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8. The Rough Riders


Oh but we have had a bully fight! - Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt arrived at a training camp in San Antonio, Texas wearing a Brooks Brother’s blue Cravenette cavalry uniform with twelve pairs of glasses tucked in his hat.1

His white teeth, little eye glasses on a ribbon, Harvard accent and raucous laugh were comical. One trooper called him the “banty rooster with the funny eyeglasses.”2 “He looks as though he was there with the goods, only I don’t like the way he skins his teeth back when he talks to a fellow,” another said.3 Lieutenant Tom Hall said prophetically, “He is nervous, energetic, virile. He may wear out someday, but he will never rust out.”4

His friendliness and enthusiasm won them over. They all came to like, even love, Theodore Roosevelt.

General William Rufus Shafter, described as “beastly obese”,5 was a Civil War veteran in charge of the Fifth Army Corps. Shafter weighed 300 pounds, had a foul temper and suffered from gout.6 He was to organize and command the Cuban invasion force. Three regiments were to be composed of frontiersmen. Wood was named Colonel and headed up the First U.S. Regiment of Volunteer Cavalry. Three hundred and forty men came from New Mexico, 170 from Arizona, 80 from Oklahoma and 170 from the Indian Territory. Congressman Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler was an elf-like man with a white beard who was described as “game and fearless”. He had been a major general in the Confederate army. McKinley offered him command of the Calvary in Shafter’s Fifth Corps and the major generalcy.7

While pursuing the Spanish, he’d momentarily forget what war he was in and yell, “Come on, boys, we got the damn Yankees on the run!”8 “A regular gamecock,” said Roosevelt.

Brigadier Generals J. Ford Kent and Henry Lawton would command infantry divisions. Seventeen thousand men would embark for Cuba.9 His job, as T.R. saw it, was “to make [the men] ready for action in the shortest possible time.” He wanted to instill in each man “a keen pride of the regiment, and a resolute purpose to do his whole duty uncomplainingly, and above all, to win glory by the way he handled himself in battle.”10 He wanted them to see fighting and be with the “first expedition that left the United States; for we could not tell how long the war would last.”11

“I don’t think that there ever was a more interesting regiment than this, and I am quite sure that there is not in all the world a regiment to which I would so soon belong,” he told Bamie.12 “In their slouch hats, blue flannel shirts, brown trousers, leggings and boots, with handkerchiefs knotted loosely around their necks they looked exactly as a body of cavalry should look,” T.R. wrote in his book, The Rough Riders.

The men had in them the “right stuff” (Theodore’s expression). The great majority were Southwesterners, hardy, good with firearms and self-reliant. “Cool” he called them. They could shoot, ride, march, obey and act on their own. He, himself, had been three years in the National Guard and had become a captain. 13 Each Rough Rider was a unique character. One was a 37-year- old sheriff from New Mexico, a descendant of the Conquistadors.14 There were cowboys from Arizona, full and mixed breed Indians, and fifty or so well-to-do Ivy Leaguers. Bucky O’Neil from Arizona, the Captain of Troop A, was a famous sheriff and the mayor of Prescott. He was described by Roosevelt as “a born leader of men”, a “wild, reckless fellow, soft-spoken, and of dauntless courage and boundless ambition,” a man who was “staunchly loyal”, and “cared for his men in every way.” Captain Llewellen of New Mexico was a noted peace officer. Lieutenant Ballard “had broken up the Black Jack gang.” There was Major Alexander Brodie from Arizona “whose men worshipped him and would follow him anywhere.” Michah Jenkins was the captain of Troop K, who in action “was a perfect gamecock and he won his majority for gallantry in action.” Allyn Capron was “on the whole, the best soldier in the regiment.” He was “tall and lithe, a remarkable boxer and walker, a first-class rider and shot, with yellow hair and piercing blue eyes.”15

