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It was now the end of June, and the weather was anything but agreeable. When the rain did not come down in torrents, the sun shone with a glare and a heat that was terrific. As said before, the uniforms of the Rough Riders were heavy, and much clothing had to be cast aside as unfit for use. To add to the discomfort, rations that were promised failed to appear, so that a good square meal was almost unknown.
“ This will not do; the men must have enough to eat, even if I have to buy it for them,” said Acting Colonel Roosevelt, and made two trips down to the seacoast in search of beans, tomatoes, and other things to eat. Here he was informed that he could only buy stuff meant for the officers.
“All right; I'll buy the things for the officers,” he answered, and purchased as much as they would allow. When he got back, he turned the food over to the officers, but saw to it that they gave their men a fair share.
“It was a kindness none of his men ever orgot,” said a soldier who was there. “It wasn't any of his business to buy the grub, — the commissary department had to supply
it free, - but he knew we might starve while the department was getting itself straightened out and ready to do the right thing. Before he went on a hunt for food, all we had was salt pork, hardtack, and coffee, and some of the stuff wasn't fit to put in your mouth.”
And this testimony was the testimony of scores of others.
The Spaniards were strongly intrenched upon the outskirts of Santiago, and as it was a rough, hilly country, with many shallow streams and much jungle, it was hard for the American army to advance. General Shafter's idea to form a grand semicircle around Santiago, starting from El Caney on the north, and running in an irregular line to Aguadores on the south. Throughout this territory the Spaniards had done everything possible to hinder the advance of our troops.
Barbed wire was strung in many directions, and often the brushwood would conceal dangerous pitfalls, so that any advance had to be made with great caution.
The attack upon the Spanish lines began on July 1, and the fighting took place in several quarters at once, but was unusually
heavy at El Caney and at San Juan Hill. At El Caney the heroic General Lawton was in command, and fought as gallantly as he afterward did in the Philippines. Some of the charges were terrific, and will ever be remembered by those who participated in them.
The Rough Riders struck camp and moved along the trail on the last day of June. It was as hot as ever, with no sign of rain. The trail was filled with troops and provision wagons, and the progress, consequently, , was slow.
“Let us get into the fight !” was the cry heard on every side. “Don't keep us waiting any longer."
“Keep cool,” said one of the officers. “ You'll get all the fighting you want soon.” And so it proved.
At a little after eight o'clock in the evening the Rough Riders found themselves on El Poso Hill, and here the whole brigade to which they were attached went into camp.
“It wasn't much of a camp,” said one who was there. “We just threw out a strong picket-guard and went to sleep on our arms, and glad of it, after that day in
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
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.
“ 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 add 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. “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