Black History: Special Delivery!!
The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corp was formed in 1896. It was one of four African American military units serving as a peacekeeping force west of the Mississippi. The black soldiers were known as “Buffalo Soldiers”. The unit was originally stationed in Texas until 1880. It then moved to the Dakota Territory and then eight years later the unit moved to Fort Missoula, Montana. The soldiers were used as guards and peacekeepers during railroad and mine strikes. They also fought forest fires in Montana and Idaho. The development of the chain driven safety bicycle in 1874 and in 1888 the pneumatic tire invention increased the use of bicycle for sports and leisure and piqued the interest of the military as a possible method of transport.
The U.S. Army began experimenting with the use of bicycles in 1896 deploying the 25th Infantry to pilot its efforts. The newly formed group was initially comprised of eight black enlisted officers and their white commander, Lieutenant James A. Moss. The 25th Infantry was given its first long distance assignment of riding north to Lake McDonald and back. The trip was a “test” to see how the would bicycles would perform. It was a distance of 126 miles. The trip took 3 days. The Infantry encountered extremely challenging weather including heavy rain, fierce winds, and deep mud. The group experienced flat tires and many other issues with their bikes. Again on August 15, the group conducted another test run. Leaving Fort Missoula they headed for Yellowstone Park. It was a ten day trip of 500 miles. They remained in Yellowstone for 5 days before returning to Fort Missoula. The groups speed in covering the terrain was impressive. They averaged 6 miles per hour over the roughest and steepest part of the terrain.Continue reading “25th Infantry Bicycle Corp: Black Soldiers On Wheels”