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FORMATION OF THE ROUGH RIDERS.
FRIENDSHIP FOR COLONEL WOOD-A MONTH WELL SAVED–COWBoys, CLUBMEN AND HUNTERs RALLY TO His stand ARD — BEST FIGHTING MATERIAL THAT EVER MARCHED TO THE FIELD-DRILLING, PREPARING AND EMBARKING-THE LANDING ON CUBAN SOIL.
Mr. Roosevelt had done all that could be done in the navy department. So far as the supervision and power of man could effect it, the navy was ready; and the striking of that blow at Spanish commerce when the Ventura was captured between Key West and Havana proved the state of preparedness which existed on the ocean. The swiftly following victory of Commodore Dewey at Manila established the case even more completely, for the most remarkable victory in all naval history had been achieved. And now that war was surely on, this man who saw the results of his foresight and provision in that branch of the service, started to find a way in
which he could assist in leading the land forces in the fight which he had helped to induce Americans to make. Just what should be the method of procedure he did not know. He had met in Washington in the winter of 1897-98 Dr. Leonard Wood, a surgeon in the regular army, who had seen active service on the frontier, and who was medical adviser of both the President and the Secretary of the Navy. Dr. Wood was a powerful, forceful man, and Mr. Roosevelt became very much attached to him. They rode or walked about the city, took exercise together, and each found the other the sort of man to be depended upon. As they walked or rode they talked of the certainly approaching war. Both wanted to get into the service. Both believed the struggle would be of short duration —unless some other nation in Europe should come to the assistance of Spain; and neither had the patience to wait for the slow movements of the regular army. Both were agreed that effective blows must be struck at once by the army as by the navy; that lives would be preserved, and treasure saved from wasting if the advances of the United States forces could be accomplished without delay. It was principally through the efforts of Mr. Roosevelt that Congress provided for the formation of three volunteer cavalry regiments recruited from the plainsmen, sharpshooters and hard riders of the Southwest; and as soon as this was done Secretary Alger tendered him the command of one of those regiments. But he had never overestimated himself. He secured for Dr. Wood the command of that regiment, for he knew the latter was fully prepared for the duty; and he took second place. Colonel Wood, armed with his new commission, hurried to the Southwest to recruit and equip his men, while Mr. Roosevelt performed a far more important service at the time by remaining in Washington to secure the assistance that must always come from headquarters and which would never have been obtained if an energetic, persistent and fully informed man had not been upon the ground to compel it. When he had made all his arrangements there, he had accomplished the remarkable feat of saving a month. Those thirty days were of the greatest possible value to the nation. Organized in the ordinary manner, with officers two thousand miles from Washington, the Rough Riders would not have been ready for service before midsummer. There was a prejudice against them, anyway. The departments had a long-established habit of according chief consideration to the regular army. When other volunteer commands were clamoring for belts and blankets, Mr. Roosevelt’s regiment was waiting—armed, accoutered, drilled and ready, leaning from the piers at Tampa, and yearning for the conflict in Cuba. He had drawn to the command men from every walk of life, and he greeted them cordially when he arrived from Washington. Scarcely a man of his thousand but was personally known to him. Some were hunters. Some were cowboys. Some were graduates of colleges, with enviable records in the field of athletic sports. Some were clubmen, possessed of wealth, but possessed of strength, energy and enthusiasm as well. He understood the grim exigencies of war, and knew that no preparation for a frolic could be proper preparation for a campaign, no matter how decrepit the enemy. He could not be certain that all these rich young men had counted the cost, and he was afraid they would find it hard to serve—not for a few days, but for months, or perhaps years—in the ranks, while he, their former intimate associate, was a field-officer. But they insisted that they knew their minds, and the event showed that they did. Before allowing them to be sworn in he gathered them together and explained that if they went in they must be prepared not merely to fight, but to perform the weary, monotonous labor incident to the ordinary routine of a soldier's life; that they must be ready to face fever exactly as they were ready to face bullets; that they were to obey unquestioningly, and to do their duty, if called upon to garrison a fort, as readily as if sent to the front. He warned them that work which was irksome and disagreeable must be performed as willingly as work that was dangerous. He had no fears of them as to the latter, and he told them that they were entirely at liberty not to go; but that after they had once signed there could be no backing out. They had the option of going or of remaining at home. Not a man of them backed out—not a man of them failed to do his whole duty. Generally they were of the fighting sort. There were sheriffs and marshals from Arizona and Texas, owners of mines who had fought their way up from the pick and shovel to the bank account. There was Buckey O'Neill of Arizona,