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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 a train, but only of empty coal cars. 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
6 The Yucatan?” exclaimed a member of another command. 6 That is our transport.”
“No, she has been allotted to us,” put in an officer belonging to still another command. “How many men will she hold ?
questioned a captain of the Rough Riders.
“ About a thousand.”
“ Then she can't take the three commands."
Theodore Roosevelt overheard this talk, and at once made up his mind that it would be a question of what command got aboard of the transport first. Without the loss of a moment he ran back to where his men were in waiting
“Double-quick to the dock !” was his order. And forming quickly, the troops made their way to the wharf with all possible speed. In the meantime, Colonel Wood had gone out to the transport in a steam-launch and gotten the vessel to come up to the wharf. On board went the Rough Riders pell-mell
, and not a minute too soon. “This is our boat !” cried an officer, as he came up with his command a minute later.
“Sorry for you, sir, but it is our boat,” was Colonel Wood's firm answer. Then the third command loomed
and a three-handed dispute arose. But the Rough Riders remained aboard of the transport, taking four companies of another command in with them.
I have told of the particulars of this affair to show my young readers what was needed at this time, and how well Theodore Roosevelt performed his duties. He had been a soldier and officer only a few weeks, yet he realized that army life on paper and army life in reality were two different things. He felt that an officer must do much besides leading his men in the field: that he must look after them constantly, see that their health was provided for, see that they got their rations, see that transportation was ready when needed, and even see to it that some were kept away from the temptations of drink, and that they did not quarrel among themselves.
When going on board of the transport, the Rough Riders were supplied with twelve days' rations each. The most of the food was good, but the canned beef was very