorcycle escort — members of the Missing in America Project, who traveled from as far away as California and Arizona at their own expense to make sure Mays got a proper burial.

None was a relative but they consider themselves his brothers.

They stood shoulder to shoulder in an older section of the cemetery, surrounded by the graves of veterans from wars long ago. Some came in Army dress blue uniforms. Others wore uniforms like those worn by the Buffalo Soldiers, who served in the legendary all-black Army units formed after the Civil War.

The crowd stood witness as a color guard folded the American flag and saluted when three rifle volleys pierced the air. A bugler, surrounded by the graves of other fallen heroes, played taps.

William McCurtis, the regimental sergeant major of a Buffalo Soldier group, perhaps voiced the sentiment of everyone who came: “One more out of 6,000 has his day of recognition. We need to get the rest recognized.”

Mays was born a slave in Virginia in 1858 but spent most of his life west of the Mississippi, joining the famed Buffalo Soldiers as the black cavalry and infantry troops fought in the frontier Indian Wars.

In 1889, he was part of a small detachment assigned to protect a U.S. Army pay wagon, which was caught in an ambush by a band of bandits. A gunfight ensued and almost all the soldiers were wounded or killed. Mays was shot in both legs. The bandits made off with $29,000 in gold coins.

Despite his wounds, Mays managed to walk and crawl two miles to a ranch to seek help. He was awarded a Medal of Honor on February 15, 1890.

Check out the entire article here.


Check out additional information about Corporal Isaiah Mays:

From a pauper’s grave to Arlington honors

Isaiah Mays Medal of Honor

Isaiah Mays, Corporal, United States Army

And check out additional information about the Buffalo Soldiers:

Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo Soldiers History Page

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum

13 responses

  1. Did you even read the citation? What has anything that you are ranting about have to do with what happened that day?

  2. The issue is not ‘Cpl May’s heroic acts well above and beyond the call of duty’. You are right when you say that ‘Soldiers do not determine the cause for which they fight’.
    But when ‘Civilian Control of the Military’ that abuses the process of ‘Soldiers, just soldier on’ and then cover up the abuse, should not be supported.
    Under the garb of Cpl Mays ‘valor’ or ‘bravery’ being hidden is the fact that enslavers used one set of the dispossessed to dispossess another set. ‘Valor’ and ‘bravery’ during this ‘dispossession’ is what you are celebrating!
    Cpl Mays did not (probably) have a choice! You do!
    And BTW, who wrote that citation – an Uncle Tom, Injun Joe or a ‘Whitewasher’.

  3. By the way, read the citation. There were no Red Indians involved in this action or this award, so how this is a whitewash of anything is beyond me.

  4. No, because even if you don’t agree with the cause, that does not tarnish Cpl May’s heroic acts well above and beyond the call of duty. It does not change the fact that this country awarded him its highest honor then snubbed him. Soldiers do not determine the cause for which they fight, that is why we have Civilian Control of the Military. Soldiers, just soldier on.

  5. Sadly – all of you forget that the Buffalo soldiers were used to ‘exterminate’ the Red Indians – who are referred to as bandits in this CNN report. The genocide of the Native Americans is possibly the only greater tragedy than the slavery of African Americans.
    Yet all of you forget the way the ‘freed’ African-Americans were used then – and now to ‘Whitewash’ history. This burial was not an act of honour – but an act of ‘Whitewash’, which you are all celebrating!!

  6. William "Bill" McCurtis

    Ron; Chaz; What can I say. The men of these Original Black Regular Army Regiments are my heart and soul. Isaiah is one of them that gave US the chance to render our military service to our Homeland. What an amazing Day! Standing there during the internment ceremonies, all I could think of was “Thank You, Corporal…..Thank You so VERY much!” It just makes me more humble to be one of the products of their legacy. To think of what that man had to endure in his lifetime, then being ignored for so many years; placed in a paupers grave and forgotten……it just boggles the imagination that a true Soldier and Patriot of this Nation could be treated so carelessly. People need to stop and think. Being a soldier is not a matter of Black or white or any other color, it’s about Volunteering to stand on the line and ready to sacrifice your life to preserve and protect your home and friends, and way of life.
    When I put on MY uniform and took the Oath Of Enblistment, for me, the color line disappeared as it did with those first Black Soldiers in 1866. They only wanted to be recognized and as, and accorded the respect of being “An AMERICAN FIGHTING MAN”, nothing more and nothing less. My life is now dedicated to securing that respect and recognition for these men and I will do that to my last breath!! You are all right…… would have been appropriate is some members of our Congress and Senate and even the President, could have attended the “Going Home” of this American Soldier because they OWE it to him!! But the Secretary of The Army didn’t ignore him nor send a representative………He came in person to pay his respects to one of his men. Mr Secretary, if you read this then GOD BLESS YOU. The Corporal is “HOME” now, but there are more out there. With men like Ron Eppich, Chaz Jackson, John Russell and women like Beverly Charmin, we will find them and gain their recognition for them. Thank You, My Friends.


