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who received the baptism of fire for the flag, under its stars in a land they were trying to make free.
Intense suffering was endured by the wounded after the battle of Las Guasimas, lack of medicine and proper food adding to their misery and costing many lives that might well have been saved under better conditions. This was chargeable to lack of foresight and insufficient transportation, but the success of the battle may, in the hard economy of war, be taken as some sort of compensation for the extra loss of life.
The morning following the battle of Las Guasimas Roosevelt went to Siboney to visit the wounded, and after looking about at the heroes he said with a ring of his voice that no one who heard him will ever forget:
“Boys, if there is a man in the United States who wouldn't be proud to change places with you he is not worth his salt, and he is not a true American.”
The first four days after the battle were uneventful. There was very little food for the soldiers. Tents were an unknown luxury. Every tenth man had a blanket which he had captured from the Spaniards, but the other nine were without shelter or protection against the frequent rains. But neither regulars nor Rough Riders grumbled.
About this time Colonel Wood was put in command of a brigade and Roosevelt was made colonel of his regiment. Close on his appointment followed the thrilling battle of San Juan Hill, beginning the first day of July.
During the first part of the action the Rough Riders were held in reserve for what seemed to them an interminable length of time. They fell, man after man, wounded or killed by Spanish bullets without a chance to return a shot.
At last the order was given to support the regulars and to make an attack on San Juan Hill in force. Nothing could have been more welcome to the men than the chance to hunt down the enemies who were dealing out death to them so unsparingly.
Roosevelt was ahead, mounted on horseback. He wore on his sombrero a blue polka dot handkerchief, and as he rode it fluttered out straight behind him. His men scrambled along after him as best they could up the slippery hill that gave them no footing, a few in advance and the others creeping along behind.
Up they went and up through a perfect rain of deadly bullets.
There was no glitter, no sound of trumpets, no detachment of men keeping step to the music of a band. But all along the straggling rows men dropped and lay where they fell or struggled toward sheltering bushes, while their comrades pushed on to take their places.
The line of soldiers rose higher and higher. The half-way point was reached. The fire of the Spaniards was redoubled; their bullets hissed like a thousand serpents.
Then for one moment the enemy appeared, black and forbidding, between our soldiers and the sky. They fired one volley and fled, as the men of the Tenth and the Rough Riders reached the blockhouse together.
San Juan Hill was ours.
The loss of life was great, not only during the battle, but while the men were waiting the command to move. Amid all the carnage Roosevelt seemed to bear a charmed life. Jounted on horseback, as he was, he made a conspicuous target at which many a Spaniard aimed. No one who saw him start up San Juan Hill on a gallop ever expected to see him alive again. But not a bullet touched him. He reached the blockhouse on the top of the hill, with four troopers, before all the Spaniards had abandoned it and killed one of them who was still firing, with his own revolver. He had a narrow escape, too, while standing with a group of officers near the top of the ridge in advance of his command. Two shells in swift succession screeched over their heads from the direction of Santiago; one killed a Cuban, and the other burst a short distance from the colonel. A fragment of it struck Roosevelt on the first knuckle of the left hand, causing the blood to flow freely. He walked over to some of his men and held out his hand, remarking with a smile:
"Well, boys, I got it, too, but the Spaniards will have to beat that.”
During the three days' battle of San Juan the men had a good demonstration of the hardships of war. They fought all day and dug in the trenches most of the night. They had almost nothing to eat, but no one shirked. They were drenched to the skin by tropical rains and then chilled through and through by the night air.
“To wake men up at 5 a. m.," says their commander, "who have had nothing to eat, nothing to cover them—wake them up suddenly and have them all run the right way; that is the test. Such men are a good lot. There wasn't a man who went to the rear."
This is Colonel Roosevelt's side of the story, but his men had another to tell. They had lain for forty-eight hours in the muddy ditches and it seemed as if their endurance was at an end. They were worn out, hungry and discouraged. Suddenly, early in the morning the Spaniards appeared at the top of the hill. The men in the trenches stirred restlessly. They felt as if they wanted to turn anywhere awar from those whizzing balls. Just at that moment they saw Colonel Roosevelt with his blue handkerchief flapping about his neck, walking as calmly along the top of the intrenchment as if he had been taking a stroll at Oyster Bay.
The rain of Mauser bullets dropping about him gave him no concern whatever. The men cheered him and called him to come down. In the face of such coolness and bravery all their uneasiness vanished in a moment. They were again courageous soldiers, ready to fight iill every Spaniard had fallen or fled.
On the seventeenth of July Santiago surrendered. But it was at a heavy cost to our army. The climate and the lack of suitable food were as fatal as the enemy's bullets and the army was a mere skeleton of itself. A few sporadic cases of yellow fever appeared. But the disease did not spread. Malarial fever was the great foe, and nearly every soldier had at least a touch of it. Man after man was dying of disease and lack of nourishment. Not ten per cent of the army was fit for active service. The four immune regiments ordered there were sufficient to garrison the town. There was absolutely nothing for the soldiers to do. But still the authorities at Washington did not give the order to return.