There was Pollock, a full-blooded Pawnee who asked the barber, “Do you cut hair?” When the barber answered yes, he said, “then you’d better cut mine. Don’t want to wear my hair long like a wild Indian when I’m in civilized warfare.”16 Another soldier, a half-breed Cherokee, explained he had to fight because “his people had always fought when there was a war, and he could not feel happy to stay at home when the flag was going into battle.”17

Captain Maximillan Luna from New Mexico “was the only man of pure Spanish blood who bore a commission in the army, and he demanded the privilege of proving that his people were precisely as loyal Americans as any others.” His family lived on the banks of the Rio Grande before Roosevelt’s forefathers came to the mouth of the Hudson.18

The Texas Rangers who joined up were “splendid shots, horsemen, and trailers. They were accustomed to living in the open, to enduring great fatigue and hardship, and to encountering all kinds of danger.” “Benjamin Franklin Daniels, once Marshall of Dodge City who had lost half of one ear--’bitten off,’ was a tower of strength to the recruits in his part of the line.” There was little McGinty whose “short legs caused him much trouble on the marches, but we had no braver or better man in the fights.”19 There were the Buffalo Soldiers, black men who fought as bravely as any of them.

After all the fighting had taken place, Roosevelt wrote:

I can hardly say how proud I am of this regiment. It is so typically American! It is just the ideal body for me to lead; and the men are devoted to me, and in the field I can lead and handle them as I think no other man could. Easterners and Westerners alike do even more than their duty. The New Yorkers, Kane, Tiffany and Bull and the rest, have turned out particularly well.20

All--easterners and westerners, northerners and southerners, officers and men, cowboys and college graduates, wherever they came from and whatever their social position--possessed in common the traits of hardihood and a thirst for adventure. They were to a man born adventurers, in the old sense of the word.21

There were Crocketts, Adamses, a Hamilton and a Jackson. “The line between past and present seems to have blurred,” wrote T.R.’s biographer Edmund Morris. “More than ever, I fail to get the relations of this regiment and the universe straight,” wrote Roosevelt.22

Epiphany
I think it would be wise to pause here and consider Roosevelt’s spiritual orientation because it affected so much of what he did later.

In 1913 Theodore Roosevelt said William James was a “profound and lofty” thinker who was “thoroughly scientific...steeped in the teachings of material science,” yet who let nothing stand in his way of his search for truth.23 Roosevelt had a lot of respect for James and recommended the reading of The Varieties of Religious Experience.

The Varieties of Religious Experience gives many examples of religious or mystical experiences, explains that these experiences lead to sanctity and then step-by-step explains how sanctity expresses itself in different people. For example, the person may become self-sacrificing or find it possible to be more gentle or more tactful than was possible before. The person might also be driven to put aside material comforts to a great degree or be willing and anxious to take on unnecessary suffering.

The mystical experience makes the person see that there is a God, helps him to understand his purpose in life and usually starts him along a path towards sanctity or sainthood. This is what I believe happened to Theodore Roosevelt. Certainly he was deserving of this happening to him. He had been working on self-improvement for years. At one time he lived to please his father. Now he lived to please God, a father-like figure who was at least as kind and loving as his earthly father had been. People who have suffered and then worked, perhaps for years, on self-improvement are the type of people who have a mystical experience. It is a very common thing according to William James, who gives example after example of it in his book.

Theodore’s strong feeling for his Rough Riders as expressed in his book about the war leads me to believe the life-changing experience happened then. The reason I say he must have had such an experience is because it is the only thing that can explain in my mind how he became such an extraordinary President. Without the experience he could have become a competent President, but he was far, far better than competent.

He once said that “beyond the material world lies a vast series of phenomena which all material knowledge is powerless to explain.” He also, in the same lecture, quoted a philosopher who talked of a “new dimension of our environment” which “hangs over our particular physical surroundings” into which we may at any time “be plunged.”24 I think he was “plunged” into this spiritual dimension when he came to see that there is something that unites all of us, unique though we may be. He rejoiced in the uniqueness of each rough rider, yet saw something, their courage and spirit, uniting them.

