From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Bradford, Harrison

(born: 1842  -  died: 1867) Twenty-four year old Sergeant Harrison Bradford was killed leading a protest at San Pedro Springs in San Antonio, TX on April 9, 1867. He was shot while protesting the brutality of Lt. Edward Heyl. The shot that killed Bradford was fired by Lt. Frederick Smith during what is called the San Pedro Springs Mutiny. Lieutenant Seth E. Griffin also died of wounds he received during the fight.

Harrison Bradford, from Scott County, KY, was a veteran of the Civil War who had served with the 104th Colored Infantry. He re-enlisted in October 1866 in Louisiana along with fellow Kentuckian, former slave, and Civil War veteran, Jacob Wilks [info]. Bradford served with Company E of the 9th Cavalry [source: U.S. Army Register of Enlistments].

In 1867, the 9th Cavalry Colored soldiers were part of the movement of federal troops sent to Texas, a former Confederate state, to keep order after the Civil War. Troops from the 9th Cavalry Companies A, E, and K arrived in San Antonio at the end of slavery when a political debate over whether to extend voting rights to Colored men took place. The situation was compounded by the racial disagreements and morale issues within the troop companies, which were led by white officers.

The 9th Cavalry arrived in San Antonio to jeers and curses from community members who felt the federal government was overstepping the state's rights, and they also saw it as an added insult to have colored troops reinforce the federal government's power. However, the first military action that resulted in injury and death did not involve the community but occurred during a fight between the 9th Cavalry troops and officers. Lt. Edward Heyl had ordered three Colored troops be hanged from trees by their wrists because he felt they had been slow in responding to his orders. The three were Private Fayette Hall, a Civil War veteran; Private Alphonse Goodman; and Private Albert Bailey.

Lt. Heyl left camp and went to a saloon. Upon his return he beat one of the three troops with his saber. Sergeant Bradford took issue with the behavior and led the protest, confronting Lt. Heyl. Bradford was shot by either Lt. Heyl or Lt. Griffin. Sergeant Bradford and another soldier retaliated, and Lt. Heyl, Lt. Seth Griffin, and Lt. Fred Smith were injured. Lt. Smith fired the shot that killed Sergeant Bradford, which led to an all-out fight: shots were exchanged between the officers and the colored troops. Peace was restored with the arrival of troops led by Colonel Wesley Merritt. Lt. Seth Griffin suffered a head wound when he was struck by a sabre and died April 14, 1867.

Corporal Charles Wood and Private Irving Charles, colored troops, were arrested and received death sentences for their part in the fight. Several of the colored troops involved in the fight were sentenced to prison terms. By the summer of 1867, the 9th Cavalry had been redistributed to other posts in West Texas. Also during the summer of 1867, the Colored people of San Antonio held their first Juneteenth Celebration at San Pedro Springs Park.

It was not much later that Corporal Charles Wood, Private Irving Charles, and the colored troops of the 9th Cavalry who had been sentenced to prison terms were all pardoned and returned to duty; troops were desperately needed on the West Texas front to protect against highway bandits, cattle rustlers, and Native Americans. Lt. Heyl remained with the 9th Cavalry until 1881; he was a colonel in the Inspector General's Department when he died in 1895.

Lt. Frederick Smith also stayed with the 9th Cavalry, excelling as an officer, until December 1869 when his wife was about to leave him: in reaction, Lt. Smith shot himself in the head.

The 9th Cavalry developed into a major fighting force in Texas but still received racial hostility from the public and was therefore removed to the New Mexico Territory.

For more see On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II, by I. Schubert and F. N. Schubert; African Americans and Race Relations in San Antonio, Texas, 1867-1937, by K. Mason; "The 9th Cavalry in Texas: Mutiny at San Pedro Springs, Texas, April 1867," chapter six in Voices of the Buffalo Soldier, by F. N. Schubert; "9th Cavalry" in African Americans at War: an encyclopedia, Vol. 1, by J. Sutherland; E. Ayala, "Time to recall chains broken," San Antonio Express-News, 6/19/2009, p. 3B; The Buffalo Soldiers: a narrative of the Black Cavalry in the West, by W. H. Leckie and S. A. Leckie; and Black Valor: Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898, by F. N. Schubert.

Read more about the career of Lt. Frederick Smith in W. R. Austerman, "African American troops of Company K, 9th Cavalry fought in the Battle of Fort Lancaster," Wild West, February 2005 [article available online at].

The location of Sergeant Harrison Bradford's grave is not known at this time.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Scott County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Bradford, Harrison,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 15, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-07-14 17:49:56