At last, after Colonel Roosevelt had taken the initiative, all the American general officers united in a “round robin” to General Shafter setting forth the true state of affairs.
“This army must be moved at once or perish,” they wrote. “As the army can be safely moved now, the persons responsible for preventing such a move will be responsible for the unnecessary loss of many thousand lives.”
As a result of this protest the officials at Washington finally woke to the fact that the army must be ordered home or there would be nothing left to order. When the command reached Cuba the men could scarcely contain themselves for joy. Colonel Roosevelt marched to the ship at the head of his regiment. There were many gaps in it which could never be filled, and many soldier graves on the island to tell the sad story of the war. But there were many heroes, too, reserved for a kinder fate, and many who received their promotion and marched home again to the reward of their bravery.
After a prosperous voyage the Rough Riders landed at Long Island and were soon mustered out of service to return to the paths of peace. But the gallant colonel who had so nobly done his duty, courted no rest -his impetuous nature, ever looking for active service, requires action.
The campaign for the control of New York State in the approaching election of a governor had already begun when the Rough Riders returned from Cuba. Colonel Roosevelt's name had often been mentioned for the Republican nomination, and the popular enthusiasm for this selection was supported by the leaders of the party in the State. Governor Frank S. Black had been elected by an enormous plurality two years previous, and according to all traditions should have been renominated. He was set aside, however, for the new hero, and the convention at Saratoga nominated Colonel Roosevelt with a hurrah. The friends of Govlernor Black had fought bitterly so long as there seemed a chance of success, and they started the rumor that Colonel Roosevelt was ineligible for the nomination, as he had relinquished his residence in New York when he went to Washington to enter the Navy Department.
The actual campaign was a most picturesque one. B. B. Odell, chairman of the state committee and now governor of New York, was opposed to Colonel Roosevelt stumping the state in his own behalf, but it soon became apparent that general apathy existed, and consent was reluctantly given to the candidate to do so. There followed a series of speeches that woke up the voters.
Colonel Roosevelt, by nature forceful, direct, and theatrical in his manner and method, went back and forward, up and down, New York, accompanied by a few of his Rough Riders in their uniforms. These cowboys made speeches, telling, usually, how much they thought of their colonel, and the tour met with success. Colonel Roosevelt was elected governor Gver Augustus Van Wyck, the Democratic candidate, by a plurality of about 17,000 votes.
In his conduct of the governorship Colonel Roosevelt was often at odds with Senator Platt and the leaders of the party in the state, but no breach occurred between them. The governor nominated men of his own selection for the department of public works—which had been the source of great scandal--and for adjutant general and surrogate of New York County. These men were selected for their special fitness to correct the evils in the office to which they were appointed, and were given
the places against the claims of the party leaders' choice for the same positions. Efforts to secure the passage of a bill to improve the civil service in the state and to change the police system in New York City were fathered by Governor Roosevelt and pushed by Senator Platt, but failed of passage through dereliction of Republican Senators.
After a year of remarkable success in governing the State of New York Colonel Roosevelt went to Las Vegas, New Mexico, to attend the first reunion of his regiment.
The opening day was given over to the joy of reunion, to elaborate receptions and fireworks. The second was the anniversary of the battle of Las Guasimas and a service was held in memory of the dead. It was very impressive.
New Mexico has never seen a greater day than the one on which cowboys, in every kind of garb, guardsmen of the New Mexico National Guard, Rough Riders, Indians, Mexican women and children from the adobes, and ranchmen in their picturesque attire welcomed the men they “loved next to idolatry.”
Parson Uzzell preached a strong and characteristic sermon, closing it with a recitation of Kipling's Recessional.
In the afternoon all the interest centered about the presentation of a medal to Colonel Roosevelt and a sword to the gallant Major Brodie, given by the Rough Riders and the citizens of New Mexico.
Hon. Frank Springer presented the medal to the colonel and made a ringing speech which caused every Rough Rider to thrill and tingle with pride in his birthright as an American citizen.
A few hours afterward the regiment dispersed for the second time. But its soldiers carried to the four corners of the country the inspiration of that meeting. However far they may be separated in place and thought, the name of Roosevelt will bridge the distance, and the words of Kipling's mighty war song will be to them as a password into that strange and wonderful experience of war and battle which they shared together.
ROOSEVELT AS VICE PRESIDENT. Theodore Roosevelt, as governor of New York, continued to keep in the public eye, as he had always done in every other position he had held from the day of his election to the legislature of his native state. In the spring of 1900, on the approach of the Republican national convention, his name was the most often spoken of in connection with the second place on the national ticket. The convention met June 19 in Philadelphia, and it was made known that Cornelius N. Bliss of New York, who had been a member of the cabinet of President McKinley,