16 July 1997

Day 33 - Table Rock, NE to Napier, MO


Distance travelled: 63Winds: slightly head
Grades: Up and down
Weather: fair
Condition of roads: fair
Delays: Bicycles –o/ Tires – 0/ Lunch – 3h/Other – 1h
Actual travel time: 10h 45m
Rate per hour: 6.1- Lt. J.A. Moss Report to the Adjutant Synopsis of the Trip

Places & times mentioned: Table Rock [departure 5 a.m.]; Humboldt [8 a.m.]; Verdon [10:30 a.m.]; Salem; Falls City; Rulo [ferried across Missouri at 6:30 p.m.

The bicycle corps of Uncle Sam’s regulars, who are riding from Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis, on bicycles camped on the old camp meeting grounds east of town last night. The corps consists of twenty colored soldiers, under command of Second Lieutenant James A Moss. Surgeon J. M. Kennedy and Edward H Boos, a reporter for the St. Louis Globe Democrat, are accompanying the corps. They arrived in town about 8:30 o’clock and rode immediately to their camping ground. The wheels were all of the same make but eight different kinds of tires and both wood and steel rims are used. All chains are enclosed in oilcloth gear cases. Extra rims were carried ready for use in case of emergency. Other parts and repairs are distributed among the men. Each wheel weighs thirty-one pounds. Including gun, cartridges, canteen, parts of tents and disjointed ten poles and all equipments, each wheel weighs seventy pounds. This weight varies with the kind of rations carried, uncooked being heavier than cooked rations. The various articles are attached to every possible part of the wheels. The object of the trip is to test the practicability of the wheel for army purposes. They make an average of fifty miles a day. Out in Montana, during a heavy storm the boys only made nine miles one day, walking through mud almost knee deep. The corps left at 5 o’clock this morning and will reach Rulo today, and keep down the north bank of the river to St. Louis.

- Table Rock Argus [Table Rock, NE] July 17, 1897

[The Table Rock reporter appears to have lifted much of his story from the July 15 story which appeared in the Nebraska State Journal]


Bicycle Warriors

The bicycle corps of regular army soldiers arrived in Humboldt this morning about eight o’clock but went on through to Verdon their next stopping place. The corps consisted of twenty colored soldiers from several companies of infantry stationed at Ft. Missoula, Montana under command of Second Lieutenant James A. Moss, Twenty-fifth regiment. Surgeon J.M. Kennedy and Edward H. Boos, a young newspaper man, are members of the corps.

Two members of the company stopped in this city at the Filson house and procured refreshments while the main body pushed on. Their presence attracted quite a crowd which spent the time while they were eating in careful examination of their wheels and a general discussion of bicycles in general. One gentleman of this city would have the crowd understand that he was a walking encyclopedia when it came to bicycles and clearly remembered when the safety [safety bicycle] was used over thirty years ago. This made the ears stand out on some of the boys who were some “huckleberries” themselves on bicycles, but the tone carried conviction that the “safety” bicycle had been in use over a decade.

The wheels used were all of the same make, but eight different kinds of tires and both wood and steel rims are used. All chains are enclosed in oilcloth gear cases. Extra rims were carried ready for use in case of emergency. Other parts and repairs are distributed among the men. Each wheel weighs thirty-one pounds. Including gun, cartidges, canteen, parts of tents and disjointed tent poles and all equipments, each wheel weighs seventy pounds. This weight varies with the kind of rations carried, uncooked being heavier than cooked rations. The various articles are attached to every possible part of the wheels.

The soldiers are not gaudy in uniform. They wear blue cotton shirts, brown canvas trousers and leggings. Their hats are the white felt slouch of cavalrymen. Blue jackets are rolled up on the handlebars.

The Corps is on the way to St. Louis. The start was made one month ago Wednesday and the destination will probably be reached July 25. So far the average distance covered each day is fifty miles. The greatest distance made in one day was seventy miles and the lowest was nine miles. The nine mile trip was made in Montana during a heavy rain in gumbo mud. The men had to walk slowly and stop every few moments to dig the mud off their wheels. In the worst of the sand hill country in Nebraska they made thirty-eight miles a day. The men have not been pushed so that its impossible to tell how far they can go in a day. Nearly all are men who have had considerable experience in wheeling. One man, however, had never ridden a wheel until two days before the start. He is now one of the best in the party. The experienced wheelmen keep up a little better, but so far the inexperienced men have kept pace with the others.

The object of the trip is to test the practibility of the wheel for army service. Lieutenant Moss has had a corps in command for several months and some long trips have been made. At the fort he drills the men on their wheels. He has a drill suitable for movements on the bicycle, but the drill has not yet been made official by the war department. A part of the exercise is fence jumping. The speed with which men can ride at a fence, come to a stop and lift seventy pounds over the obstruction and then start again, is said to be equal to tests made by cavalrymen. No drills are given on the road, but exhibitions will be given every day after St. Louis is reached.

