ODAAT: 
one day at a time…

Welcome to the latest edition of ODAAT: one day at a time…
Friday, 13 August 2004

Rough Ride, But It Beat Walking!
CREDIT: © Northern Rockies Heritage Center/NRHC.org
WHERE: Missoula, Montana, USA. WHAT: buffalo soldiers bicycle corps.
MAP: Missoula. Thumbnail pops-up source web page.

Buffalo Soldiers Bicycle Corps © Northern Rockies Heritage CenterIn 1866 an act of Congress created six exclusively African American army units. Their soubriquet buffalo soldiers comes from a respectful 1867 Cheyenne nickname, meaning 'wild buffalo'. Consistent with the social milieu of the day, the buffalo soldiers drew some harsh postings. One unit, the 25th Infantry, did get to go bicycle touring, however. That is not a sardonic turn of phrase: twenty participants were selected from forty volunteers, five veterans of previous rides.

There were downsides: lack of paved roads, and sometimes no roads at all; heavy bicycles weighed down with rations, equipment, or supplies; and no sag wagon. In 1897 from 14 June to 24 July, commanded by Lt. James A. Moss, they cycled 1,900 miles from their Fort Missoula, Montana, base to St. Louis, Missouri. Given the equipment and conditions, an average of fifty six miles per day, for each of the thirty four days spent on the 'road', seems an amazing achievement. The return journey was by train, which must have been something of a relief.

There are several web resources covering the men and their journey: the resources we thought excelled were NRHC.org for the picture featured here, and the detailed article by Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer, written for American History magazine. Some of the accounts are at odds with themselves and one another, but Schmitzer seemed consistent and coherent. The facts given are from the 'Wheels of War' article.

  
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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)