I also have a primary source which tells us that indeed, the Corps traveled through Hannibal, MO. This was another question I'd tried to find an answer to for some time. Unfortunately, no Hannibal papers from 1897 have survived time. The reader will notice quite a bit of repetition as they browse these articles. They will also be rewarded, though, with details, small though they be, that will enrich their understanding of this remarkable group.
Certainly I have some editing to do on this group of articles. I have tried to correct typos as I went and will continue to do so. I also have one last article from a Kansas City paper that I will get on ASAP]
SOLDIERS ON WHEELS.
A Journey of 3800 Miles Now Being
Made by U.S. Soldiers
Army circles are greatly interested in a practical test of the bicycle in long distance marching arranged by the secretary of war, which is now in progress. The line of March is from Fort Missoula, Montana, to St. Louis and return. The bicycle corps consists of twenty-two men from the 25 United States infantry, all of whom are colored except the officers and surgeon.
This detachment arrived in our city Saturday morning last about 8 o’clock, and as they came wheeling down our main thoroughfare, they created no little excitement. A regular army soldier is rarely ever seen in our midst, and to see a colored man as such is a still greater novelty—and to see them mounted on wheels, with gun strapped over back is an unusually strange sight.
The corps was in charge of Lieutenant J.A. Moss, and in addition, to the commanding officer has a surgeon, one sergeant, two corporals, one trumpeter and 10 privates. The corps is divided into two squads, with the corporals as chiefs of squad. The heaviest man stripped, tips the scales at 177 and the lightest at 125 ½; the average weight being 148 ½. The oldest soldier is 39 and the youngest 24, the average age being 27. With the exception of three or four the members are more or less experienced in cycling and were selected on account of their knowledge.
They are equipped with the Spaulding military cycles made especially for the trip. The rims are of steel, the front wheels have 40-tandem spokes. They are supplied with gear cases, luggage carriers, brakes and frame cases and weigh about 32 pounds. The cooking utensils consists of three telescopic frame bases made of light sheet iron, and two tin coffee pots. By means of thumb screws the metallic ases are secured in the diamond of the bicycle and used as ration carriers during the day; when camp is made the rations are taken out and each case being made of two separate parts, we have six cooking vessels, The coffee pots are cylindrical in shape measuring 18 inches in length and 10 inches in diameter. They are strapped to the handle bars on the front of the cycle and a blanket roll is carried in each. Each soldier carries one blanket, one shelter-tent half and poles, knife, fork, spoon, cup and tin plate, toilet paper, tooth brush and powder, towels, etc. the surgeon carries a supply of medicine, a case of instruments, bandages, etc. In addition each soldiers carries a repeating rifle, and 50 rounds of ammunition, the rifles being slung across the back. They are uniformed with knickerbocker canvas trousers, blue gingham shirts, regulation blouse, leggings, hats and shoes, Their shelter tent, extra clothing etc. is carried in a luggage carrier in front of the handle bars and the average weight of the cycle packed is about 55 pounds. The bacon is cut in small chunks and wrapped in cloth. The coffee, sugar, and flour are carried in rubber cloth bags about 18x5 inches.
As the object of the trip is to test the bicycle as a means of transportation for troops, the route chosen is long, nearly 4000 miles, and the geography of the country such as to afford all possible conditions. By selecting St. Louis as the objective point, a route was moist[sic] that had high and low altitudes, moist and dry climates, up grades and down grades; the mountainous and stony roads of South Dakota, the sandy roads of Nebraska and the clay roads of Missouri. Their route has been along the Northern Pacific to Billings, Montana, and the Burlington the rest of the way.
In the “bad lands” they suffered greatly from lack of water, the men being obliged to drink Alkali water from which several became ill. From the bad lands they struck the sand hills of Nebraska and suffered greatly from intense heat. They crossed the river at Rulo, they across the bottom, to Forest City and thence to our city. After a rest of an hour here they took up their journey for St. Joseph, arriving [sic] there about one p.m. Saturday.
Lieutenant Moss informs me that from a military point of view the journey has been a successful one. At this point no man answered the sick call, and their wheels reported in excellent shape. Their average is 60 miles per day with good roads and 38 with bad roads. Rations are secured at intervals of a few days all along the road. The last ration station was Napier in this county and the next one is Laclede on the H. & St. Joseph railroad.
Lieutenant Moss, in charge of the corps is a Pike county boy, being raised at Louisiana, and graduated from West Point in 1894, and is now 25 years old. Surgeon Kennedy is from South Carolina and is 32 year[sic] of age, has been in the service about four years, and is as crazy as can be on the subject of “wheels”. E.H. Boos, of the associated press accompanies the party.
- The Holt County Sentinel [Oregon, MO], July 23, 1897
BICYCLISTS REACH ST. JOE
Twenty-fifth United States Infantry
Corps Is Nearing the End of Its Wearisome Jaunt.
St. Joseph, Mo., July 17 – The Twenty-fifth United States infantry bicycle corps arrived at this place at 1 o’clock to-day, after a forty-one mile run from Napier. The condition of the road was bad and very hilly country made the run a hard one. The corps went into camp here for the balance of the day and night. They will leave at 4 o’clock Sunday morning and expect to reach Hamilton to-morrow evening. The men are in the best of condition and are in good spirits on account of the comparatively short distance left to reach their destination.
- Kansas City Journal [Kansas City, MO], July 18, 1897
DETACHMENT OF 25TH INFANTRY
U.S.A., IN THIS CITY
On Their Way From Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis—An Experimental Trip
To Determine the Utility of the Bicycle for Army Purposes—Lieut. Moss in Charge of
The Expedition, Believes in Its Usefulness—Expect to Reach St. Louis the Last of This Week—Incidents of the Journey
Somewhat of a stir was created yesterday afternoon in the city when a detachment of the United States regular army came through the city on bicycles. United States regulars seldom visit St. Joseph and the sight of a number of them fully armed and equipped would have been sufficient in itself to cause a commotion. To see them mounted on wheels was, however, an unusually strange sight.
The detachment was part of a company of the Twenty-fifth infantry, U.S.A., and is in charge of Lieut. J.A. Moss. With the exception of the commanding officer, a surgeon and a representative of the Associated Press, all the men are negroes. This detachment is making an experimental trip on wheels from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis. Lieut. Moss received permission from the war department to put this idea, which is his own, to a practical test. On the result of his trip will depend the action of the war department in mounting a large portion of this army on bicycles for long marches. The superiority of the wheel has long been recognized in short marches, through level stretches of country, but the present test will decide the question in regard to long and rough marches.
The detachment, which is composed of twenty soldiers and the two officers, left Fort Missoula, Mont., June 14 mounted on military bicycles. The wheels are made especially for military service. The distance of 1,500 miles from Fort Missoula to St. Joseph was traversed in a remarkably short time, considering the obstacles in the way. Lieut. Moss says that the trip has been a rough one. He and his men have endured all the hardships of a campaign. During the first twelve days of their trip it rained almost continually. Slippery mountain paths and rough, muddy roads were traversed. At night the men slept on damp ground.
In the “bad lands” their sufferings were severe. Here, the water supply ran short, the men being obliged to drink alkali water from which several of them became ill. From the bad lands they entered the sand hills of western Nebraska where the heat was intense. Some days the thermometer registered as high as 108 degrees in the shade. At Rulo, the Missouri river was crossed and from there to St. Joseph the route was along the bluffs. Lieut. Moss says that the entire trip so far has been over either hills or mountains.
The journey has been successful from a military point of view. The men are all well at present and their wheels are in excellent shape considering the rough usage they have been subjected to. John Findley, who is a member of the detachment, is a St. Joseph negro. His relatives live here at present, and they were all very glad to see him. The average distance traveled by the men is 60 miles per day on good roads. In the sand hills they only averaged 38 miles. The bicycles weigh 30 pounds alone, but with the complete equipment including rifles, they weigh 60 pounds.
Rations are secured at intervals of a few days all along the road. The last ration station was Napier, Mo., and the next stop is La Clede. The Hannibal & St. Joseph tracks will be followed from here to St. Louis, reaching the latter place by next Saturday at the latest.
Lieut. Moss is a Louisiana boy. He graduated from West Point in 1894 and is now 25 years of age. Dr. J.M. Kennedy is the surgeon, whose services have, however, not been needed to any great extent. E.H. Boos accompanies the party as a representative of the Associated Press. After a rest of a few hours in a shady grove south of the city the little band of warriors mounted their wheels and rode off in the direction of Cameron.
- St. Joseph Daily Herald [St. Joseph, MO], July 18, 1897
Bicycle Corps Here.
The bicycle corps of the Twenty-fifth infantry, which started from Fort Missoula, Mont., to make a trial trip to St. Louis, arrived in the city at 1 o’clock [bad microfilm- next line is unreadable] good condition, although some of them were a little late in getting in.
The corps is in command of Lieutenant J.A. Moss and comprises one sergeant and twenty privates. A representative of the Associated Press is making the trip in company with the troops.
The corps expects to arrive at St. Louis some time next Saturday or Sunday.
St. Joseph Daily News [St. Joseph, MO] July 17, 1897
SOLDIERS ON WHEELS.
A Detachment of Uncle Sam’s Warriors
Pass Through Cameron.
A novel sight was witnessed in Cameron Sunday—soldiers, fully armed and equipped for war, riding on bicycles. Their arrival here about noon created quite a commotion. They made the Park their head quarters and scores of citizens went to the place to get a look at them. They are a part of the 25th Infantry, U.S.A., and 14 were in the crowd. There were a few others left behind who had been delayed on account of sickness caused by drinking alkali water in Nebraska. The soldiers are colored and are in charge of Lieut. J.A. Moss, a white man, who went through here on the cars Sunday evening, accompanied by E.H. Boos, a representative of the Associated Press. The only white man in the crowd in Cameron was Lieut. J.M. Kennedy, surgeon.
This detachment is making an experimental trip on bicycles from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis, Lieut. Moss having received permission from the War Department to put the idea, which is his own, to a practical test. The wheels are made specially for military service. The result will determine the action of the War Dep’t in mounting a large portion of the army on wheels for long marches.
They left Fort Missoula June 14. The distance of a little over 1,600 miles from that point to Cameron, was traveled in short time, considering the many obstacles which were encountered—mountain roads, heavy rains, hot weather, etc.