The men take the railroad track in country where roads are bad. They ride in single file. Every other man carries a tent. The others carry an equal weight in blankets or other equipments. Some carry big frying pans which are made in the shape of frame satchels, two locking together, fastened in the frame of the wheel. Two men carry big camp cans in which coffee is made. The reporter carries a flag and a camera. He also rode a different make of wheel [a Sterling – MH]. Rations are sent by the war department to stations along the way and the men call for the packages. The route is mapped out in advance and once determined on is not changed because of shipment of rations. The regular rations are issued, no extras being allowed.

The corps will cross the Missouri river at Rulo which was their destination on leaving this city. They will follow along the north bank of the Missouri river as closely as possible until the reach St. Louis.

- The Humboldt Leader [Humboldt, NE] Friday, July 16, 1897

[This article seems to be copied in parts from an article which appeared in the Nebraska State Journal on July 15. I wonder if Boos supplied many of the details over the wire. The Filson house where two of the men (I’m guessing Boos and Kennedy) “procured refreshments” was quite possibly a saloon. The June 5, 1897 edition of the Humboldt Standard (Humboldt had two newspapers!) tells us: T.T. FESSLER HOTEL

Came to this city on the first of April, 1896, and started a boarding house. His trade increased so rapidly that he found it necessary to seek larger quarters. He is now located in the old Filson house, has made it an up-to-date house and is able to accommodate a large number with board and rooms.]


Twenty-two colored soldiers together with the officer in command and an associated press reporter, both white men, passed through this place on bicycles last Friday. The detachment is on its way from Fort Missoula, Montana to St. Louis. The trip was undertaken to test the bicycles for transferring soldiers from one post to another. Nearly all of them arrived here about 10:30 o’clock and rested until after eleven o’clock when they continued on their way. The rest of the men were pretty badley [sic] scattered out, the last one, who was quite sick, not arriving until evening. They have been on the road a little over a month and expect to reach St. Louis by August 1st.

- The Verdon Vedette [Verdon, NE] July 23, 1897


click on the image to see a larger view

[The Falls City Journal has an etching of six of the soldiers on their bicycles. Strangely, there is no article anywhere in this issue to explain the picture—only a captain “Uncle Sam’s Bicycle Cavalry” above the piece]

- Falls City Journal [Falls City, NE] Friday, July 23, 1897

The twenty-one colored soldiers that started from Ft. Missoula, Montana, on June 15, under command of Second Lieutenant James Moss, of the Twenty-fifth regiment, Surgeon J. M. Kennedy and Edward H. Boos, a young newspaper man, crossed the Missouri river on Ferryman Graham’s boat here at different intervals between 4 o’clock last Friday afternoon and 12 o’clock Sunday forenoon. None of them stopped here any length of time, as they desire and expect to reach St. Louis, Mo., their designation [sic], by July 25. They are mounted on bicycles weighing only thirty-one pounds. The men wear blue cotton shirts, brown canvas trousers with leggings and wear the regulation white slouch hats. Their blue jackets, parts of tents and disjointed tent poles, blankets, water canteens, cooking utensils etc., are strapped to the machines making them weigh on an average of seventy pounds each. They are all of one make, but eight different kinds of tires and both wood and steel rims are used. A distance of a little over 1500 miles had been reeled off when they got here, the average distance covered being fifty miles per day. Seventy miles was the greatest distance they had traveled in any one day and nine miles the least. Out in the sand hill part of Nebraska they report having gone on an average of thirty-eight miles per day. The object of the trip is to test the practibility [sic] of the wheel for army use. Despite the hot weather all had enjoyed good health until they reached Salem [S of Verdon and W of Falls City] where some had to lay over on account of being afflicted with cramps, which accounts for the straggling way in which they passed Rulo

- The Rulo Reporter [Rulo, NE] July 23, 1897

Rulo Bridge, 1890 - http://bridgehunter.com/category/location/ne/
This bridge is shown in the sketch at the top of the post.

“Finally, about 6:30 pm, July 16, we were ferried across the Missouri River at Rulo, Neb. , and landed on Missouri soil with a we’re-on-the-last heat feeling. Camp was made that night at Napier, where we drew a fresh supply of rations. The corps followed the river bottom for a number of miles and then started “across the country” – across the land of corn. Morning, noon and evening we were riding surrounded by the waving corn fields of historic Missouri.”
- Lt. Moss, Los Angeles Times The Army A-Wheel Nov. 21, 1897

“The Bicycle Corps Get to the Mound City Yesterday, July 16”
- Headline for The Daily Missoulian July 17, 1897

[They got to Napier, MO which is very close to Mound City, MO according to Moss's report]

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