I think he experienced an “epiphany” while training the Rough Riders, the group of men that contained half-breeds, Indians, Negroes, marshals, Texas rangers, bear hunters, Ivy Leaguers, a Crockett, and an Adams.

This seems to be the point at which Roosevelt experienced a sudden realization that all these people of mixed ancestry, people who didn’t have his pedigree (and even some who did - The Harvard contingent) - all these people suddenly seemed beautiful to him. They were wonderful and unique. Their pedigree didn’t matter. He now knew for sure that the mixed blood of Americans is one of our strengths. For the rest of his life he pointed proudly to the many nationalities that converged in him - French, Scottish, Irish, English, Dutch. He was an American, too, and he wanted everybody to know that he had mixed blood. What country your ancestors came from didn’t matter. You were an American now and don’t let him hear you call yourself an Irish-American or a German-American. Get rid of those hyphens! You are an American.

Some people are given such a gift - a clarity of vision to see virtues that unite all people. At this point Roosevelt was focusing only on Americans, the beautiful variety of peoples that make up the American “race.”

Theodore Roosevelt proved himself an excellent leader of soldiers in this War. As a boy he had trained himself in the natural sciences. In doing that, he had trained his memory for little differences in the coloration of birds. That converted over to an ability to remember names and faces and incidents which would have been impossible for the rest of us to remember. His interest in nature led to his certainty that our natural resources should be protected. His job as Police Commissioner trained him to cooperate with the press and to deal with all sorts of people. And on, and on, and on. He was very soon to be ready to be President of the United States.

Theodore was never the same after the Spanish American War. He had always been a good man. He had always, as William James wrote, acted as if:

We can act as if there were a God; feel as if we were free; consider Nature as if she were full of special designs; lay plans as if we were to be immortal; and we find then that these words do make a genuine difference in our moral life.25

When he saw during this experience that we were all one, he saw that what one does affects the others. If he does good, it does the others good. If he does bad, it affects the others badly. He wanted to be on the side of the good, as anyone does who has had a mystical experience. He was ready to work for God, to do God’s will whatever that may be. He knew he would recognize it, the will of God, when it came. God would be asking something of him soon. As William
James wrote:

The universe...takes a turn genuinely for the worse or for the better in proportion as each one of us fulfills or evades God’s demands.26

Although it probably wasn’t apparent to others, Theodore had changed.

He would never again make such a self-serving statement to a lobbyist as “I would like to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy” or “I wonder if they have good Civil Service Commissioners (hint).” His attitude now would be (and he said words like this more than once): “I am an instrument for the betterment of the American people. Whatever helps the people, whatever office the people need me to perform, that I will perform. I won’t base my acceptance of a job on how much it pays or how important it makes me look. I am here to be used, and then thrown away when I am used up.”

From now on, he would spend more time with his children. He would play with them every day and with their little cousins. He would cherish his home, Sagamore Hill. He began now to work for the benefit of the common American worker. This idea had been growing in his subconscious for a long time. As William James wrote in The Varieties of Religious Experience, “the process of preparation and incubation [had] proceeded far enough. It is like the proverbial last straw added to the camel’s burden.” His mind was thrown “into a new state of equilibrium.” His mystical experience was the result of “subconscious incubation and maturing of motives deposited by the experiences of life. When ripe, the results hatch out, or burst into flower.”27

A great man once said, “War and prison are the two ways a man can find his true self.” Theodore was now in contact with his true self.

Happiness and spirituality flowed from him. Goodness radiated out from him. Almost everybody could feel it. He wanted to give his life for his country in this war and for the world in a later war, in which, sadly, he was not allowed to fight.

The happiness people found in Theodore came from:
1. The certainty that there was a God.
2. That Theodore himself was on God’s side and would be useful to God
3. “The joy,” as William James said, “which may result in extreme cases from absolute self-surrender.”28

Knowing that he was on the side of the right, Theodore had gained tremendous self-confidence.