The bicycles weigh 30 pounds alone, but with the complete equipment, including rifles, they weigh 65 pounds. They carry a complete extra bicycle, each man carrying some part, so that any injury to a wheel may be quickly repaired.
It is safe to say they have not received better treatment any place on the road that was accorded them in Cameron. Soon after their arrival here Dr. W.A. Nixon and Chas. Rogers took them to the Park restaurant and treated them to a fine dinner. The surgeon, Dr. Kennedy, was the guest of E.F. Darby—took dinner with him, and in the afternoon Mr. Darby gave him a ride over the city.
The soldiers departed from Cameron about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and expect to reach St. Louis on or before Saturday of this week. They are supplied with rations at various points on the line—Laclede being the next place east of here.
- Cameron Daily Observer [Cameron, MO], July 19, 1897
SOLDIERS ON BICYCLES
Detachment of 25th Infantry, U.S.A.
Pass Through the City.
A detachment of United States regular army arrived in the city Sunday evening on wheels, fully armed and equipped, and created considerable excitement and commotion among the citizens who were anxious to take a look at them. They went direct to the Fair Grounds where they camped for the night.
The detachment is a part of the 25th infantry, U.S.A., there being twenty-three in all but only fourteen arrived here Sunday evening, two or three were taken sick as a result of drinking alkali water in Nebraska, causing the delay of several who passed through town Monday about noon.
They were in charge of Lieut. J.A. Moss and were making an experimental trip on wheels from Fort Missoula to St. Louis. On the result of the trip will depend the action of the war department in mountain a large portion of the army on bicycles for long marches.
The boys were in excellent spirits here and had ridden from St. Joe Sunday.
They expect to arrive in St. Louis some time this week. The distance from Ft. Missoula to this place is about 1600 miles and they average about sixty miles a day on good roads. They started on their journey June 14 and had met with many obstacles—mountain roads, rains, sand hills, hot weather, etc.
The bicycles weigh 30 pounds alone but with the full equipment weigh from 70 to 80 pounds. They carry their rations with them, with which they are supplied every two days.
With the exception of Lieut. J.A. Moss, Surgeon J.M. Kennedy and a representative of the Associated Press E.H. Boos, all the men are negroes.
- The Hamiltonian [Hamilton, MO] July 23, 1897
SOLDIERS ON WHEELS
A detachment of the 25th Infantry, U.S.A., fourteen in number, all colored, except, the surgeon, Lieut. J.M. Kennedy, camped at the fair grounds here last Sunday night, departing Monday morning at 6:00 a.m., on their journey to St. Louis. They are in charge of Lieut. J.A. Moss, a white man who went east by train Sunday night.
This detachment is making an experimental trip on bicycles from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis, Lieut. Moss having received permission from the War Department to put the idea, which is [his] own, to a practical test. The wheels are made specially for military service. The result will determine the action of the War Department in mounting a large portion of the army on wheels for long marches.
They left Fort Missoula, Montana on June 14. The distance from St. Louis is about 1,600 miles. They have averaged 60 miles a day notwithstanding they encountered many obstacles in the way of snow storms, heavy rains, rough mountain roads, long sand stretches, hot weather, etc.
The bicycles weigh 30 pounds along but with the complete equipments, including rifles, clothing, blankets, bicycle repairs, etc., each man carried from 75 to 90 pounds.
Twenty-three started on the trip, some of them took sick from drinking alkali water on the route. Five of the delayed soldier came in Monday noon and proceeded east, and expect to overtake their comrades before they reach St. Louis, where they expect to arrive Saturday evening. They are supplied with rations at various points along the route—Laclede being the next place east of here.
The soldiers interviewed here were not “stuck” on the job and are of the opinion that the experiment will not be considered a success for the use of soldiers on long marches.
- Hamilton News-Graphic [Hamilton, MO], July 22, 1897
Somewhat of a stir was created Sunday afternoon in town when a detachment of the United States regular army came through on bicycles. United States regulars seldom visit Hamilton and a sight of a number of them fully armed and equipped would have been sufficient in itself to cause a commotion. To see them mounted on wheels was, however, an unusually strange sight.
The detachment was part of a company of the Twenty-fifth infantry, U.S.A., and is in charge of Lieut. J.A. Moss. With the exception of the commanding officer, a surgeon and a representative of the Associated Press, all the men are negroes. The detachment is making an experimental trip on wheels from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis.
Lieut. Moss received permission from the war department to put this idea, which is his own, to a practical test. On the result of his trip will depend the action of the war department in mounting a large portion of this army on bicycles for long marches. The superiority of the wheel has long been recognized in short marches, through level stretches of country, but the present test will decide the question in regard to long and rough marches.
The detachment, which is composed of twenty soldiers and the two officers, left Fort Missoula, Mont., June 14 mounted on military bicycles. The wheels are made especially for military service. The distance of 1,600 miles from Fort Missoula to Hamilton was traversed in a remarkably short time, considering the obstacles in the way. The trip has been a rough one. Lt. Moss and his men have endured all the hardships of a campaign. During the first twelve days of their trip it rained almost continually. Slippery mountain paths and rough, muddy roads were traversed. At night the men slept on damp ground.
In the “bad lands” their sufferings were severe. Here, the water supply ran short, the men being obliged to drink alkali water from which several of them became ill. From the bad lands they entered the sand hills of western Nebraska where the heat was intense. Some days the thermometer registered as high as 108 degrees in the shade. At Rulo, the Missouri river was crossed. The entire trip so far has been either over hills or mountains.
The journey has been successful from a military point of view. The men are all well at present and their wheels are in excellent shape considering the rough usage they have been subjected to. The average distance traveled by the men is 60 miles per day on good roads. In the sand hills they only averaged 38 miles. The bicycles weigh 30 pounds alone, but with the complete equipment including rifles, they weigh 60 pounds.
Rations are secured at intervals of a few days all along the road. The last ration station was Napier, Mo., and the next stop is La Clede. The Hannibal & St. Joseph tracks will be followed from here to St. Louis, reaching the latter place by next Saturday at the latest.
Lieut. Moss is a Louisiana boy. He graduated from West Point in 1894 and is now 25 years of age. Dr. J.M. Kennedy is the surgeon, whose services have, however, not been needed to any great extent. E.H. Boos accompanies the party as a representative of the Associated Press.
- The Farmers Advocate [Hamilton, MO], July 21, 1897
[This article is nearly a verbatim copy of the July 18 St. Joseph Daily Herald story]
The Twenty-fifth Infantry Bicycle corps camped at Laclede Monday evening and passed through Brookfield Tuesday morning. The company numbered twenty—Lieut. James A. Moss, Surgeon J. M. Kennedy and eighteen privates. They left Fort Missoula, Montana, June 24 to ride to St. Louis and back for the purpose of testing the bicycle as a means of moving troops. Complete moving outfits, including tents, cooking utensils, etc., all carried on the wheels, each man carrying sixty-seven pounds on his bike. They have made an average of fifty miles a day over the entire route. The first twelve days out it snowed two days and rained ten, nevertheless they made their daily average of fifty miles, and one day covered seventy-two.
Henry V. Lucas, of St. Louis, met the company at Laclede, and arranged with the officers to reach St. Louis this morning where the local wheelmen will meet the soldiers and give a big parade this morning. The corps will remain in St. Louis about two weeks before starting on their return trip. The privates were all colored men and the two commissioned officers were white. They looked rather “seedy” as they had been on the roads in dust, rain and snow for thirty-five days, but said they all felt much better than they looked.
- Brookfield Gazette [Brookfield, MO], July 24, 1897
Today about 10 o’clock a portion of the 23th [sic] United States infantry bicycle corps arrived at this place. They were on their way to St. Louis.
- Macon Republican [Macon, MO] July 23, 1897
A part of a colored regiment of the U.S. army passed through the northern limit of the city [Monroe City] last night [Wed. July 22]. They were mounted on bicycles, each man carrying his blanket, repeating rifle, tent, etc. They are officered by Lieutenant J.A. Moss, a white man. The regiment was formerly stationed at Fort Missoula, Montana but Lieutenant Moss desired to test the efficacy of the bicycle in long distances so he chose this method of going through the country. The party were headed for Jefferson Barracks where they will report and thence to Chicago. They have encountered bad weather and roads but have stood the trip remarkably well. They pronounce the bicycle a success as a means of army transportation. They have averaged 70 miles per day [sic - they didn't average that many MH]; there are few if any horses could keep this up for such a length of time as have these men.
- Monroe City News [Monroe City, Missouri] July 22, 1897
The detachment of the Twenty-fifth United States infantry (colored), under command of Lieut. Moss (white) who rode bicycles from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis, are encamped at Forest park and are receiving much attention.
- Marion County Herald [Palmyra, MO] July 29, 1897
[I could not find, in spite of looking very carefully, any articles in this Palmyra paper to indicate whether or not the Corps passed through their town on their way to Hannibal]
[Unfortunately, I could not locate any papers for Hannibal for 1897 at the Missouri Historical Society in spite of looking extremely carefully. I’ve also contacted the Hannibal library with no success.]
Soldiers on Wheels.
James A. Moss, Second Lieutenant of Company F; 25th United States colored infantry with twenty-three men, including James M. Kennedy, the surgeon, all on bicycles arrived here last Thursday afternoon from Fort Missoula, Mont., enroute to St. Louis, where they were due at about 9 o’clock Saturday morning [July 25]. The Lieutenant reported hard travel since their departure, June 14, making about sixty miles a day since leaving the sand hills, and of thirty-eight days’ time consumed in travel, they had about ninety hours of rest and meals. All were in good spirits, and as this is the first experimental bicycle trip made by a United States army corps, the officer in command was greatly enthused with the success so far attained. Lieut. Moss is a bright fellow, and a classmate of Lieut. Lang, whose matrimonial troubles have recently been ventilated in the Globe Democrat.
Lieutenant Moss and Edward H. Boos official reporter of the bicycle corps made the NEWS a pleasant visit during their brief stay in Louisiana.
-Pike County News [Louisiana, MO], Thursday, July 29, 1897
A lot of dirty, worn-out negro soldiers arrived here [Louisiana, MO] last Thursday. They were testing the bicycle as a means of travel. They had traveled from Missoula, Montana, a distance of 2,300 [sic – it wasn’t that far] miles on bicycles. The [sic] had been on the road since the 14th of June and had averaged 70 [sic-not that many] miles a day, through snow, mud, hot sand and all kinds of weather. The negros [sic] seemed to think the bike the proper thing for such trips, but you could hardly convince a white man of this fact. Each of these soldiers carried luggage—tent, gun, etc., that weighed almost 100 lbs.
