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The Rockpile Museum recognizes 125th anniversary of Buffalo Soldiers crossing the Powder River Basin

The Campbell County Rockpile Museum commemorated the 125th anniversary of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Regiment’s Bicycle Corps crossing the Powder River Basin from Fort Missoula, Mont. to St. Louis, Mo., their next duty station.

More popularly known as the Buffalo soldiers, the 25th Infantry Regiment was comprised of African American troops. There were initially six regiments, said Stephan Zacharias, the Rockpile Museum Educator. ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ was a nickname that Native Americans who fought in the Indian Wars gave to the black troops.

“They were stationed in Texas, in Fort Snelling in Minnesota, and then throughout the Powder River Basin from just outside Fort Missoula, Mont. all the way to Fort Meade over in Sturgis [South Dakota] and pretty much all parts in between,” said Zacharias.

Created in 1866 following the Civil War, theBuffalo soldiers were added to the army’s ranks to bolster its force. The regiment fought in several wars during its existence, including the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and World War II before being deactivated in the late 1950s.

“This regiment would appear in the annual Emancipation Day Parades, Balls, and Celebrations from Sheridan, Wyoming to Deadwood, South Dakota,” read the description of the museum’s event.

Soldiers traveled through the Powder River Basin on specially designedbicycles, even though faster transportations alternatives, such as railroads existed. Zacharias said this was done not only to prove that traveling this distance could be accomplished, but so that they could drill and practice different formations, including with their bicycles, at points along their journey. Existing roadways were few and the ones that did exist were often primitive for the soldiers to ride on. Zacharias said they would use stagecoach trails and even the right-of-way of the railroad to function as roadways.

The museum was able to have Erick Cedeno, also known as theBicycle Nomad, to speak. Cedeno is retracing the soldiers’ route from Montana to Missouri. He began on Jun. 14 at 5:40 a.m., the same day and time the 25th Infantry Regiment left Fort Missoula.

Buffalo Soldiers served at other points in Wyoming’s early history, having also participated in the Johnson County War. But the 25th Infantry didn’t see a whole lot of fighting on the front lines during their time in the West.

“The 25th Infantry [Regiment] was here for a long time, but a lot of their tasks were to escort stagecoaches and wagon parties, to provide basically a security force,” Zacharias said.

The Rockpile Museum currently offers a slideshow on a touchscreen in addition to newspaper articles from the era detailing the regiment’s journey through the Powder River Basin from Jun. 23 to Jul. 2, 1897.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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