As William James said about the results of conversion:

What is attained is often an altogether new level of spiritual vitality, a relatively heroic level, in which impossible things have become possible, and new energies and endurances are shown. The personality is changed the man is born anew, whether or not his psychological idiosyncrasies are what give the particular shape to his metamorphosis.29

Tampa
On May 23 Wood received a telegram from the War Department inquiring when the regiment would be ready to leave for Tampa. “AT ONCE,” Wood replied. On May 27 they received official orders to leave.30

They took the Southern Pacific Railroad cars to Tampa. Along the way people offered them flowers, watermelons and other fruits, jugs and pails of milk.31 Southern Belles sometimes offered their addresses. Confederate flags waved alongside the stars and stripes. “The blood of the old men stirred to the distant breath of battle, the blood of the young men leaped hot with eager desire to accompany us,” Roosevelt wrote.32

The transport ships had to remain in Tampa Bay for a week. Finally they were notified that it was safe to proceed; whereupon Roosevelt entertained everyone with his war dance. Waving his hat and hand on hip, he danced a jig and sang:

Shout hurrah for Erin-go-Bragh,
And all the Yankee nation!33

Richard Harding Davis said, “We are just like amateurs at war. This is the first great expedition our country has ever sent overseas and marks the commencement of a new era in our relations with the world.”34

Daquiri
Daiquiri, a town eighteen miles east of Santiago, was the best place to debark. It had a road that went to Siboney and then turned towards Santiago.35 General Shafter planned to go seven miles to Siboney and, after capturing Siboney, twelve miles North to Santiago.36

The landing was rough because of the high surf. Horses were lowered by slings into the water to swim ashore. Some swam the other way and were drowned. Theodore Roosevelt “snorted like a bull” and ”split the air with one blasphemy after another.” “Stop that god damned animal torture,” a cameraman heard him yell.37 One of Roosevelt’s horses drowned. The other, Little Texas, made it to shore. By late afternoon all the men and provisions were ashore.38 Roosevelt was left with only his yellow mackintosh and his twelve pairs of glasses. If he was to be killed in battle, he intended to be able to see death clearly.39

The objective was the town of Santiago, fifteen miles North West of Daiquiri. General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler commanded the mostly unmounted cavalry division that included the Rough Riders. They marched towards Siboney in clothes wet with sweat and rain. Besides the Spaniards, they faced malaria and yellow fever, the famous “yellowjack”, a killer whose symptoms included chills, raging temperatures, swollen joints, headaches and delirium.40

Las Guasimas
The enemy was 1,500 feet north on the road out of Siboney, toward Santiago, at a place called Las Guasimas.41

Richard Harding Davis said, “Guasimas is not a village, nor even a collection of houses; it is a meeting place of two trails which join at the apex of a V, three miles from the seaport town of Siboney, and which continue to merge in a single trail to Santiago.”42 While talking to journalist Edward Marshall, Roosevelt noticed some barbed wire. He examined a strand and said, “My God! This wire has been cut today. The end is bright, and there has been enough dew, even since sunrise, to put a light rust on it....” Suddenly, they heard the terrifying sound of Mauser bullets winging through the dense jungle.43 “Bullets began to whistle among the branches and nip at the trees,” wrote Stephen Crane. “Twigs and leaves came sailing down. It was as if a thousand axes, wee and invisible, were being wielded.” T.R. was standing next to a tree, when it was struck by a Mauser bullet. A shower of splinters hit him in the face. He took no notice of it at the time. Later he realized he was being shot at and said, “All men who feel any power of joy in battle, know what it is like when the wolf rises in the heart.”44

Once I was standing behind a large palm with my head out to one side, very fortunately; for a bullet passed through the palm, filling my left eye and ear with the dust and splinters.45

Burr McIntosh, who lost a leg in the fight, said, “The noise of the Mauser bullet is not impressive enough to be really terrifying until you have seen what it does when it strikes. It is a nasty, malicious little noise, like the soul of a very petty and mean person turned into sound.”46