- Bowling Green Times [Bowling Green, MO], July 29, 1897
NEAR THE END OF THE JOURNEY.
TWENTY-FIFTH INFANTRY U.S.A.,
BICYCLE CORPS HEADED FOR
HAVE TRAVELED 2,000 MILES.
HUNGER AND THIRST, SNOW,
RAIN AND SCORCHING SUN,
Lieutenant James M. Moss Says the
Trip Has Demonstrated the
Usefulness of the Bicycle in War
Lieut. James M. [sic- his middle initial was A.] Moss, Twenty-fifth Regiment, U.S.A. and his bicycle corps will reach St. Louis Saturday morning and pitch camp in Forest Park.
During their stay the corps will be the guests of the Associated Cycling Clubs.
Henry V. Lucas rode out to Laclede on Wednesday to tender Lieut. Moss the hospitality of the St. Louis wheelmen.
At a wheelmen’s meeting in Forest Park Thursday night it was arranged to have the visiting infantry corps camp south of the cottage. Quite a delegation of city wheelmen will run out the St. Charles Rock road Saturday morning to escort them into town. After camp is pitched, Uncle Sam’s riders will hold a reception until dinner hour.
A 1:20 o’clock parade will form at the camp and move down Lindell boulevard to Grand avenue, thence south to West Pine and west to Spring avenue, where ranks will be broken. The participants will ride to the Pastime track, where an exhibition drill will be given by Lieut. Moss and his corps.
The formation of the parade will consist of a squad of mounted police, the Branch Guards Bicycle Corps, Twenty-fifth United States Infantry Bicycle Corps, the City Streets Committee, Associated Cycling Clubs and unattached riders. The parade will form in squads of fours.
The army riders will be in camp all Sunday at Forest Park, where local _________ riders and the general public can find how a wheelman looks after a 2,000-mile run.
Next week the corps will be the guests of their comrades at Jefferson Barracks where they will await orders from the War Department.
The men are all anxious to ride back to Montana, but in this instance their preference is for a train.
A glance at Lieut. Moss and his bicycle corps is an insight into the real life of a soldier in time of actual war. “We have endured every hardship except being shot at,” says the young lieutenant. The men look it. They are actually a lot of weather-beaten scarecrows.
In the blinding heat of midday they pedaled into Louisiana, Mo., Thursday down the dusty Frankfort road. They wore blue jeans jackets, brown canvass trousers, brown leggings and the soft gray army hat. Their blue short coats were strapped with their blankets across their handle bars. Across their shoulders hung the heavy rifle and around their waists the ammunition belts carrying fifty rounds of shot. The bayonet ____ the clanked against the wheel frames and the canteen hung like a medallion before the luggage on the handle bars.
Once upon a time the colored mentioned existed in their uniforms. Snow, rain, sun, dust and perspiration hae reduced their outfits to neutral tints. Their leggings are gray. So are their gloves. The trousers especially reinforced are ragged and streaked with marks of dust and rain. All semblance of color has left their shirts, their natty blue coats couldn’t be sold for dust rags in a second-hand clothing store.
For all their woe-begone appearance the men are full of life. Their faces are drawn but their eyes are fine, their step is marvelously elastic, the hardship has made them hard as rocks and the excitement of the trip, as well as the attention they have received along the route, has put them in the best of spirits. The men came into Louisiana in straggling shape. Bugler Elias Johnson broke his frame Wednesday at Macon City and arrived Thursday by train. Later in the day Privates Sam Johnson and L.B. Dingman of Company F came in carrying broken wheels. Corporal Haynes of Company F smashed his front axle and came along to do the repairs.
Lieutenant Moss and Surgeon Kennedy came in ahead of the corps and made straight for the office of the Pike County Press to get hold of a L.A.W. map.
The Lieutenant was anxious to have Louisiana before night fall if he could get the proper information about roads up Old Monroe. Louisiana wheelmen were vague about the _______ over twenty-five miles out of town and the Lieutenant concluded to rest for a while.
Towards 4 o’clock the main body of the corps wheeled into town. Their arrival was the signal for preparations for a meal. Commissary stores had been awaiting their arrival at Louisiana and there was fresh hard tack, bacon and beans for dinner.
The corps carries its cooking utensils and provisions in diamond-shaped pouches fitted into the wheel frame. The commissary stores are then packed in these so that as little room as possible is wasted. Every man has a tin cup and plate, knife, fork and spoon in his luggage.
The stores carried are hard bread, ship-biscuit, canned beef, bacon, beans, sugar, coffee, salt, pepper and flour. These are the regular marching army rations.
While supper was being cooked the work of repairing the dismantled wheels went on. The men exhibited utter indifference to the sun. They cooked in a hollow by the river bank and ate off a big log, where the sun beat down on them. The repairers bent to their work, cementing tires, adjusting new frames and bearings in a heat that made the onlookers dizzy. Repairing was not finished at nightfall and the work went on until midnight, under the depot electric lights. When a man had his wheel in shape he curled up on the station platform and went to sleep. Lieut. Moss spent the night near his men. He found a blanket and a waiting room bench comfortable but Surgeon Kennedy spent his night in Louisiana in a hotel.
At 6:30 o’clock the last of the corps wheeled into Louisiana. They were Private Findley, Bridges and Scott. The former is the crack rider and boss repairer of the corps. His home is in St. Joseph, Mo., and he laid over there two days but easily caught up. At Hannibal, he found Bridges and Scott awaiting him with broken wheels. He fixed them up, then led them a merry chase into Louisiana to catch up. The thirty-six miles were covered inside of two and one-half hours.
After their arrival the bugle sounded “fall in” Corporal Haynes announced that when repairs were done the men could sleep until 2 p.m.[sic- that should be 2 a.m.!... Read on to see how the men rode in the middle of the night. - MH], when the start for St. Louis would be made.
The men fell out and went about their tasks. Lieut. Moss moved among them and his keen, quick eye noted every imperfection in their machines. He called them sharply to account for negligence. Private Sam Johnson was so busy entertaining visitors until midnight that he neglected to repair a broken axle. He was ordered to have his wheel ready and join his comrades by train at St. Charles. When he gets to Jefferson Barracks he will spend three days in the guard-house for his negligence.
An hour after midnight the sleeping wheelmen were awakened. Coffee was made, blankets were packed and guns shouldered. Just as the moon rose above the brush on the eastern shore of the river, the bugler sounded and the corps began the last day of their eventful journey.
They took the turnpike. After a twenty-five mile coast to Eolia they will breakfast and then push on to Troy. Thence the route will be to Old Monroe and from there to St. Charles and then over the St. Charles rock road into St. Louis.
The personnel of the Twenty-fifth U.S. Infantry Bicycle Corps is as follows: Second Lieutenant James M.[sic] Moss, Company F, Twenty-fifth Regiment; Lieutenant J.M. Kennedy, Surgeon.
Sergt. Sanders, Corporal Martin, Privates F. Johnson, Proctor and Cook, Company B.
Corporal Haynes, Privates Findley, Bridges, Scott, Dingman, Company F.
Musician E. Johnson, Privates S. Johnson, S. Williamson, W. Williamson, Wilson, Button and Reid, Company G.
Privates Forman and Rout, Company H.
Lieut. Moss and Surgeon Kennedy are the only white men in the corps. Lieut. Moss says this is accident, not design. His command fell in with a colored regiment and when he obtained permission to make the trip it was granted on condition that the volunteers come from his own regiment.
Surgeon Kennedy is the only member of the corps not to volunteer. He was ordered to accompany the expedition and had to learn how to ride within a week. Like the rest of the corps he says he would make the trip over again if he had the opportunity.
The rest of the men, excepting Bugler Johnson, were wheelmen. Everyone at Ft. Missoula rides. When Lieutenant Moss asked for volunteers, he soon had men to pick his squad from. While their wheels were being made, the corps went into training to harden themselves for exposure. Ten days were spent familiarizing them with the new wheels. They learned to drill with their accoutrements and luggage. The Saturday before their departure they gave an exhibition drill for their comrades at Ft. Missoula. Sunday afternoon at 5 o’clock they set out in a blinding rain storm.
Each man carries on the trip at least 60 pounds of baggage. The gun weighs ten pounds. The cartridge belt with 50 charges almost five pounds more. Then there is a canteen and a bayonet scabbard.
On the handle bars a blanket, half a shelter tent, tin cup, two tires and several extra parts. In the luggage box, beneath the seat each carried his share of the provender utensils. The men who carried the coffee pots stuffed their blankets into them.
What happened along their 2,000 mile journey was briefly sketched for the Post Dispatch by Lieut. Moss. He is not so prone to exaggeration as his privates but what he says is enough to stagger credence.
“A man who is familiar with the country we have gone through will believe the story of our adventure, but a tenderfoot cannot appreciate it,” is the way the Lieutenant began his story. “We started out with the idea of proving the bicycle a valuable adjunct in real war. If we had to succumb to weather conditions or topographical difficulties my theory was all in the air.”
“It rained pitchforks the morning we started, and kept on raining for ten days. We kept up an average of seventy miles a day through it all. How? Well, we followed the Burlington road [they followed the Northern Pacific railroad to Billings, MT]. When the going was too muddy we road over the railroad where the ballast was not too rough. Often we had to walk, guiding our wheels along the rail. Again, we rode for miles with a continuous jolting that would make a granite paving like glass in comparison.
“Our tires held out wonderfully. When we got into Mullin’s Divide in the Rockies on June 1? [it was June 4-MH] we had to walk our wheels through six inches of snow. A week later we were going through the alkali plains of Wyoming with the thermometer 111 in the shade.
“We generally rode from daybreak until 10 o’clock, slept through the heat of the day and rode again from 5 o’clock until dark. When the moon was up and the roads were fair we pushed on at night. We only lost three days on the way. Our stop over’s were at Ft. Harrison, Ft. Custer and Broken Bow, Neb.
“Heat and cold were not our worst experience. In the alkali deserts the men rode as much as fifty miles without a drop of water with their lips parched and swollen. When they got water to drink it sickened them and increased their thirst. Mile after mile and day after day we pushed through prairie land without a house or a tree to break the monotony. It was a great relief to get into Nebraska and strike an occasional human habitation.
