« PreviousContinue »
IN CAMP AT TAMPA — To PORT TAMPA IN COAL
CARS - THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S QUICK MOVE TO OBTAIN A TRANSPORT — THE WAIT IN THE HARBOR - OFF FOR CUBA AT LAST
That the path of the soldier is not always one full of glory can easily be proven by what happened to the Rough Riders when, late in May, they were ordered to Tampa, Florida, where a part of the army was gathering in readiness to be transported to Cuba.
“We were just wild to go," says one of the number, in speaking of that time. “We were tired of staying at San Antonio and drilling day in and day out, rain or shine. I guess everybody felt like hurrahing when we piled on to the cars.
“Colonel Roosevelt — he was only Lieutenant-Colonel then - had six troops under him, and he did all he could to make the boys comfortable.
But the cars crowded, and travelling was so slow it took
us four days to reach Tampa. Then when we got there, we found everything in confusion. The railroad yard was chock-a-block with freight and passenger cars, and nobody was there to tell us where to go or where to find provisions.
“The boys were hungry and tired out, for sleeping on the railroad had been almost out of the question. There wasn't a sign of rations in sight, and it looked as if we would have to stay hungry. But Teddy Roosevelt just put his hand into his own pocket and bought us about all we wanted. Then he scurried around and found out where we were to go, and in another twenty-four hours we were settled in camp.” Even in camp the Rough Riders had to put up with continued discomfort. The weather was warm, flies and mosquitoes were numerous, and the drinking water was not of the best. The rations were plain, but the Rough Riders did not mind this, for many of them had often fared worse on the plains.
Although it was now a regular military camp that the
that the Rough Riders were in, it was rather difficult to control some of the men,
especially those who had been used to an unusually rough life. But they were held in check as much as possible by their commanders, and on Sunday all attended a church service held by Chaplain Brown, who spoke to them in a manner that soon claimed their attention.
After but a few days spent in the camp at Tampa, within walking distance of many of the fashionable hotels, the command was ordered to Port Tampa, there to board a transport to sail for some destination not revealed. But the soldiers knew they were going to Cuba, to fight the Spaniards and to aid in freeing Cuba, and again there was a loud hurrahing
But immediately on top of this came one of the hardest blows the Rough Riders had to endure, and one which some of them will probably never forget.
As already stated, volunteers from all over our nation were anxious to get into the fight, and it was no easy matter for the authorities at Washington to decide who should go and who should be left behind.
“Only eight troops of seventy men each of the Rough Riders will embark on the
transport," was the order sent to Colonel Wood. More than this, it was ordered that the command should be on board of the transport by the following morning, otherwise it could not go.
“Four troops to be left behind !” exclaimed Theodore Roosevelt.
“Too bad,” returned Colonel Wood. “ Every man expects to go, and wants to go.
It was a hard task to tell some of the men that they could not go. Mr. Roosevelt tells us that many of them actually cried at the news. They were willing to go under any conditions. They did not want any pay, they did not want any pensions if they were disabled, and some, who had money, even offered to pay their way, just for the privilege of fighting for Uncle Sam. After such an exhibition, let nobody dare to say that true patriotism is dying out in this country.
But orders were orders, and as quickly as possible those to go were selected. Then the command marched to the railroad tracks to await the cars. None came, and they were given orders to march to another
track. This they also did; but still no train appeared.
“We'll be left, that is certain,” said Colonel Wood, anxiously.
“It certainly looks like it, unless. We march the boys down to the port.”
“Here comes a train !” was the cry.
It was about to pass by when the Rough Riders halted it.
“ What's the matter with riding down to the port in the coal cars ?” was the question asked by several
“Good enough!" came the answer. “Into the cars, boys, and don't waste time!” And into the dirty coal cars they piled, and persuaded the engineer of the train to take them down to Port Tampa as quickly as he could.
If there had been bustle and confusion up at Tampa, it was far worse at the port. Everybody was in a hurry, and ten thousand soldiers stood around, not knowing what to do with their baggage, and not knowing which of the many transports to board.
At last the Rough Riders were told to go aboard the Yucatan, and started to do