  7. I was proud to stand with Isaiah.

  8. President Obama and Sen. John McCain were both invited to attend. What can I say? I know both men are extremely busy, and the President especially has extremely important business he attends to. We were not privileged to their schedule on that day, and I don’t think we should read anything into their absence. However, I can say that the Secretary of the Army, Mr. Pete Geren, was there, as was Willo D. Grimes from the Army Arlington Ladies, and another Medal of Honor Recipient, I am sorry but I don’t know his name. Furthermore, whether the President or any Senator was at his funeral is irrelevant. There were HUNDREDS of motorcyclists who participated in the ride to bring him to Arlington, and there was at least a hundred people in the chapel at his funeral, not to mention media presence. We stood with him as brothers and sisters as he was laid to rest, and I don’t think he could have received any more honor than he did.

  9. Bruce,
    You are right. Hopefully they are ashamed. In Isaiah’s day, he was used to being ignored or snubbed (not liking it, but accostumed to it), and was surely not surprised at it now. But the people that were there, myself included, did pay our respects, and many more will now that he is in a wonderful final resting place of honor. He and the other Buffalo Soldiers paved the way for so many black men in service. I work with the 9th Memorial U.S. Cavalry out of Phoenix, Arizona, and most of those guys have proudly served in our Armed Forces, giving the Buffalo Soldiers their thanks for paving the way for them to serve as well. We humbly, honestly, and honorably try to tell their stories. We were their at the dedication of the headstone in 2001 as the Honor and Color Guard, and gladly followed him to Arlington. Those who weren’t there missed an incredible site. The love, warmth, and glad feelings that were evident at the gravesite in Arlington are difficult to describe, but will always be felt in my heart. I can only be sorry for those who were unable, or didn’t want, to attend.

  10. Henry Clayton Sr.

    This day was truely a God send. As we entered the Church Where MOH Isaiah Mays It rained until the service was over and held until his burial was over, and God allowed it to rain again. This a sign of a Blessed Man

  11. Beverly,
    I couldn’t agree more. However it saddens me that our leaders snubbed him, when he was finally given the honors that were the minimum this country owed him, as the government snubbed him years before. The day was, as it should have been, and as it should have been in the first place, about him. That is a very good thing.

    I realize that past crops of our countries leaders would have done this right, and I fear that our current crop of politicians would have tried to make it all about them instead of him, but that doesn’t mitigate the shame I feel for our country letting down this hero, not once but twice.

    I am not saying the politicians should have been front and center, they should have attended to show their respect and to honor Cpl. Mays and should have done so quietly.

    To receive the Nation’s highest honor is something important. To do right by a Medal of Honor recipient is something that should not even be open for debate, there should be no question, and in the hearts and minds of those that did attend, it clearly isn’t open to debate. The fact that this nation’s “leaders” apparently don’t share that view is, IMHO, disgusting, shocking and alarming.

  12. Maybe our country deserves better, but Isaiah Mays was truly and rightfully honored by those who did attend. No falseness there. It was about Isaiah, not the President or McCain. And he was finally recognized as he deserves, thanks to Ron Eppich and Chaz Jackson and Bill McCurtis and their people, and to the Army and Arlington National Cemetery. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful ceremony. The rain didn’t arrive until the ceremony was completed. Be happy for Isaiah. He’s in a proper home now, and we can all be proud of that. Those who didn’t attend – it’s their loss, not his.

  13. How does the President not attend this? How does Senator McCain not attend this? How does any Washington Politician, especially the veterans not attend this?

    Shame on all of them!!!

    Our country deserves better!!

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