“We were always sure then of rations. In the Wyoming desert we often went for days on half rations and sometimes we rode for hours on empty stomachs. One morning we put in forty-two miles on coffee and two hard boiled eggs, not knowing when we would strike food or water.
“Our journey through South Dakota was alternate heat and cold, thirst and hunger.
“We learned that the story of good roads is a myth. People would tell us where we would find broad turnpikes and we would discover narrow trails—leading through swamp lands or foothills across which we had to lug our wheels.
“Many times we rode with our heads swathed in mosquito netting for protection from mosquitoes and sand flies and other insects.
“We expected hardships, when we started out, but nothing like what we encountered.
“There was no condition of weather we did not endure. No topographical obstacle we did not overcome. We wheeled across mountains, through sand hills and over hard and muddy roads. Seventeen tires and half a dozen frames represent the actual damage done in a 2,000-mile ride. Our tires actually wore out oftener than they punctured.
“The trip, to my thinking, establishes the bicycle’s place in military tactics. Think of the time it would have taken a regiment of cavalry or infantry to have made that trip. And the expense of the bicycle corps is one-third less.
“My object is to have the use of the bicycle in war developed. With eight companions I spent last summer in Yellowstone Park and we put in 1,400 miles awheel over the Rocky Mountains.
“You may think I am a cycling enthusiast. The truth is, I find no pleasure in riding. I take up my wheel as I would the handle of a plow. My only interest in it is its use in military science. I tried hard to get permission from the Secretary of War to make this trip from ocean to ocean, but he would not grant it. I hope that from the outcome of this trip I may get that next year. I want to get a bottle of water from the Pacific and empty it in the Atlantic.
“Before making that trip I will have a special bicycle built. The wheels we are using now were built for this trip with extra heavy frames and tandem spokes. If I make a trip across the continent next summer I will have a bicycle that a road rider wouldn’t recognize. I’m not prepared to unfold my plans yet, but I think I can get up a wheel that will stand any kind of going without the necessity of constant repairs.
“One or two men could have made the trip from Missoula ten days faster than we did. We could have cut down our record three or four days, but there was no necessity for pushing the men.
The bicycle is such a delicate instrument that the more men you put on a journey of this sort, the more you increase your likelihood of mishaps. There lies the interest of this feat. We showed that a body of men could push forward constantly without delays. Those of us who were held back for repairs were enabled to catch up with the main body and at no time did we fall behind our average of 50 miles a day.”
Surgeon Kennedy says that some years ago he read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped,” and wondered if ever in his military career he would have to undergo the hardships of heat and cold that Allan Breck and his companion endured in their flight before the king’s soldiers. After what he has gone through in six weeks he says the story would make tame reading.
“Heat and cold bothered us less than hunger and cold. We passed many sleepless nights shivering around the camp fire and days when the sun beat upon the baked earth that had never know snade, but worse than that was the torture of thirst. The men stood the hardship wonderfully. They are peaked and drawn, but I hardly think they have lost weight despite constant diarrhoea. I went through what they did and though I lost weight in the first four hundred miles I have gained it back in hardened muscle.”
Lieut. Moss, who has made a name for himself the world over by his daring trip is under 30 years of age. He graduated from West Point in June, 1894 and in October was stationed at Ft. Missoula. His home is in Lafayette, La.
He is about 5 feet 8 inches high, thin and wiry. He has refined features, despite the hardships he has courted, and his manners are pleasant, though he shows unmistakably the determination that is the keynote to his success.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch [St. Louis, MO] July 23, 1897
The U.S. Army bicycle corps that passed through here last Saturday enroute from Fort Missoula to St. Louis, were a rather sorry and bedraggled looking lot for soldiers. The roads, weather and distance all combined to give this effect. A journey made under the same circumstances and conditions on horseback, would have the same effect. It seems from this and other experiments and from observation of the military progress of other nations that the bicycle has a permenant and abiding place in army circles and will be exceedingly useful in war. It can, however, never replace the old reliable war horse. The horse is gifted with a certain degree of intelligence and in battle has been known to act with rare sense in aid of the soldier in the saddle. Actual experience will give the bicycle its practice field of usefulness as a war machine.
- St. Charles Cosmos [St. Charles, MO], July 28, 1897
BICYCLISTS REACH ST. LOUIS
Colored Troopers Complete Their
Record Breaking Ride From Fort Missoula, Mont.
St. Louis, July 24.—Lieutenant Moss and his twenty colored troopers of the Twenty-fifth United States infantry, at 3 o’clock this afternoon, completed their 2,000 mile record breaking ride on bicycles from Fort Missoula, Mont. After considerable delay at St. Charles, twenty miles out of the city, as the result of a heavy rain storm and because of the necessity of making needed repairs on their wheels, the hardy riders arrived at their destination here and immediately went into camp at Forest park, where they will stay until Monday. After that they will be quartered at Jefferson barracks until their return to Montana.
A reception committee, at whose head was Hon. H.V. Lucas, met the infantrymen out several miles and escorted them into the city. The committee had made extensive preparations for the care of the men, who will be liberally entertained during their stay in St. Louis. Thousands of enthusiastic cyclists welcomed them at the park.
In an interview, Lieutenant Moss said: “We left Fort Missoula, Mont., Sunday, June 14, intending to cover the 2,000 miles between there and St. Louis in six weeks. We are finishing easily and in good condition within the proposed limit. Our trip has been eminently successful. It is the biggest bicycle tour by any army of organized men on record. It has proven beyond peradventure my contention that the bicycle has a place in modern warfare.”
- Kansas City Journal [Kansas City, MO], July 18, 1897
2000 MILES ON WHEELS.
LONG-DISTANCE RIDE OF TWENTY-FIFTH
UNITED STATES INFANTRY BICYCLE CORPS
FROM MONTANA TO ST. LOUIS
Over Snow-Capped Mountains and
Across Vast Stretches of
TRIP MADE IN FORTY-ONE DAYS
Riders Endure Hunger and Thirst,
Snow, Rain and Scorching Sun.
Twenty two men on bicycles, grimy, rain soaked, weather –beaten and tattered rode up to the cottage in Forest Park at 6:45 o’clock last night. A hundred odd cyclists cheered them as they dismounted.
Henry V. Lucas, president of the Associated Cycling clubs of St. Louis, stepped out and grasped the hand of the sun-browned young man who led the corps of riders. He called for three cheers and a tiger and they were given heartily.
That was the end of the 2,200-mile ride of the Twenty-fifth Regiment, U.S.A., bicycle corps, from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis—the greatest feat in the history of the latest development in the science of warfare.
The little band of enthusiastic spectators knew that every grimy rider was a hero who had endured adventure beyond the wildest flights of imaginative romanticists.
They had crossed from the furthermost corner of the States to the heart of the Mississippi Valley. For forty-one days they had ridden an average of 53 ½ miles a day. They had slept under the stars. Rain and snow had pelted them. The sun scorched them until they fell exhausted in the road.
Negroes though they were the cyclists of St. Louis who could appreciate their feat were glad to welcome them with honor and make them their guests.
The corps will rest in St. Louis for a week at least until orders are received from the War Department for their return to their post in the far Northwest.
Today and Monday they will be in camp on the hill just south of the cottage in Forest Park. The public will have ample chance to see what men look like after a 2,200 mile bicycle ride.
This morning under escort of the Associated Cycling Clubs of St. Louis, the corps will parade through Forest Park, east on Lindell boulevard to Grand avenue, south to West Pine boulevard, thence west to Spring avenue back to Lindell boulevard and return to camp.
The parade will form at the cottage at 10 o’clock sharp. A detachment of mounted police , the Branch Guards Bicycle Club, the Associated Cycling Clubs and City Streets Committee will be in line.
In the afternoon the corps will give an exhibition drill on the Y.M.C.A. grounds in the park. Monday they will remain in camp and Tuesday they will wheel to Jefferson Barracks.
Once at the military reservation they will do--[?] their picturesque tatters. In new uniform all traces of the trip will be at an end.
Lieut. Moss, Lieut. Kennedy, the surgeon and Mr. Edward Boos, a civilian who accompanied the corps in the capacity of official reporter, will be the objects of great ----- attention while in the city. They have been tendered the courtesies of the University Club and Mr. Henry V. Lucas will be their social mentor which means they will have an enjoyable time in every possible way.
Rain and mud made the closing hours of the memorable ride an echo of the first two weeks.
On Sunday, June 14, the corps set out from Fort Missoula one of Uncle Sam’s military posts in the northwest corner of far-off Montana. The start was made at daybreak in a blinding rainstorm. The rain kept up for two weeks, but the corps pushed on, riding the railroad ties where the ballast would permit, and walking where the roads were impassable.
When they struck a stream they forded it, rider and wheel alike indifferent to water. At Mullan’s Divide, in the Rocky Mountains, the corps pushed their wheels through six inches of snow.
The men paid heavily for their rapid riding and Surgeon Kennedy had three cases of heat prostration on his hands.
William L. Sachtleben, the globe girdling cyclist; William Chase and William Sanderson of St. Louis rode out to St. Charles to pilot the corps into the city.
At 1 o’clock the start was made. The corps rode the Wabash track into Bonlis and then took a half hour’s walk through the slush to the St. Charles Rock road. They had an easy spin then into the city.
The corps entered St. Louis at Wellston and rode to Rinkle’s, where Henry Lucas and a big delegation of local wheelmen awaited them.
Among the party were George Durant, Cliff Allen, Will Nisket, T. Henry Kent, Ed Simmons, Julius Toy, Harry Crow, C.C. Branch Guards Bicycle Corps un-uniformed.
The brigade moved east on Easton avenue to Union boulevard and cut across the park. It was met at the entrance by Sergt. Callens and four mounted aides.
The blue-coats cleared the roads as the troop rode swiftly over the gravel roadways.
There was a running fire of cheers from the throng of pleasure-seekers that was caught up by the waiting crowd at the cottage as the procession was seen moving across the bridge at the foot of the hill.
The local cyclists made a detour and lined up along the cottage to let the corps pass in review as it ended its memorable journey.
Lieut. Moss, with Lieut. Kennedy and Mr. Boos, rode five wheel lengths in front of the corps that followed after in platoons of fours.
The men wore their faded blue coats, their rifles were slung across their shoulders and their bayonet scabbards clanked against their wheel frames.
