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the broiling sun.
We had had to ford some pretty muddy streams, and all of us were water and mud up to our knees. But everybody was as enthusiastic to fight as ever.”
At sunrise the battle opened at El Caney, and the Rough Riders could hear the booming of cannon. At once all was activity, and the men prepared to move ahead at a moment's notice.
Acting Colonel Roosevelt was with Colonel Wood at the time, and both were listening to the roar of the artillery. 66 I wish we could move
began Colonel Wood, when, of a sudden, both he and Theodore Roosevelt heard a strange humming sound in the air. Then came the explosion of a shrapnel shell over their heads, and both leaped to their feet.
“This is getting warm!” cried Theodore Roosevelt, and ran toward his horse, when boom! came another explosion, and one of the bullets fell upon his wrist, making, as he himself says, “ a bump about as big as a hickory nut.” This same shell, he adds, wounded four of the men under him and two or three regulars, one of whom lost his
leg. Certainly another providential escape on the part of the future President.
Without loss of time Theodore Roosevelt ordered his troops into the underbrush, and here, for the time being, they were safe. On account of the smokeless powder they used, the Spanish batteries could not be precisely located, so our own artillery were at a slight disadvantage.
But now the blood of the Americans was fully aroused, and soon came an order for a general advance, — something that was hailed with wild delight by the Rough Riders.
“Hurrah, now we'll show 'em what the Yankees can do!” was the cry.
56 Down with the Dons ! Three cheers for Uncle Sam!”
The Rough Riders had to ford the river, and while they were doing this, a balloon that had been used for observations came down in that vicinity and attracted the attention of the Spanish sharpshooters. The firing was now heavy on all sides, and many a gallant soldier went down to rise no
Then came another wait of an hour, dur
ing which the Rough Riders rested in a hollow leading up from the river. Again there was grumbling. With so much fighting on all sides, why could they not advance?
“We'll get our turn,” said Theodore Roosevelt. And soon after a staff officer dashed up with orders to move forward and support the cavalry of the regular army on the hills in front.
“Now to the front!” was the cry. “Down with the Dons !” And away went troop after troop on the double-quick, with Acting Colonel Roosevelt leading them. Shot and shell were hurling themselves through the air in all directions, and on all sides could be heard the shrieks and groans of the dead and the dying. It was a time long to be remembered. Men went down in all directions, and with them not a few officers. It was so hot that Roosevelt's orderly was prostrated from the heat and afterward died. Roosevelt summoned another Rough Rider, and had just finished giving the man some orders when the soldier pitched forward upon
his commander, killed by a bullet through the throat.
As the troops advanced, Theodore Roosevelt urged his men forward and told them to do their best, to which they responded with a cheer. He was on horseback at the time, and soon came across a man lying in the shade, probably overcome by the heat. He started to speak to the Rough Rider when a bullet hit the fellow and killed him on the spot. “I suppose
that bullet was meant for me,” says Mr. Roosevelt, in writing of this incident. “I, who was on horseback in the open, was unhurt, and the man lying flat on the ground in the cover beside me was killed.”
The fight had now centred around the possession of San Juan Hill, upon which was located a Spanish blockhouse. The bullets were flying as thickly as ever, when Roosevelt was ordered to advance in support of another regiment. As the Rough Riders reached the spot where the other regiment was, they found the men lying down awaiting orders.
“I am ordered to support your regiment," said Theodore Roosevelt to the first captain he met.
“We are awaiting orders to advance," answered the captain of the regulars.
“ In my opinion we cannot take these hills by firing at them,” returned the commander of the Rough Riders. « We must rush them.”
“My orders are to keep my men where they are." 66 Where is
Colonel ?” “I don't know.”
“Well, if he isn't here, then I am the ranking officer, and I give the order to charge," came quickly and positively from Theodore Roosevelt.
“Well, sir, -I-I have orders from our Colonel —” began the captain of the regulars.
“If you won't charge, let my men pass through, sir,” cut in the Acting Colonel of the Rough Riders, and he ordered his men to move to the front. This was too much for the regulars, and up they sprang with shouts and yells, and Rough Riders and regulars went up San Juan Hill together. Roosevelt was on horseback as before, but at a barbedwire fence he leaped to the ground, swung his hat in the air, and joined his men on foot.