Page images

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.”

“Where is your 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,-1I 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.

The fight was now at its fiercest, and men were being mowed down in all directions. But the fever of battle was in the veins of all the American soldiers, and nothing could stop them. Up the hill they went, loading and firing at random, and making as many shots as possible tell. The Spaniards were in retreat, and soon Old Glory was planted in several places. Some of the leading officers had been shot, and Theodore Roosevelt found himself at one time in command of five regiments, and doing his best to keep them in military order. Strange as it may seem, with bullets flying all around him, he remained unharmed, saving for some slight scratches which, he tells us, “were of no consequence.”

With the top of the hill gained, the American soldiers could get a distant glimpse of Santiago, several miles away, and some wanted to move still farther forward. But the Spaniards had strong intrenchments to fall back upon, and it was deemed best to “let well enough alone.” Accordingly the American line was made as strong as possible, and by nightfall the battle was at an end, and the Rough Riders

were told to hold the hill and intrench, and they did so. In the blockhouse they found some food belonging to some Spanish officers, and upon this they feasted after their wellearned victory.

« PreviousContinue »