They moved swiftly up the hill as perfect in formation as a troop of cavalry. When the word “Halt!” came they dismounted and their faces were illumined with broad grins. The end of their adventure had come.
A moment later they moved up the hill, walking their wheels. They aligned in review. Lieut. Moss said: “Our trip is ended. I thank you for your fortitude. You will now rest wheels and fall in for mess.”
The cycles were banked against the trees and while the officers were receiving the congratulations of friends, Bugler Johnson blew the “mess call.” The men fell in and marched to the Cottage Annex, where they sat down to a hearty supper of beefsteak, tomatoes, bread and butter, milk and coffee.
The men will not have to look after their own food while they are the guests of the A.C.C.
After supper the men built camp fires on the hill, where Park Commissioner Ridgely had provided fuel and water. All evening they were the center of attraction for a throng of visitors.
At 10 o’clock the shelter tents were up, the blankets were spread and the men turned in for a well-deserved rest.
The ride of Lieut. Moss and his men is a feat of world-wide interest. Military cycling has been the rage in Germany and France, but nothing approaching the 2,200-mile journey has been accomplished.
The conditions under which it was made mark it as a unique test of the bicycle’s fitness in warfare.
No condition of weather, no topographical obstacle was wanting. “We endured every possible condition of warfare, but being shot at,” is the way Lieut. Moss puts it.
“The trip has proved beyond peradventure my contention that the bicycle has a place in modern warfare. In every kind of weather, over all sorts of roads we averaged fifty miles a day. At the end of the journey we are all in good physical condition.
“Seventeen tires and half a dozen broken frames is the sum of our damage. The practical result of the trip shows that an army bicycle corps can travel twice as fast as cavalry or infantry under any conditions, and at one-third coast and effort.”
-St. Louis Post-Dispatch [St. Louis, MO] Sunday morning, July 25, 1897
SOLDIERS ON THE WHEELS.
Arrival of Lieut. Moss and His Bicycle
Corps from Fort Missoula, Mont.
The Greatest Bicycle Ride in Military History –
The Soldiers Received by a Delegation
Of Local Wheelmen-
A Street Parade to Be Given in Their Honor
After forty-one days of weary travel, some over snow-clad mountain passes and others through the hot sands of the bad lands of Nebraska, Lieut. James M.[sic] Moss, 25th Regiment, United States army, and his bicycle corps rode up the hill leading to the Cottage in Forest Park at 6:30 o’clock last evening, and completed their trip of 1900 miles from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis. It was the greatest bicycle ride ever taken by military troops, and marks an epoch in the history of army life. The tour demonstrates beyond all question the practicability of the use of the bicycle in military affairs, and proves that the wheelmen will cut quite an important figure in time of war.
The notice of the coming of the bicycle army corps had been published in the “Globe-Democrat” from time to time, as this paper had a special correspondent who rode a wheel with the soldiers during the entire trip. The wheelmen of St. Louis hae made ample preparation to entertain Lieut. Moss and show their appreciation of the corps of colored soldiers during their stay in this city. A parade will be given by the wheelmen this forenoon in honor of the soldiers, and Lieut. Moss will receive social distinction before he leaves the city.
The 25th Regiment bicycle corps started with twenty men and two officers, Lieut. Moss and Dr. J.M. Kennedy, who is Lieutenant and assistant surgeon, from Fort Missoula, Mont., on June 14, the point of destination being St. Louis. Saturday they arrived at St. Charles, but the heavy rain of Friday night made the mud roads a bad muck and retarded the corps on its way to St. Louis. Therefore, the corps did not arrive, in St. Louis yesterday morning, as was expected.
The Associated Cycling Clubs of St. Louis will show their appreciation of the soldiers long ride by entertaining them during their rest in this city. William Sachteben, William Chase and William Sanderson, three St. Louis wheelmen, rode out to St. Charles yesterday and met the soldiers, and accompanied the latter into the city. Owing to the rain of Friday night the corps, after taking the ferry across the river at St. Charles, was compelled to take the Wabash Railroad tracks and walk two miles to Bonfils, and there they struck a dirt road that led to the St. Charles Rock road. Once on the latter road good time was made into St. Louis, and the sixteen miles to Forest Park were covered with ease and comfort.
Henry V. Lucas, at the head of a party of wheelmen, including W.C. Simmons, H.G. Crow, Henry T. Kent, George F. Durant, C.C. Hildebrand, Cliff Allen, Wm. W. Nesbet and others rode out to Rinkelville lake yesterday afternoon as a committee to receive the visitors and escort them to the city. The soldiers came into the city by way of Easton avenue to Union avenue where they were met by Sergt. Collins and a squad of mounted police, who led the way down Union avenue to Forest Park.
There was quite a crowd of pleasure-seekers and wheelmen at the Cottage in Forest Park to greet the soldiers. As the mounted police rode up the hill, followed by the local wheelmen, and then the travel-stained soldiers, three hearty cheers of welcome were given by the crowd at the Cottage. The soldiers dismounted and after a few minutes conversation between Mr. Lucas and Lieut. Moss, the latter ordered his men to camp on a hill beneath the oaks just south of the Cottage, which had been selected by the wheelmen’s committee as a most suitable spot. Lieut. Moss and Dr. Kennedy took supper at the Cottage with Henry V. Lucas, Henry T. Kent, Samuel D. Capen and other local wheelmen. The troops enjoyed a meal of rich, juicy beefsteaks and other substantial articles of food at a long table in the bicycle shed and they seemed to appreciate the repast after a days hot travel with nothing but hardtack and bacon and coffee to supply the inner man.
As the soldiers rode up the hill at the Cottage and dismounted they bore in their looks the evidences of forty –odd days of severe travel over mountain and desert for a run of almost 2000 miles. They wore blue jackets of jeans, brown canvas trousers, brown leggings and a soft gray army hat. Their short blue coats were strapped with blankets in front of the handle bars. A rifle hung across each man’s shoulder and around his waist was a belt carrying fifty rounds of ammunition. Canteens rattled against the diamond frames of the wheels and luggage boxes and cylindrical coffee pots were fastened to the wheels by thumbscrews. The recent intense hot spell the soldiers passed on the burning sands of the bad lands in Nebraska just after they had passed through a snow storm on the divide in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Their faces last evening showed the effects of the heat, the dust, the snow and the grime of their long trip. Their uniforms showed the effects of the trip, too. Trousers were streaked, shirts were faded, hats were spotted with dust and perspiration, but the men themselves were not weary, apparently, as they walked about with an alacrity that surprised the observer. The trip was made without any sickness except in the case of one man, Jones, who was sent back at St. Joe, Mo., by Lieut. Moss. The men stood the trip well, some even gaining in weight.
“We have made a remarkable trip,” said Lieut. Moss to a “Globe-Democrat” reporter as he stood beneath a black oak tree near the camp and talked by a flaming oil torch last night. The Lieutenant is a bright and intelligent young man, of slim build, but wiry and quick in his movements. His face is sun-burned to a rich yellow color by exposure to the sun on the trip.
“While we arrived here on the forty-first day of our journey, we actually traveled only thirty-six days,” said Lieut. Moss. “We practically lost five days in waiting at ration stations. That is an average of 52 7-9 miles a day and I think it is satisfactory. Out of the 1900 miles we had to walk perhaps 300 or 400. The men have stood the trip well. I weighed 136 pounds when I started, and I now weigh 141 pounds. I [sic]make a report of the tour to Gen. Miles directly, and give him a statement of the total number of miles traveled and the total number of hours we were on our wheels, with the time we were delayed by accidents like punctured tires and other difficulties. The difficulties were not as numerous as one might expect. Only once did we run short of rations, and then we went thirty-six hours without food. That was in the bad lands of Nebraska. We shall remain here perhaps ten days, and will go to Jefferson Barracks. I do not know whether we will return on our wheels or not. I shall await orders from Washington.
“Did we devise a system of packing? Certainly. It was accomplished as follows: On the front of the bicycle was strapped the knapsack, and on top of it the blanket roll, containing one blanket, one shelter tent half and the tent poles. The haversack was carried either en the front of the knapsack or was secured to the horizontal bar well to the front. The clip was fastened under the coat with a small leather strap, and protected from the dust and mud by a cloth bag. The canteen was carried on the body. Every soldier carried a rifle on his back and an ammunition belt with fifty rounds of shot around his waist. In the diamond of each bicycle was a canvas luggage case. The cooking utensils are carried in a large tin case, resting on a frame on the front of the bicycle and securely strapped to the handle bars. A cylindrical coffee pot fastened to the front of the handle bars was carried by two men, and they rolled up their blankets and stuffed them into these pots. As little as possible was carried on the person of the soldier, for if place on the body, in addition to carrying the actual weight of the object, the soldier would also experience more or less physical exhaustion from the weight bearing down on the body. Furthermore, one falling from a wheel with much weight secured to the body is much more likely to sustain an injury than a person whose limbs and body are entirely free and unhampered. We worked out our system of packing on our Yellowstone Park trip last year, and being thoroughly familiar with the handling, care and use of our machines we were ready to make the long trip. The wheels weigh 31 pounds each. The average weight of a wheel, with rider and supplies, is 232 pounds.
“Yes, the bicycle as a machine for military purposes is attracting the attention of military men in this country and abroad. In foreign armies the matter has been brought to a much more practical stage than in this country. France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and other European powers have regularly organized bicycle corps as component parts of their standing armies. The National Guard of Connecticut was the first military organization in the United States to experiment with the bicycle. Since then quite a number of experiments have been made by officers of the regular army and the national guard. Nearly all of them have been tests of rapidity, and little or nothing has been done to testing the bicycle as a means of transportation. Although comparatively little has so far been done in the regular army until this trip was made, the prospects for military cycling are very promising. Recent experiments have awakened widespread interest in the matter and now that Gen. Miles, who is an enthusiast on the subject, is in command of the army, officers interested in the work have a fine opportunity to push their favorite enterprise.
