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Charles Young
March 12, 1864(1864-03-12) – January 8, 1922 (aged 57)
Charles.Young.1919.jpg

Place of birth Mayslick, Kentucky
Place of death Nigeria
Allegiance United States of America
Years of service 1884–1922
Rank Colonel

Charles Young (March 12, 1864 - January 8, 1922) was the third African American graduate of West Point, first black U.S. national park superintendent, first African American military attaché, and highest ranking black officer in the United States Army until his death in 1922.

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Early life

Young was born in Mayslick, Kentucky, United States, the son of former slaves. His father enlisted as a private in the Fifth Regiment of the Colored Artillery (Heavy) Volunteers. When Young's parents moved to Ripley, Ohio, he attended the all-white high school there. He graduated at age 16 at the top of his class. Following graduation, he taught school in the black high school of Ripley.

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Acceptance to West Point

While engaged in teaching, he had an opportunity to enter a competitive examination for appointment as a cadet at United States Military Academy at West Point. Young achieved the second highest score in the district in 1883, and after the primary candidate dropped out, he reported to the academy in 1884. He was turned back and had to repeat his first year after failing mathematics. He also failed an engineering class, but passed after being personally tutored by George Washington Goethals.[1] He graduated with his commission in 1889, the third black man to do so at that time, and was assigned to the Ninth U.S. Cavalry Regiment. His subsequent service of 28 years was with black troops — the Ninth U.S. Cavalry and the Tenth U.S. Cavalry.

Military service

Charles Young

National Park assignments

In 1903, Young served as Captain of a black company at Presidio of San Francisco. He was appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant national parks, thus becoming the first black superintendent of a national park. He was responsible for the supervision of payroll accounts and directed the activities of rangers. Young's greatest impact on the park was road construction that helped to improve the underdeveloped park.[2]

Due to his work ethic and perseverance, Young and his troops accomplished more that summer than the three military officers who had been assigned the previous three years. Captain Young and his troops completed a wagon road to the Giant Forest, home of the world's largest trees, and a road to the base of the famous Moro Rock. By mid-August, wagons of visitors were entering the mountaintop forest for the first time.[2]

Young was transferred on November 2, 1903, and reassigned as troop commander at the Presidio. In his report to the Secretary of the Interior, he recommended the government acquire patented lands in the park. This recommendation was mentioned in legislation introduced in the United States House of Representatives. The Visalia, California Board of Trade showed appreciation of his performance as the park's acting superintendent by presenting him with a citation.

Other military assignments

Charles Young cartoon by Charles Alston, 1943

Young was sent to the Philippines to join his 9th regiment and command a squadron of two troops in 1908. Four years later he was once again selected for Military Attaché duty, this time to Liberia. For his service as adviser to the Liberian Government and his supervision of the building of the country's infrastructure, he was awarded the Springarn Medal, an award that annually recognized the African-American who had made the highest achievement during the year in any field of honorable human endeavor.

During the 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico, Young commanded a squadron of the 10th United States Cavalry, leading a cavalry pistol charge against the Villista forces (1 April 1916), routing the opposing forces without losing a single man. The swift action saved the wounded General Beltran and his men, who had been outflanked.

On another occasion, Young was credited with averting disaster when he and his men came to the relief of the 13th U.S. Cavalry squadron who were fighting a heavy rear guard action.

Because of his exceptional leadership of the 10th Cavalry in the Mexican theater of war, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was briefly Fort Huachuca's commander in Texas.[3]

Racial segregation prevented Young from leading black troops into battle when the United States entered the World War I. He was medically retired, based on a diagnosis of Hypertension, and spent most of 1917 and 1918 as a professor at Wilberforce University. On November 6, 1918, after Mr.Young had ridden his horse from his home in Wilberforce, Ohio to Washington, D.C. to prove his physical fitness, he was reinstated.[2] In 1919, he was again assigned as a military attaché to Liberia. He died January 8, 1922 of a kidney infection while on a reconnaissance mission in Nigeria. His house near Wilberforce is a National Historic Landmark.

He is an honorary member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

This article is based in part on a document created by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. government. As such, it is presumed to be in the public domain.

Bibliography

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