“Deploy!” shouted Wood. “Take cover!”47 He had Roosevelt take three troops into the jungle on the right while three other troops fanned out on the left.
Marshall wrote:

Perhaps a dozen of Roosevelt’s men had passed into the thicket before he did. Then he stepped across the wire himself, and, from that instant, became the most magnificent soldier I have ever seen. It was as if that barbed wire strand had formed a dividing line in his life, and that when he stepped across it he left behind him in that bridle path all those unadmirable and conspicuous traits which have so often caused him to be justly criticized in civic life, and found on the other side of it, in that Cuban thicket, the coolness, the calm judgment, the towering heroism, which made him perhaps, the most admired and best beloved of all Americans in Cuba.48

Everyone began firing. The Spaniards soon retreated.49

The Spanish abandoned the red-roofed ranch buildings they were holding. “We’ve got the damn Yankees on the run!” yelled General Wheeler. “Don’t shoot at retreating men,” shouted Wood. 50 The fight was over, Wood told Roosevelt. The Spaniards had retreated.51 Roosevelt told the men who were suffering from heat exhaustion to go into the buildings.

The next morning they buried seven Rough Riders:

There could be no more honorable burial than that of these men in a common grave--Indian and cowboy, miner, packer, and college athlete--the man of unknown ancestry from the lonely Western plains, and the man who carried on his watch the crests of the Stuyvesants and the Fishes, one in the way they had met death, just as during life they had been one in their daring and their loyalty. 52

They marched on through dense jungle and terrible heat towards Santiago. Men suffering from nicotine withdrawal were desperately smoking dried grass, roots and horse manure. They were all anxious to push on and get into battle.53

A great number of the men were suffering from fever. Generals Young and Wheeler had come down with it. Command of the Cavalry Division therefore devolved upon Brigadier General Samuel S. Sumner, and that of Young’s 2nd Brigade upon Leonard Wood, “while to my intense delight,” wrote Theodore Roosevelt, “I got my regiment.”54

Shafter was ill now, too. They had to hurry before everyone became sick with the fever.55

San Juan Heights
About a week passed before they finally got to the San Juan Heights. The Spaniards had picked an excellent place for defense. From the ridge they could easily see attacking troops and were well protected by trenches and blockhouses. The Americans had to wait for orders to attack the San Juan Heights. Meanwhile Spanish shrapnel exploded over their heads. Several men were killed or wounded before Roosevelt could get them to cover. “I got the men as well-sheltered as I could...The heat was intense and the men were already showing signs of exhaustion.”56

Wood remarked to me that he wished our brigade could be moved somewhere else, for we were directly in line of any return fire aimed by the Spaniards at the battery. Hardly had he spoken when there was a peculiar whistling, singing sound in the air, and immediately afterward the noise of something exploding over our heads. It was shrapnel from the Spanish batteries. We sprung to our feet and leaped on our horses. Immediately afterward a second shot came which burst directly above us; and then a third. From the second shell one of the shrapnel bullets dropped on my wrist, hardly breaking the skin, but raising a bump about as big as a hickory nut.57

Richard Harding Davis said, “No one who saw Roosevelt take that ride expected him to finish it alive. As the only mounted man, he was the most conspicuous object in the range of the rifles, and only 200 yards ahead. It looked like foolhardiness, but, as a matter of fact, he set the pace with his horse and inspired the men to follow.” 58

They were all rushing forward going up the hill, white and black, regulars and Rough Riders, “representing the North and South,” representing America. “Yes, they were going up the hill, up the hill. It was the best moment of anybody’s life,” wrote Stephen Crane. “It is gallant, but very foolish,” said one officer watching from a hilltop.

Davis wrote, “They walked to great death at every step, many of them...but the others waded on, stubbornly, forming a thin blue line that kept creeping higher and higher up the hill...It was a miracle of self-sacrifice, a triumph of bulldog courage, which one watched with breathless wonder.”