“The bicycle has been found useful in reconnoitering different sections of the country. The 25th United States Infantry Bicycle Corps was organized in July 1896, at Fort Missoula, Mont., having for its purpose the thorough testing of the bicycle for military use in both level and mountainous country. The men are good ordinary riders, chosen on account of their reliability, from the four companies stationed at Fort Missoula. After a little practice the corps became quite expert in jumping fences and fording streams. It would take us only twenty seconds to halt, get over an ordinary fence and start again. Several times we got over with very little difficulty, a board fence 9 feet high, the bicycles being packed in heavy marching order. In fording streams not more than 10 or 12 inches deep the wheels were either rolled or carried across. In deep water, especially with a swift current, every wheel was carried across by two soldiers, the bicycle resting on a strong stick at the junction of the neck and lower bar of the diamond, either end resting on one shoulder of the soldier, one being on either side and the men steadying the wheels with their hands.”
From 10 to 10:30 a.m. today the Associated Cycling Clubs and L.A.W. will give a reception at the Cottage in Forest Park in honor of Lieut. Moss and his bicycle corps. At 11 o’clock there will be a parade, which will form at the camp and move to the Clayton road, thence east to King’s highway north to Lindell boulevard, east to Grand avenue, south to West Pine, west to McPherson, then to Taylor avenue and back to camp. The formation of the parade will consist of a squad of mounted police, the Branch Guard Bicycle Corps, 25th United States Infantry Bicycle Corps, then city streets committee of the L.A.W. Associated Cycling Clubs and unattached riders. The parade will form in squads of fours. The regular army cyclists will be in camp all day in Forest Park. The Branch Guards Bicycle Corps will meet at the armory at 9 o’clock sharp this morning.
- St. Louis Globe-Democrat [St. Louis, MO], July 25, 1897
WHEELMEN AT FOREST PARK
Thousands of Local Cyclists Inspect the
Army Bicycle Corps’ Camp.
Many of the Visitors Disappointed at the
Absence of Lieut. Moss –Colored
Members Eat Watermelon—
Scenes and Incidents
At the Camp.
In these early days of the usefulness of the bicycle the man or woman who makes a century run is looked upon as a sort of wheelman or wheelwoman paragon. Records are made and carefully preserved of these feats of endurance and the performers are not only proud of their feats, but members of rival cycle clubs hold them up to the rest of the wheeling world as the product of that particular section of the city from which they hail.
The professional cyclist is about as much a curiosity—and about as distinct a one—as is the professional deliverer of solar plexor blows. Old Solomon gained a reputation for wisdom many centuries ago by the declaration that there is nothing new under the sun. At this particular time Solomon and the most of his direct descendants are completely out of the game. But there have appeared a host of men and women who have fulfilled old Mother Shipton’s prophecy that “carriages without horses shall go.” Ten thousand living, riding examples of this prophetic vision scorched into Forest Park yesterday to inspect the condition and accoutrements of the detachment of the 25th Regiment, U.S.A., which is on experimental trip, the object of which is to show the efficiency of the bicycle in army manuevers.
The arrival of the corps under the command of Lieut. James M.[sic] Moss was chronicles in Sunday’s “Globe-Democrat” Arrangements had been made to give these hardy pioneers in a new field the recognition their service deserved. A reception was arranged for yesterday morning and several drills were to have occurred to show the local bicyclists that their attentions were not unappreciated. Old Jupiter Pluvius, however, drowned the war-visaged front of old Mars and cast a damp and watery gloom over the programme. The events that were chronicled were declared off principally because there were few to witness them.
When the clouds rolled by and the genial sun stuck his shining face between the forbidding masses, the heavens as well as the earth below felt the influence of his cheering presence. Way down town, bicycle suits were drawn from their hanging places, wheels which had been stowed away to enjoy a day of rest were ruthlessly wheeled from their dark corners and the road to Forest Park was dotted with men, women and children going, not to welcome particularly, but to inspect critically the flower of the United States army.
Behind the cottage, that Elysium of the thirsty, that haven of the sweltering beyond the bicycle sheds, far up in the grove where the umbrageous trees protect the lazy loungers, the bicycle corps had pitched their tents. Hundreds of cyclists sought this sylvan retreat. Hundreds of daintily shod feet pedaled the way for natty summer costumes and dainty exhibitions of the milliners art to this Mecca of wheelmen. As many hundreds of knee-breeched men accompanied their daintier companions.
Around the camp a thousand bloomered girls and perhaps twice as many men in the plain representations of the costumes of their prototypes, the courtiers of Louis XIV, stared with wide open eyes and asked with ill-concealed curiosity, “Where are they?”
“They” were about but unsuspected. Seven army tents made the camp which was the object, next to its occupants, of the redoubtable corps. These tents were such as the men who now wear G.A.R. buttons were wont thirty-five years ago to sleep under. No higher than an Esquimau’s ice palace, with the dividing poles that made sparse quarters do for two, these little white extrescences of the greensward amused and disappointed.
“Where are they?” impatiently demanded a pretty girl with yellow bloomers and a filmy blouse, as she adjusted her headgear and picked her dainty boots out of the yielding clay, into which their heels were fast sticking.
“Where are they?” echoed back the thousands who peered into the dog tents and anxiously awaited the appearance of a twenty-three-century cyclist.
“I’m one, sah,” said a stalwart fellow with a face as black as the forbidding clouds that were darkening the heavens.
Black Jack, for that was the name of the renowned wheelman of the 25th Regiment Bicycle Corps, was “one of them.” Black Jack had pushed his wheel through inches of snow in crossing the rocky divide, had pedaled with parched lips and gnawing stomach through the burning sands of Nebraska, and had experienced the pangs of hunger and the desire to wring a pullets neck even when passing through the nature blessed section of Missouri.
There wasn’t much for the curious to see at the camp. Of the twenty-one men who rode into St. Louis, nineteen were colored. Lieut. Moss and Dr. Ferguson [sic – that should be Kennedy] were the only white men. The only other man who started with the corps was a poor colored fellow who grew sick and was sent back much to his regret.
The wheels of the men who had ridden 2380 miles over mountain tops, across canyons, up hills and through dales; through the snows of the high altitudes and in the burning sands and murky roads of the most eastern states, rested like tired steeds. Against the patriarchal elms of the park forest these chained steeds of the new age of locomotion leaned, and hundreds gazed in admiration and inspected with the eye of experts the mechanism that the survived so long a journey.
The wheels were of the Spalding make. Each one carried besides its rider, who was a man of from 140 to 180 pounds sixty-two pounds of accoutrements. Across the back of each dusky rider was strung a gun that weighed 10 pounds. His cartridge belt weighed five more. Then he had his canteen dangling from his wheel, and his bayonet in its neat fitting scabbard. In the handle bar a blanket, half a shelter tent, tin cup, two tires and several extra parts were carried. In the triangular luggage box beneath each seat was carried the provender of the company.
The black wheelmen rode in file, with their white leader, Lieut. Moss, in the advance. The men were compelled to keep together because it was necessary that all should line up together for a meal. One man carried the baked beans, another the bacon, all of them carried beer, and so, so, so that the presence of the canteen was a necessary before the meal could be served. This kept white men and black as close together as brothers for thirty-eight long days.
Many of the visitors to Forest Park were greatly disappointed. Thousands of wheelmen came to pay their respects to the men who were making a test that may mean a revolution in army tactics. When they arrived they found that the only white officers had gone to Jefferson Barracks to spend the afternoon. About all they learned from the black negroes was that they had been hungry on the way, and were glad to get to St. Louis, or anywhere else, where they could get three square meals a day.
“It’s agin the rules to talk, boss,” said Black Jack, whose tongue had been loosened with 10c for “growler” money, “but the fact is that we didn’t get enough to eat on this here trip. Why, one day we rode five hours on one egg and a piece of bread. There were plenty of chickens on the way, but you know, the army regulations are very strict and we didn’t have any chance to get ‘em.” We had to cook our own food on the way, and the officers would have soon detected the odor, and an inquiry would have resulted. Many a time I have been tempted to stop at a farm house and beg for something to eat, but I was afeared to.
“But, now we’re happy,” said the stark member of the black corps. “We get three square meals a day, and the chances are that we many have to stay here three weeks.” As Black Jack enunciated the last words he smacked hip lips as if in appreciation of the provender already provided at the Forest Park camp and in anticipation of some more of the same kind.
One of the features of Sunday afternoon at the camp was the treating of the dusky riders to watermelon in the bicycle sheds. There is where the strong-limbed members of the army eat. About 3 o’clock five large juicy watermelons were brought out, and as if scenting the delicious treat from afar the bicycle troopers swarmed down from the big trees and in less than five minutes every seat was filled, and nineteen black hands were tearing holes in nineteen large red pieces of melon. Black Jack was the center of attraction, among the large throng that watched the typical Southern scene.
“We’d be a long time at Missoula before we’d get our faces in a thing like this,” shouted Black Jack, as he whirled the shining bayonet of his gun and placed his ivory teeth in the heart of a juicy quarter.
At least 500 people watched these colored men from the North as they performed one of the pleasant functions of their boyhood days in the South. It did them good to witness, their enjoyment, and there was more than one man in the party who remembered as he gazed the time when he put his teeth into the season’s first piece of the luscious fruit.
Today there will be a general reception from sun up to sun down, and this will be followed by a parade. The cyclists will assemble at 7 o’clock sharp and while the parade is in progress a concert will be given at the Cottage. Tomorrow there will be another general reception and between 7 and 8 o’clock an exhibition drill on the Y.M.C.A. play ground will be given.
- St. Louis Globe Democrat [St. Louis, MO], July 26, 1897
ACROSS THE CONTINENT.
THE SOLDIER WHEELMEN ARRIVE FROM FORT MISSOULA
Traversed 1,900 Miles in Forty-One Days.
THERE WERE ONLY THIRTY-SIX ACTUAL RIDING DAYS
Made a Daily Average of Over Fifty Miles.
ESCORTED FROM ST. CHARLES BY A “STAR” REPRESENTATIVE ON A WHEEL.
MET LATER BY A DELEGATION OF LOCAL BICYCLE RIDERS
Now in Camp at Forest Park—Programme to Be Carried Out in the Honor of Uncle Sam’s Men To-Day.
At sundown, yesterday, twenty-one weary, hungry and battered cyclists pushed their heavily laden wheels up the hill that leads to the cottage in Forest Park. When they reached the plat of ground just south of the well-known resort, their journey overland of almost 2,000 miles was completed. The most marvelous cycling trip in the history of the wheel and the most rapid military march on record was at an end.
These twenty-one tired wheelmen composed the cycle corps of the Twenty-fifth United States Infantry, and were under command of Lieut. Jos.[sic] A. Moss from Fort Missoula, Mont.
