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Theodore Roosevelt: The Rough Riders/An Autobiography (Library of America)

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1 review about Theodore Roosevelt: The Rough Riders/An...

This is history that too few people know

  • Feb 1, 2011
This book tells the tale of the ten-week Spanish American War of 1898 from the perspective of one of its heroes. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) wanted to intervene in Cuba and drive the Spanish out of the "western world." When the American ship Maine was bombed (we don't know by whom, and Roosevelt does not discuss the issue), America had the excuse it was seeking. It went to war, won, and Spain lost its hold in the American area and disintegrated into a weak nation. Roosevelt writes modestly. He doesn't exalt himself in his book. He repeatedly extols his Rough Riders, about a thousand volunteers, half of whom fought in Cuba with him alongside the US regular army, as a separate regiment. Many of these volunteers were cowboys, hunters, marshals, sheriffs, and some college graduates.

Roosevelt, later president of the US, was at the time, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He was offered the position of colonel of the Rough Riders, but suggested that his friend Leonard Wood, who had past military experience, be given the job. Wood later became a general and is remembered today by having an army fort named for him. Roosevelt was the lieutenant colonel and later colonel when Wood was promoted. Roosevelt tells how he trained the Rough Riders, many of whom were accustomed to fighting in the wild west, to fight as a unified team. They trained in San Antonio, the home of the famed Alamo.

He tells of the confusions and lack of communications as only half of his unit was able to sail to Cuba. He states that it took six days to cruise from Florida to Cuba. He describes the problems of insufficient boats and of getting his men ashore. He speaks of the courage of his men, how they endured near starvation, and how they acted with dignity. He describes the confusions of the battles, the inability to tell enemy from friend. He tells of the heroism of the black unit, a unit that was segregated from whites, but performed at least as well.

He speaks about the most famous of the ten-day battles, the battle of San Juan Hill. There were 6,600 Americans against 4,500 Spanish. The Americans killed or wounded totaled 1,071. Roosevelt became famous for leading the charge up this hill. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Many of the Americans became sick in the Cuban climate. The US government didn't bring their soldiers home after the war until Roosevelt and others sent strong objections. Many soldiers returned finding no job. This book was written over a century ago, but it is important history and should be read.
This is history that too few people know

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