Roosevelt, no longer on horseback, got to a wire fence, jumped the fence and shot at the Spanish troops above him. Other Rough Riders took cover behind huge sugar cauldrons near the summit. The defenders fled. When they got to the crest of Kettle Hill, he could see the infantry advancing up San Juan Hill. “Obviously the proper thing to do was to help them and I got the men together and started them volley firing against the Spaniards in the San Juan blockhouse.” 59

Roosevelt now headed to San Juan Hill. Only five men followed. Two were hit. Angrily he rushed back. “We didn’t hear you. We didn’t see you go. Lead on. We’ll follow,” the men said.

The way was clear for a final charge on the Spaniards. Wood commanded the center, Roosevelt the extreme left and the regulars on the right were commanded by General Wheeler himself. They broke out into the open and ran up the valley. Roosevelt paused for a second to pick up Mauser cartridges for his children. Some fifteen hundred Spaniards fled towards Santiago. “We’ve got the damn Yankees on the run!” roared General Wheeler.60

There was very great confusion at this time, the different regiments being completely intermingled--white regulars, colored regulars, and Rough Riders...We were still under a heavy fire, and I got together a mixed lot of men and pushed on from the trenches and ranch houses which we had just taken, driving the Spaniards through a line of palm trees and over the crest of a chain of hills. When we reached these crests we found ourselves overlooking Santiago. 61

He had “the time of my life.” 62

For the next several hours he was so excited, so exhilarated at being a hero that he could not sit still. Even in the midst of a surprise bombardment at 3:00 a.m., during which several nearby soldiers were killed (but he himself was only covered with powder), he walked nervously up and down.

“I really believe firmly now they can’t kill him,” wrote Robert Ferguson.63 Captain Arthur Lee said Roosevelt was “the most alive, the most compelling, the most entertaining human being with whom I have come in contact.” 64 Twenty years later Roosevelt said, “San Juan was the greatest day of my life.”65 The love he felt for his men (“I certainly love my boys!” he said years later), combined with a surge of confidence in himself and his “power to do good” as he would say, made the Presidency seem well within his reach.

His star was rising. He was soon to be President. At the same time, a young F.D.R. was watching his hero’s career closely and following, as Nathan Miller put it, “a course of study that was eminently suited for a career in politics”.66

Surrender
As Santiago was about to fall, Admiral Cevera left Cuba. His small squadron was wiped out by American ships. The siege of Santiago dragged on for two more weeks and typhoid, malaria and dysentery took their toll.

Atop San Juan Hill Roosevelt posed with his Rough Riders. Hispanic-Americans, Indians, African-Americans and Anglo-Americans stared proudly at the camera. They had helped make their nation into a world power.67

Shafter wrote to General Jose Toral, commander General of the Spanish Forces, Santiago de Cuba:

I shall be obliged unless you surrender to shell Santiago de Cuba. Please inform the citizens of all foreign countries, and all women and children, that they should leave the city before 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.68

The Americans found themselves under fire again but it was “evident that the Spaniards did not have much heart in it.”69

Finally the War Department authorized Shafter to tell Toral that if he would surrender unconditionally, they would send Spanish forces back to Spain at American expense.70 Toral surrendered upon hearing that.

Roosevelt worked hard to care for his men. He found ways to provide them with canned tomatoes, condensed milk, beans, rice, flour, oatmeal and tobacco. He carried beans eight miles on his own back. He made sure his men got quinine. 71 He helped reinforce the trenches. He dug latrines and sand-bagged bastions. 72

Stephen Crane said, “This fellow worked for his troopers like a cider press. He tried to feed them. He helped build latrines. He cursed the quarter masters...Let him be a politician if he likes. He was a gentleman down there.”73

The fever got worse and it was recurrent. A man would be very sick for a few days and then, feeling better, get up to go back to work only to be struck down with it again. “Every officer other than myself except one was down with sickness,” Roosevelt wrote. The fever was not contagious but would be sure to kill if the troops remained in Cuba for much longer. 74

Roosevelt was sure that the government wanted them to stay weeks longer in Cuba which would have resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives.