A representative of the St. Louis “Star” escorted them to the Forest Park camp, the last of a series of good, band and indifferent resting places which have been their lot since June 14, the day they started from Fort Missoula.
The “Star” wheelman met the command beyond St. Charles, at noon Saturday, and piloted the soldiers over bottom roads and railroad tracks and finally the St. Charles Rock road to their destination.
The men wore Uncle Sam’s uniforms, but, except on close inspection, that fact was past believing. Not a man in the command, barring Lieut. Moss and Surgeon Kennedy, but had holes and rents galore in his clothing. The once blue cotton shirts and brown canvas breeches and leggings were covered with patches, darns and seams, and still the mahogany skin of the colored privates shone through in many places.
Withal they were a most unmilitary lot in appearance. Although the rifles, belts of cartridges and formidable sword bayonets marked them as men of war, the rakish campaign hats, worn in every conceivable fashion over stern set countenances, which weeks of hardship have developed, gave them an air of fierce independence.
But they were a well-disciplined lot of men. When the camping ground was reached, Lieut. Moss gave the necessary commands, and, instantly, each man set to work to carry out his individual part of the camp making process. In an incredibly short space of time, wheels were unpacked and stacked two together, and seven little tents nestled beneath the tall oak trees. It was not a “city of white” by any means.
The tents were turned to brown by the exposure to the fierce heat of the sun’s rays, and the snows and rains of many days. Each tent accommodates three men, although only four feet high and 37x7 on the ground. While the tents were being put up, the odor of cooking viands was wafted to the tired men of war from the Cottage. It was delicious perfume to their nostrils for they had not eat since 4 o’clock that morning and 38 miles of muddy roads and railroad tracks had been covered in the intervening time.
There was no work for the cook last night. Charles Schweickardt, proprietor of the Cottage, is to feed the privates at their tents during their stay in St. Louis, for which all hands are heartily glad. While the great crowd of sightseers wondering and inquisitive stood about the dinner was served. When the men fell in at the mess call, their eyes were bright and their step elastic. They were weary _____________[ paper was dog-eared when microfilmed resulting in a section that doesn’t show - MH] All thought of the privations________________ and those to come on the back _________________ forgotten. That they ate ____________ goes without saying. Provisions that would do for three their number of ordinary men were consumed in short order.
After camp had been pitched Lieut. Moss and Surgeon Kennedy, the only other white man in the corps, retired to the Cottage, in charge of the reception committee headed by Mr. Henry V. Lucas. The soldiers recounted their tribulations and successes of the long trip to the citizen wheelmen, who were attentive and appreciative listeners, until a much later hour that the officers had been accustomed to remaining out of blankets.
Lt. Moss is highly pleased with the result of the trip, and not without reason. He is satisfied that the bicycle can be used to great advantage by armies.
In the 40 days which took it to Friday’s camp the corps covered 1, 892 miles. During that time five days were lost, which makes the average 53.2 miles for each 24 hours. This is a feat no cavalry or infantry in the world could perform, under the most favorable conditions. Lieut. Moss pointed with pride to their record. According to military statistics, his command traveled just three times as fast as an infantry regiment, and it would have taken a troop of cavalry four times as long to cover the distance.
It was the original intention of Lieut. Moss to reach St. Louis July 31. He calculated to average 50 miles a day at the utmost, although he was desirous of pushing on as rapidly as possible.
The men stood the trip very well. There is not one on the sick list, and only one man had to be sent back. He claimed to be too ill to go further when St. Joseph was reached, and was ordered back to Fort Missoula by rail. The greatest trouble experienced was in the “bad lands” of Nebraska, where the alkali water sickened every man in the corps. There were over two hundred miles of scorching sand, with the thermometer always at 110 or over. Water stations were far apart and when the fluid could be had it was worse than nothing.
Lieut. Moss was one of the first to succumb. When a habitable section, a “God’s country,” as the privates say, was reached again, the sick men speedily recovered. Heat also retarded progress greatly, and breakdowns of various kinds aided in delaying the corps.
Whether the return trip will be made by wheel Lieut. Moss is not sure. He is of the opinion that the corps will return to its regiment in the way in which it came here. The matter rests entirely with the Secretary of War, under whose instructions Lieut. Moss is acting. The Lieutenant’s orders were to organize a bicycle corps of twenty men from the regiment and march to St. Louis. The presumption is that, since the trip has proven entirely successful from a military point of view the War Department will order the corps back to Fort Missoula by wheel.
The only programme mapped out so far is for a parade and drill. This morning a reception will be held until 10 o’clock. At 10:30 a parade will form at the camp and start sharply at 11 o’clock from camp over the Cottage road, south to Clayton road, east to King’s highway, north to Lindell avenue, east to Grand avenue, south to West Pine, west to Spring avenue, north to Lindell and west to King’s highway, where the parade will disband.
The order of the parade will be as follows:
Squad of mounted police, Branch Guards, Lieut. Moss and the Twenty-fifth United States Infantry Bicycle Corps, the City Streets Committee, the Associated Cycling Corps and all other bicycle clubs that may appear: this followed by unattached riders who are cordially invited to participate in celebrating this great achievement of the wheel.
A reception will be held until 3 p.m. At 4 p.m. there will be a drill on the Y.M.C.A. play grounds at Forest Park.
Lieut. Moss and his men have come through all kinds of country and have experienced every climatic condition from freezing temperature and snowstorms in the Rocky Mountains to the sweltering heat of the sand hills in Nebraska.
Rain, mud, snow and sand have been cast in their lot for the past six weeks. As they neared the goal, high hopes were indulged in that the last few days would be easy going. The final march into St. Louis was especially looked forward to as a sort of triumphal parade over gravel boulevards, with the sun smiling down upon them and all the populace applauding.
A programme had been arranged by local wheelmen with this idea in view and Lieut. Moss was kept posted on the arrangements as they were made.
Rain spoiled it all, however. Yesterday, the last day on the road was one of the hardest during the entire trip.
According to Lieut. Moss’ schedule, he was to reach St. Charles, which is 22 miles from St. Louis, by wagon road, at 3 p.m. Saturday.
A representative of “The St. Louis Star,” on a wheel, was there to meet him. The only authoritative information to be had at that hour was to the effect that the corps had left Troy, 35 miles north, at noon, and would reach St. Charles at sundown. The heat became oppressive and the Lieutenant called a halt to recuperate the men shortly after leaving Troy.
At 5 o’clock the march was resumed and despite every effort to push the men along only ten miles had been covered when darkness overtook them. It was a black night and an impending storm decided Lieut. Moss to make camp, which was done midway between St. Peter and St. Paul [near modern-day O’Fallon?].
At 4 o’clock Saturday morning the reveille was sounded and breakfast prepared. The last rations were consumed.
However, St. Louis was only thirty-seven miles away and from the reports of the roads it was expected that Forest Park could be made by 10 o’clock. Surgeon Kennedy was sent ahead by wagon road with six men. The early morning hours were sultry and a great bank of black clouds that loomed up beyond where the Missouri River lay presaged rain. After getting fairly started the weather grew more threatening every moment and Surgeon Kennedy hustled his division along to get over the twelve miles of gumbo bottom road to be covered ahead of the downpour, which seemed imminent.
He had just reached the macadam pike which runs out three miles from St. Charles, when the storm broke. The water seemed to pour from the clouds, which had now spread over all the sky. No shelter was to be had. The men made such shirt as they could against the water with their tents.
On the side of the road they stood and sat and squatted, with the rain beating down upon their canvas coverings, waiting for the other division of the corps to show up. Hour after hour they fulfilled this task, but no soldiers appeared, down the road, which, soon after the rain began was converted into a sea of slimy, sticky black mud.
Finally, when the rain had abated somewhat Surgeon Kennedy pushed on to St. Charles. The men rode most of the way, and the citizens of that sleepy little town were amazed at the sight of the soldiers riding down the sloppy main street in a nonchalant manner, with the rain beating their faces and soaking their garments. The instructions were to await Lieut. Moss. The “Star” had in the mean time learned by wire that the lieutenant had reached St. Peters and proposed to stay there until after the rain and then ride the Wabash track to St. Charles.
This information was given Surgeon Kennedy, who marched his men to the depot. They arrived 11:15 o’clock and carried out orders by waiting.
At 11:30 an urchin, who had taken a position some yards from the station whence he could command a view of the track for some distance, ran frantically into the waiting room and shouted: “They’re coming!”
There was an exodus forthwith.
The soldiers were coming up the track, pushing their wheels over the clay mud ballast. The figure in the lead was slim and boyish in general appearance. He walked with a long, steady stride, despite his incumbrance [sic]. On closer approach his youth became more apparent. His answer to the first question showed his determined character. When in conversation with him there can be no doubt of his fitness for the undertaking in which he is engaged.
“I will go right on,” said he; “we will not stop here for dinner. I want to reach St. Louis as soon as possible.”
While journeying to the ferry, Lieut. Moss expressed himself as being glad to trip was nearly over. He was anxious to make the ride in the best time possible, and the nearness of the destination increased his determination. He and his men had walked ten miles that morning and with little or no sleep the night before, yet his vim and energy was not weakened in the least.
Considerable delay was occasioned by a broken front axle. No repairs could be made in St. Charles and after an hour spent in search of a suitable part the entire corps boarded the tiny steamboat commanded by William Abels.
The murky Missouri seemed the last barrier on the road to St. Louis. Fairy tales had been told the members of the corps about the level boulevard which would lead from the other bank to St. Louis. Lieut. Moss was soon undeceived about this matter.
From the quagmire which serves as a landing place on this side of the river, the corps plodded through mud ankle deep for a quarter of a mile to a spur of the Wabash road. It was impossible to ride over the ties, and so the walk was continued. The party was now composed of the Cycle Corps, the “Star” man and Messrs. Sachtleben, Chase and Sanderson.
Bumpety-bump over the ties the wheels went. One stop was made in the first mile to repair a pedal. At a place called Bonfils, where there is a 2x4 frame station building, the railroad was deserted for a stretch of black mud, called by courtesy, a road, which leads to the St. Charles rock road.
The line extended for a quarter of a mile along the track. Several men were straggling far behind, and seemed awfully tired. Just after beginning the tussle with the mud Lieut. Moss called a halt at a farm house for water. It looked then as though some of the men would never reach St. Louis that night. After drinking great quantities of water they sank down in the shade and stretched out to get what rest they could before the order to fall in.
