The U.S. Army ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ Took a 1,900-mile Trek to St. Louis

The U.S. Army ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ Took a 1,900-mile Bicycle Trek to St. Louis

The Buffalo Soldiers were originally the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army, founded in 1864 in Buffalo, New York, USA, in response to the Civil War. While several African American regiments were part of the Union Army during the Civil War, including the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Colored Cavalry, the Buffalo Soldier was created by Congress in 1865.

Native American tribes who fought in the Indian Wars were nicknamed the Black Cavalry by the Indians of the American Indian Reservation, who had participated in a number of battles against the US Army during the Civil War, such as the Battle of Buffalo.

On June 14, 1897, Lt. James Moss led his bicycle corps from Fort Missoula, Montana, through a wagon trail and Indian path, arriving in St. Louis on July 16, 1897.

The  25th Infantry US Army soldiers cycled 1,900 miles from St. Louis to the Indian Reservation in the western United States in 1864, the year after the Battle of Buffalo. The 20 soldiers who took part in the trip were part of a racially segregated group known as the Buffalo Soldiers. The term referred to black soldiers serving west of Mississippi in regiments established by that regiment between 1866 and the end of the Civil War.

The trip was followed in newspapers across the country, and in 1897 there was a story about it in the summer. I was embedded as a newspaperman and visited all five states and followed the journey with newspapers from all over the country.

American soldiers reportedly had difficulty using their bikes during the war. They took the trek to test the use of bicycles before the practice became more common in the United States during World War I and the Civil War.

Lieutenant James Moss demonstrated the potential of bicycles by taking eight soldiers on a three-day training trip from Buffalo to Lake Erie and back. The training consisted of a 40-mile ride through an obstacle course, which included a nine-foot fence that the men had to overcome by leaning the bike against the fence, standing on its seat, climbing over it, and then moving it up and down. Moss began his first bike ride in the US Army at the age of 18.

Success encouraged him and he ventured out on his own in March 2009 on his first bike ride in the US Army.

Some local farmers gave wrong directions.  had to scrape the mud he called “Black Gumbo” from tires with a butter knife. 

Runaway, uncontrolled, unstoppable acceleration was the order of the day, and the bicycle convoy passed through farms and small towns at regular intervals. Men pushed their bikes through snow, rocks, and ruts, blocked streams, crossed mountain ranges, suffered from heat, cold, hunger and lack of sleep. They suffered the worst effects of drinking alkaline water and soon realized that the spoon brake on their bicycles could not cope with the eastern slopes of Helena, Montana. They experienced searing heat and a ride along the railway tracks that numbed their hands.

Occasionally, farmers would let the men stay on their land, give them something fresh to eat, or simply ask questions. When a civilian asked a man: “Where are you going today? “And he said,” I’m on my way home.

Although the trip was a success, the soldiers had to deal with harsh conditions in their five-country travels. In June, a snowstorm in the Rocky Mountains brought 11 inches of snow to riders. On the other side of the ice, soldiers from Nebraska hit a sweltering 110 degrees. An ice storm hampered progress, and some soldiers’ hands froze on the handlebars and ice stuck to chains.

Although the trip was considered a success, it was slowed down by the Spanish-American War, which began a year after her trip.