The medical authorities said the condition of the men could only get worse. No one was getting better. Roosevelt decided to publish the conditions himself, since the other officers were career army soldiers. He presented a letter to General Shafter who waved it away angrily and said do what you want with it. Roosevelt shoved it at him again and Shafter shoved it in the direction of the correspondent from the Associated Press.75

It said in part:

The army is disabled by malarial fever to such an extent that its efficiency is destroyed...To keep us here, in the opinion of every officer commanding a division or a brigade, will simply involve the destruction of thousands.

There is no possible reason for not shipping the entire command North at once. Persons responsible for preventing such a move will be responsible for the unnecessary loss of many thousands of lives.

Plans were already being made to ship the army home as he wrote the letter. 76

The army was furious. He wanted the medal of honor and wrote Lodge that if he died:

I do wish you would get that medal of honor for me anyhow, as I should awfully like the children to have it, and I think I earned it.77

He was not to get it. Not during his lifetime or his childrens’ lifetimes.

Results of the War
Thirty-seven percent of the Rough Riders were killed, wounded or stricken with disease. Spain ceded to the United States Puerto Rico, Guam and, for twenty million dollars, the Philippines. Cuba was given its freedom.78

Roosevelt eventually became President of the United States although he did not expect to profit politically from the war.

As far as the political effect of my actions;--in the first place, I never can get on in politics, and in the second, I would rather have led that charge and earned my colonelcy, than serve three terms in the United States Senate. It makes me feel as though I could now leave something to my children which will serve as an apology for my having existed. 79

He wrote a best-selling book, The Rough Riders, about his experiences. He tested portions of it out by telling stories to his relatives and had scraps of dialogue written in his diary to use in the book. Finally, he sent it in as a series of articles to Scribner’s to be published from January to June, 1899. When it was collected into a book later, humorist Finley Peter Dunne had his character Mr. Dooley say, “If I was him I’d call the book ‘Alone in Cubia.’” Roosevelt wrote Dunne, saying, “I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book.”80

When they reached New York, people saw a big man in a light brown uniform waving his campaign hat. “Roosevelt! Roosevelt!” the crowd roared. Someone asked how he was. “I am feeling disgracefully well!” He looked at the tired, gaunt men who had returned with him. “I feel positively ashamed of my appearance when I see how badly off some of my brave fellows are.” “Oh, but we have had a bully fight!”

“My God,” said one person, “there are not half of the men there that left.”81

They were quarantined at Camp Wykoff, named after Charles A. Wykoff who had been killed on July 1. Roosevelt said he was “in first-class health, all the better for having lost twenty pounds.”82 He was told by a nurse that the boys needed egg nogs. Later that day men came carrying baskets of eggs, cans of milk, brandy and whiskey and a case of champagne. The egg nog was distributed that night.83

His men presented him with a bronze sculpture of a cowboy on a bucking horse by Frederick Remington. He said, “I am proud of this regiment beyond measure” and mentioned the “men of color” who fought beside them and the “tie which we trust will never be broken.”84

Afterwards they all filed past and shook his hand. “He was the only man I ever came in contact with that when bidding farewell, I felt a handshake was but a poor expression. I wanted to hug him,” said one private.85

“Many a ferocious fighter and wild bronco-buster turned from the last hand-clasp of his colonel with tears in the eyes which had not flinched before the fiercest Spanish onslaught,” wrote Corinne.86

John Hay wrote:

When the war began I was like the rest; I deplored your place in the Navy where you were so useful and so acceptable. But I know it was idle to preach to a young man. You obeyed your own daemon, and I imagine we older fellows will all have to confess that you were in the right. As Sir Walter wrote:

One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

You have written your name on several pages of your country’s history, and they are all honorable to you and comfortable to your friends.
It has been a splendid little war; begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that Fortune which loves the brave. It is now to be concluded, I hope, with that fine good nature, which is, after all, the distinguishing trait of the American character.
87