Page images

the men, and there was no dock which deepdraught vessels could approach. The war-ships lent what boats they could, and the little army began its slow progress across the two miles of water that divided ships from shore, until Lieutenant Sharp, of the navy, commanding the |Viacen, a converted yacht, recognized Colonel Roosevelt on the deck of the Yucatan, and offered to help put the Rough Riders ashore. The service was gratefully accepted. On the Viacen was a Cuban pilot who knew every mile of the coast, and he proposed to take the Yucatan within five hundred yards of the beach. He was offered a reward if he would do so; and he did. The other transports followed, and the labor was greatly lightened. In spite of the difficulties, the landing became quite a frolic for the men. The surf ran high, and the boats could not place any one on dry land. Each man carried three days’ field rations, with gun and blanket, and a hundred rounds of ammunition. But they tumbled from the boats when no nearer approach could be made, and waded or swam till the solid earth was beneath their feet. The horses were unloaded from another transport, two hundred yards from shore. The process in this case was as simple as cruel. The animals were pushed overboard, and permitted to swim to land, or go down in the sea —whichever happened. Colonel Roosevelt's big horse, which his groom had named “Rain-in-the Face,” was drowned; but the pony, “Texas,” swam ashore without the slightest trouble. A few of the rich young men in the Rough Riders’ regiment had added some light artillery pieces to the equipment of the command, making a free gift to the Government. There were two rapid-fire Colt automatic guns, and a dynamite gun. The task of bringing these ashore without injury was a difficult one, indeed. But it was done, and late in the afternoon of June 22 the little army had been established on Spanish soil, and was ready for any contingency that might arise—but with a decided preference for fighting. If any resistance at all had been made, the landing would have been rendered difficult to the point of impossibility. There had been five hundred Spaniards on the shore in the morning, and they had marched up and down the beach very threateningly. But they had run at the first firing from the gunboats, and the Americans found in their places, as evening fell, a crowd of Cuban insurgents—hungry, dirty, and armed with every kind of weapon imaginable, but with nothing that would mark them as an allied force. Their demands, indeed, were less modest than to be led against their ancient enemies. All they wanted was food—and plenty of it. Colonel Roosevelt's first task was to march his men about half a mile inland, to a place selected for the camping, and there to get them into the best possible shape for the morrow. The place was a bushy, dust-covered flat, with a jungle on one side, and fetid pools on the other. For the first time the men saw the huge land-crabs of the island, and marveled as the strange animals scuttled through the underbrush; and they marveled even more when they heard these same creatures utter their disturbing cry in the still hours of the night. But the Rough Riders—dismounted—were in Cuba! Just fifty-two days had passed since the declaration of war. This was the only volunteer force that reached Santiago in time to be of use in the fighting, with the single exception of the Seventy-first New York National Guard. The latter regiment had been organized for years, was fully armed, equipped, drilled and provided in every way. The Rough Riders had come in less than two months’ time from the absolute beginning. Before April 30 not one step had been taken for their formation. Yet in this incredibly short time they were ready for the storming of San Juan hill. And they stormed it.

Never before, perhaps, in the history of a civilized country, has such dispatch been made in the preparation of a fighting force. And certainly never before was an organization so quickly brought to such a degree of efficiency. The result was due solely to Colonel Roosevelt's decision, energy, and remarkable capacity for leadership. The deciding element of the land force in Cuba was his personal contribution to the cause of his nation. And the recognition of this fact is probably the highest tribute that can be paid him.




Months before the war broke out, Gen. S. M. B. Young, of the regular army, had been the guest of Mr. Roosevelt and Dr. Leonard Wood at a club in New York, and they had told him that when hostilities began—an event which they confidently anticipated—they were going to “try and get in.” “Come to my brigade,” said General Young, “and I guarantee to show you some fighting.” And he kept his word.

At Tampa, in those distressing days when they did not know where the Government wanted them to go, the Rough Riders were brigaded with the First and Tenth regular cavalry, under General Young. The latter organization was com

posed of colored men. It was called the Second

« PreviousContinue »