The Bicycle Corps: America’s Black Army on Wheels

2008 DECEMBER 28
tags: photo, video
by jalexartis

In 1897, the U.S. Army theorized that the newly developed “safety” bicycle could replace the horse as a means of troop transport. As a result, the 25th Infantry established a Bicycle Corps to test the overall practicality of military cycling.

Twenty African-American soldiers put their bicycles, their bodies, and the Army’s theory to the test with a 2000-mile ride from Montana to St. Louis, Missouri. The Bicycle Corps: American’s Black Army on Wheels chronicles their journey through the eyes of two of the soldiers: the white Lieutenant in command and the Black sergeant who guided and motivated the men.

The Bicycle Corps
Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com
There are reasons military bicycling never caught on, and this PBS documentary delineates them all. On the theory that bicycles were more efficient than horses (tires don’t need food, water, or rest), the U.S. Army sent the 25th Infantry on a 1,900-mile ride from Missoula, Montana, to St. Louis in 1897. This 56-minute video details that ride thanks to the excellent documentation left by unit commander Lt. James Moss, newspaper articles by a ride-along reporter, and numerous photographs of the journey. The fact that the Montana-based battalion happened to be black except for the two officers appears to be coincidental, but the interest shown by the various African American historians, authors, and curators who weigh in on the trip is not. After the failed experiment, some of the soldiers went overseas to fight, doubtless well prepared by biking through mud, rivers, sandstorms, cactus fields, and all-white communities. –Kimberly Heinrichs
Product Description
The Bicycle Corps tells the story of the 25th Infantry’s bicycle trip from Missoula, Montana, to St. Louis, Missouri in 1897. The African American infantry took the trip to test a theory that the bicycle would replace the horse in transporting men for the army. With archival film, photographs and interviews with historians, this program also examines the life of the African American soldier at the turn of the century, in particular First Sergeant Mingo Sanders, the main motivator of the enlisted men.

from → cycling, cyclist, history

5 Responses leave one →
2008 DECEMBER 26
jalexartis PERMALINK
It is interesting what one can learn though a bit of research. Although I am aware and have done some reading regarding the black contribution to the Army as Buffalo Soldiers and know of the 25th Infantry, I did not know of the Bicycle Corps. I’ll have to see the PBS Video.

Google hits using the title to search:

REPLY
2009 APRIL 8
M Higgins PERMALINK
Thought you might enjoy a blog I’m putting together. It has a lot of primary source information about the 25th Bicycle Corps. Try my blog if you’d like to dig a little deeper in your knowledge of these riders.

REPLY
2009 APRIL 9
jalexartis PERMALINK
Wow man! I really appreciate you coming over and giving me [us] the opportunity to visit your blog and study the research you have done. Thanks! I modified you comment to embed the link and I have posted information in my blog so my readers can pay you a visit. Thanks again! –jim artis

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