Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Pictures of the 25th Bicycle Corps

It's always exciting to find new photographs of the Bicycle Corps. This one was published in Wonderland '98 [a publication of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, pg. 33]. The caption in the magazine states the corps is "starting for St. Louis". Perhaps the photo was taken by Eddie Boos.
Here is another picture from Wonderland '98. It looks very similar to those held by the Mansfield Library, including the one seen on the home page of this blog, in which the Corps is standing in formation. My kingdom for a clear copy of this photo!

The Twenty-fifth Infantry bicycle corps demonstrating a field formation. Lieutenant Moss is in the center. - Army and Navy Journal, July 3, 1897, 814
[I found this in Arizona and the West, vol. 16, #3, The Black Bicycle Corps, p. 228 Marvin E. Fletcher]

Another photo that would be of great help for identifying the riders if a clearer copy could be found.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Unanswered Questions

This June I will jump on the LugHound (my bicycle) in Missoula, Montana and retrace a journey which was made 112 years ago. In 1897, Lt. James Moss led 20 members of the 25th Infantry on a 41-day trip to St. Louis. The purpose was the test the "practicability" of the bicycle for the Army. I have created another blog, 25th Bicycle Corps, which contains primary source information about that trip and the men who made it. The purpose of this blog is to help me organize my own trip and document the discoveries I hope to make by doing the trip myself.

One big question that I've worked on the past four or five years is, "where exactly did the Corps ride?" Using Lt. Moss's reports, newspaper accounts and maps I feel confident that I've been able to figure out, mostly, where the Corps went and when they stopped (see Google map on 25th Bicycle Corps site). The Corps followed still existing railroad tracks for most of the journey so tracing the route is fairly straight forward but there are still some gaps. For example, Moss mentions stopping at a place called Cottonwood on the very first day of the trip. Trying to find Cottonwood has proved somewhat elusive, although with help from some friendly locals I feel I am closing in on it's precise location. Asking people for help often opens up interesting conversations so I've enjoyed trying to track questions like this.

At the other end of the journey, it is unclear the path the Corps followed as they closed in on St. Louis. For reasons unknown, Eddie Boos, the newspaper reporter who rode with the Corps, quit providing the detailed articles he wrote for the Missoulian (Missoula newspaper) all the way through Nebraska (my guess is that he was simply getting worn out). Lt. Moss's reports, likewise, tell us very little about the trip across Missouri. Moss provided daily mileage figures, through a report he wrote, but he did not identify the towns where they camped. Also, the mileage figures don't always match where descriptions indicate the corps would have stopped. By deduction, I think I've worked out most of the towns the corps rode through in Missouri. One of the biggest remaining questions is: Did they ride through Hannibal, Missouri? Using Moss's mileage figures I feel that they must have gone that way via Palmyra, Missouri. Hannibal is labeled on a map of the route which illustrated a St. Louis news story--but I have not been able to find any other primary source accounts to confirm this.

I know there are more existing newspaper accounts that I still need to add to this blog, particularly ones written by St. Louis papers, which are rich in detail. I'm working on it.

If anybody out there reads this and has any information, please pass it on and I'll add it.