The sun was blistering hot, and not a breath of air was stirring. Surgeon Kennedy’s clothing was soaked through with perspiration, and clung to his athletic figure like a robe on a water fountain nymph. He was used to such things and a little sweat did not bother him. “It’s healthy,” said he.
The further you go on this road the worse it gets but there is none other which leads to the paved thoroughfare. The mud held out for a mile when signs of macadam were visible. Another stop was made to rest the men. Canteens were tapped all around, and 15 minutes spent on the roadside. The road improved a bit, and in another quarter of a mile the St. Charles rock road was reached. It was not in good condition by any means, being rough and muddy, by turns.
Here a great surprise was in store for the civilian cyclists. The soldiers did not climb the hills. Lieut. Moss explained this by saying that the strain of pushing a bicycle loaded with sixty pounds up hills of the kind that abound in this vicinity was too great to be withstood for long. He had found by experience that better time could be made by walking the steep grades. But the way they walked was a caution.
Lieut. Moss rode in front always. As soon as the grade began to be manifested in his propulsive muscles he got off and started to walk at a fast steady pace. Every man in the command followed suit. At the top the Lieutenant would look back to see that all were up, then mount and go ahead. They did not ride fast down the hills either. The machines were kept under complete control always by back-pedaling in order to reduce the element of accident to the minimum.
Weariness became more apparent among the privates every mile. Frequent stops were made for rest and water, each of about fifteen minutes. The men were hungry as wolves, but being soldiers no complaint was made. They said little among themselves even. They stopped when their leader did and “fell in” again at his command.
Questions of all kinds were fired at the command when wagons were passed but they elicited no response, and caused no comment in the ranks.
St. Louis seemed a hundred miles away and at the top of every hill a dozen eyes would anxiously scan the southern horizon for signs of the city. When about ten miles had been ridden, one of the civilians discovered an old orchard. The fence was broken down and the ground overgrown with weeds. The trees, however, were laden with hard green apples, which to the colored troops looked like ripe pine apples. With the Lieutenant’s permission a raid was made. Several bushels of the cholera morbus producers were devoured in short order. It was then 4 o’clock, and not a man in the command tasted food for twelve hours. Hours fraught with work and worry. Perhaps that explains it.
As the ___________St. Louis diminished it would be supposed that the speed decreased but it did not. The game “plug” was kept up, and men who seemed on the verge of exhaustion at the beginning, although still apparently in that condition were still “grinding” along.
When the road had merged into Easton avenue and the houses increased in numbers along the route, considerable interest was taken in the strange company. People recognized who the soldiers were, ______________ were not feed occasionally.
At Offenstein’s Grove, near the seven mile house, the reception committee was met. Mr. Henry V. Lucas who has taken a great interest in the trip since its inception, grasped Lieut. Moss’ hand and shook it cordially. He welcomed the officer and his command to St. Louis. Handshaking and congratulations all around followed, and Mr. Lucas gave the Lieutenant the cheering news that everything was in readiness for the command at Forest Park. The privates were told that their supplies were only two miles distant. Then and not till then did this important branch of the army look upon the march as practically ended.
After a brief halt the march was resumed to Union avenue. The crowd of followers increased with every block, and when the park was reached there were enough wheelmen riding with the corps to form a regiment.
Lieut. Moss who graduated from West Point in 1894 has been working to demonstrate the utility of the bicycle for military purposes for two years. His trip with a corps through Yellowstone Park was preliminary to the one just completed. He has had several interviews with Gen. Nelson A. Miles, commander-in-chief of the United States Army, on the subject, and that official is now much impressed with the feasibility of the idea.
After receiving orders to make the trip some time was spent in training the men for the task. Some had to be taught to ride. On June 14 the corps started with 20 men in the ranks, in the midst of a heavy rain. Their route lay through the old Mullin’s Pass, in one of the big divides of the Rockies, 6,700 feet above sea level. They were a full day in the pass with the thermometer below freezing and two inches of snow on the ground. This was on the fourth day out.
Then the descent began and there was exciting coasting for many miles. After sixty miles of down grade, which extended beyond Helena, the second big divide was climbed and crossed between Bozeman and Livingston. The valley of the Yellowstone River was traversed below Billings and a cross-country trip ended at Fort Custer.
The Wyoming line was crossed near Parkman, and the Big Horn mountains were crossed between there and Sheridan. The Black Hills were also on the route.
The toughest ride on the trip was, according to all accounts of men and officers, Rumford, near the Nebraska line, and Pine Ridge, Neb. In that stretch an ascent of 1,000 feet was made in twelve miles. At the hamlet of Alliance, a little further, the sand hills, or “bad lands,” begin.
The first day out from Alliance Lieut. Moss was taken violently ill from the effects of alkali water. He sent the command on ahead and lay down on the road side, keeping one private with hi. With no shelter from the sun save such as he could provide with a blanket and a barb wire fence, the sick commander remained until an engine was flagged and took him back to Alliance. In the meantime the corps went on under Surgeon Kennedy, averaging thirty-five miles per day, riding the railroad track. Nine men fell out on the first day, overcome by the heat and alkali water. As fast as one caught up another would drop out. Lieut. Moss went ahead by rail and rejoined the company at Dunning, 200 miles from Alliance [closer to 150 miles- MH] and almost at the end of the sand.
At Broken Bow a day’s rest was taken to recuperate after the trials and hardships experience in the sand. Roads were comparatively good through Lincoln and to the Missouri line, which was crossed at Rulo. From St. Joseph to Louisiana, Mo., roads of all kinds were encountered. The best riding on the trip was from Louisiana to Eolia in Pike County.
The entire time out was forty-one days. The actual distance covered was 1,900 miles. Up to Friday night the daily average was 53.2 miles.
- St. Louis Star [St. Louis, MO], July 25, 1897
BICYCLES AND ARMY MANEUVERS
Trip from Fort Missoula Demonstrates
Their Value in Skirmishing
Lieut. Moss is Now Writing His Report to
Gen. Miles and It Is Believed that It Will
Be Favorable—The Time May Come
When Every Company Will
Have a Bicycle Corps
The trip of the 25th Regiment Bicycle Corps from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis has demonstrated the worth of the bicycle as a means of army maneuvering. Lieut. Moss, who was in charge of the party, is now writing his report of the journey to Gen. Miles. What that report will be, army etiquette prevents the Lieutenant from divulging in advance of the receipt at the war office of his conclusions. It is known, however, that Lieutenant Moss is more than satisfied with the result of the trip, and it is believed that he has made important recommendations.
When the journey was first proposed the army officials decided that if the corps made an average of fifty miles a day it would be a success. The distance actually covered was 52 2/3 miles a day. The roads traveled were in many places about as bad as could be imagined. Near Wild Horse Creek the mud was knee deep and fie horses were required to pull an ordinary load. Through this mud the men were compelled to wade and carry their bicycles. At another point the corps encountered a hail storm that broke all the windows in a track eight miles square and piled up the round icy bullets 8 feet deep in the gulleys. It was under such circumstances, without food thirty-six hours on a stretch, and without water for a forty-mile stretch, that the expectations of officials were more than realized. The slowest time made was before crossing the main divide of the Rocky Mountains, when rain and mud so cumbered the whelmen that they rode but nine miles in a day. The best day’s record was seventy-two miles, made between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., with a three hours rest at midday.
The purpose of the journey, as has been stated before, was to make an official test of the availability of the bicycle for army uses. Nearly all of the objections that have been urged against the silent steeds were found to be groundless. Not an hour’s delay was caused by punctured tires and although the men rode helter-skelter down rocky roads which ended in broken bridges, none of the wheels were incapacitated. One of the corps was a former employee of the Syracuse (N.Y.) Bicycle Company and at the end of each day’s journey he managed to repair wheels so that the progress of the journey was not impeded.
In the German and French armies bicycle corps have for several years been used in skirmishing duty. The roads in those countries, however, are smooth and hard. Conditions in the western part of the United States are very different, and it was for this reason that the test trip was made. The uses to which a bicycle corps could be put are various. For courier work they are admittedly better than horses, and they form even a more rapid means than animals for the rapid transportation of small bodies of troops. For taking possession of mountain passes and carrying troops to guard and hold bridges the bicycle can be made of invaluable assistance in army maneuvers. One of its advantages is that it is noiseless and leaves a track that does not tell which direction it is going. It requires no feed and all the riders are available for service, while with cavalry every fourth man must be spared to care for the horses.
The limit of the utility of the bicycle in warfare can hardly be imagined. A device has already been invented for attaching a gatling gun and a German inventor has devised a folding bicycle that can be carried about in a small space.
Lieut. Moss was busy yesterday writing his report to Gen. Miles. This will consist of a detailed statement of the experiences on the way, the hardships encountered and overcome, the miles covered daily and the hours devoted to rest. The character of the road traveled will also be minutely set forward. Lieut. Moss has not hesitated to say that he thought the trip a success, and that he believed the bicycle would eventually be introduced in the army. While he will not say so it is believed that such will be the nature of the report he makes.
The bicycle corps is a pet idea of Gen. Miles and these two facts have caused a general belief that Uncle Sam will follow the example of Germany and France.
“I don’t know how soon it will come,” said an army officer yesterday, “ but I’m confident that it will not be long until every company in the United States army will have a bicycle corps of from ten to twenty men.”
The experimental trip which has just ended was a sort of joint undertaking. The Spaulding Cycle Company of Chicago, furnished the wheels and the government the men and rations.
E.H. Boos the young editor from the “Missoulian”, published at Missoula, Mont., accompanied the corps on its long journey. He and Lieut. Moss expect to collaborate on an article, giving the details of the journey, impresions of the future of army bicycle service and other pertinent topics of an Eastern magazine.
The dusky riders went through drills this morning at the Y.M.C.A. grounds at Forest Park executing a number of complicated maneuvers. Last night at 7 o’clock the corps gave an exhibition drill which was followed by a parade from the Cottage to the Clayton road to King’s highway, down King’s highway to Lindell avenue, thence to Grand avenue, thence on Grand avenue to West Pine, out to Spring, then back to Lindell and the park. The army corps was escorted by 300 local wheelmen and followed by a long line of members of the Associated Cycling Club.
- St. Louis Globe-Democrat [St. Louis, MO], July 27, 1897