The 25th Infantry U.S. Army Bicycle Corps -1896-7

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The 25th Infantry regiment
The 25th Infantry regiment was made up of black men, known as buffalo soldiers, commanded by white officers.
Photo by Frank Jay Haynes.
25th Infantry U.S. Army Bicycle Corps – Photo by Frank Jay Haynes.

The 25th Infantry U.S. Army Bicycle Corps stationed at Fort Missoula, Montana set out across the country on their bicycles in 1896-7.

Lt. James A. Moss led the company of black soldiers on several obstacle intensive test runs of the iron two-wheeled alternative to horses for transportation. Their greatest trip covered 1900 miles to St. Louis, Missouri, returning to Missoula by train. The 25th Infantry gained fame and was nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers.

In 1896 the 25th Infantry rode, walked, and carried their bicycles cross country to Yellowstone Park, 500 miles from their Fort Missoula base. They pose above on Minerva Terrace at the town of Mammoth Hot Springs in a photograph taken and hand colored by Yellowstone’s official freelance photographer F. Jay Haynes (1853-1921).

Few people can grasp the physical anguish of traveling nearly 2,000 miles on a bike, save the few elite riders who train a lifetime to ride professional events like the Tour de France. The Tour did not exist in 1897 and neither did gears (the closest thing to blood doping was baking soda).

Not only were the men of the 25th infantry not elite riders, some of them had never so much as ridden a bike (not too surprising considering the bicycle chain had just been invented). Even still, each man pedaled or pushed his bike every inch of the 1,900 miles and did so without “granny gears.”

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CDR (Ret.) Gregory Black

CDR (Ret.) Black, US Navy, is the founder and key contributor to this Diverse Military Veterans Network website. He is a minority military historian and is well-versed in military diversity. (If you are interested in writing or contributing to this website please contact us.)

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