On a crisp Missoula morning, in 1897, 22 soldiers set off on a grueling 41-day, 1900 mile trek across the mid-western United States from Montana to Missouri. It would be the first and only US Bicycle Army Corp. The 25th Army Infantry were tasked to see if bicycles could be a military alternative to horses. The main unspoken troop leader of the all African-American troop was Sergeant Mingo Sanders. The oldest and most experienced of the group – Mingo was described as the main motivator and spiritual adviser for the infantry. The “Buffalo Soldiers’ as they were nicknamed, slogged through incredibly poor road conditions carrying 60 pounds each on their backs and were met with hailstorms, mudslides, and huge mountains they had to carry the bikes up. In spite of these harsh conditions the infantry averaged 55 miles per day and arrived in St. Louis on July 24th to a parade and a crowd of 10,000 people. In spite of their successful trek, bicycles would never be adopted officially by the military.
As for Sanders, he led a distinguished life-time career in the military – only to be dishonorably discharged 3 months before retirement by the man he helped to rescue from a battle, and then assist to win the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898. That man was President Teddy Roosevelt. The entire infantry was dishonarably discharged by the administration due to an accusation that they had been involved in a murder in Brownsville Texas of a white bartender, in spite of the facts to the contrary. This controversy would spark a group called the Niagara Movement, which would later lead the the formation of the NAACP. 70 years later Mingo and his troop members would be honorably reinstated by President Nixon.
We so admired this story that we wanted to remember this forgotten man and his rightful place in African-American history AND bicycle history! We named our mountain style bike after Sgt. Mingo because we know this bike, like the Sgt. and his troop, can get through the toughest of urban or rural journey’s you decide to take.
For a fabulous story of the journey of the Bicycle Infantry you can watch the documentary HERE.