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Before we begin, it's ConTENT Cradock, not CONtent. It's a distinction that has to be made because modern net-fiends aren't inclined to contentment.

Our dedication assures us that there's no doubt about where our author's influence lies:


The Memory of my father






The title page contains a few lines from James Russell Lowell's “An Ode For The Fourth Of July, 1876”...

“They steered by stars the elder shipmen knew,
And laid their courses where the currents draw
Of ancient wisdom channelled deep in law.
The undaunted few
Who changed the Old World for the New.”

...which is pretty high-minded talk for something that's being sold as a love triangle. The chapter headings are also epigraphed like crazy, again with lines from Lowell, so we're already breathing rarified air before the story even starts. Anyway, Chapter 1...

There was a wayward softness mingled with the salt breath of the sea as it sighed over the flats that lay along the riverside, but the melting snow had left enough of its chill in the air to make this caressing warmth a suggestion rather than a presence. Even in the sunlight, a certain mistiness hung over the distant water like the veil of Spring which the laughing Summer would soon push aside.

The spire of the church and the smoke of chimneys rose from the town that clustered about the river's mouth, and now and then floated from its streets the sound of martial music, but in a solemn cadence which denoted that the strife was over and that there remained only rest. Content bent her head to catch the rhythmic beats as they came fitfully to her ears. .The door-yards about were empty, the dust settled undisturbed on the highway in front of her; everybody but herself had gone to the town yonder. It was a day of sorrow, yet of the subdued glory of a final consummation, — the day of the funeral of John Winthrop, late governor of the Colony of Massachusetts. (pp. 1-2)

John Winthrop, the man whose “city upon a hill” sermon gave Ronald Reagan something to believe in (or at least quote endlessly), died on March 26, 1649, and as we're told, the story begins at the tail end of six days' mourning. (Counts on fingers) April 1st, continuity cops.

At least we're not wasting much time introducing our title character, who is shaking off the type of downer six days of eulogizing can induce in a young woman of twenty. “It was in the very air, the sweetness of this unrestraint, and in unconscious yielding to its influence, Content had left her wheel in the midst of her spinning, and loitered at the door to catch the warmth of the sunlight and the rise and fall of the distant strains.” But make sure don't linger long, you indolent thing, because there's lots and lots of work to be done, and anyway, you should be sad for the deceased and fearful for the future just like your neighbors.

She was just getting up from her wheel and readying another log for the fire when she heard a knock at the door.

As she crossed the large room, whose corners had grown a little obscure, to the broad hearth where the fire was lower but glowing still, without a preliminary knock the outside door opened and a man stood on the threshold. Behind him, the last rays of the western sun threw his figure into prominence but rendered his face almost invisible to Content as she paused in the middle of the room, while they fell caressingly upon her slenderness, and the severe simplicity of her gray gown and white neckerchief. She had turned up this gray gown that it might not be injured by contact with the wood-pile, and the snowy petticoat showed underneath it; her strong young arms clasped the rough bark of the hewn wood, and her large, thick-lashed, blue eyes, which were always unusually wide open, giving her habitually an almost startled expression at variance with the calmness of her demeanor, were fixed upon the entering stranger. Beyond him, just outside of the door, was another figure, that of a younger man, his features too in a half shadow, from which he gazed, with a sudden thrill of emotion, at the fair vision of the girl. There was a moment's pause, due to the surprise of all three, and then the older visitor bowed low, and said in a musical voice, and with a singularly distinct and almost studied enunciation : “Pardon, young Mistress Cradock, — for I perceive by a certain air and resemblance not to be belied that it is to her I speak, — but ere I go further in apology, let me relieve thee of thy burden!” and he stepped quickly forward. “It is the immediate wrong that should be the first righted, after all,” he added, as he took the heavy log from her arms with a courtliness that bespoke familiarity with a world larger than that of the colony. The younger man had come hastily nearer, as if he, too, would be of assistance, but the other put him aside.

“Nay, nay,” he said, “I am thy elder, and should be the earlier in a service that has its rewards. In truth,” he went on to Content, “the April evening hath a chill that makes the replenishing of a fire a grateful task to even a weary wayfarer,” and, bending over, he laid the log within the red glow of the chimney place. As he did so, the leaping flame lighted up his face with sudden brilliancy, and Content marked for the first time what manner of man he was who had thus entered unannounced. He was of about fifty years of age, with strong well-moulded features, keen eyes with a restless light in their depths, a deep frown between the heavy eyebrows, thick hair streaked with gray, and certain lines about the eyes and mouth which might denote qualities at odds with peace and serenity. But the mouth was fine, and the smile that hovered about it, as he stood upright and turned to Content, was very sweet. Again his face withdrew into partial shadow, though the firelight leaped up and flickered over all three of the figures, but it was as if in that instant in which he had bent over the red heart of the flame, the human being had been suddenly revealed to the watching eye, and, instinctively, Content felt that she had read his character then, and that she trusted it. (pp. 3-6)

Sufferin' cats, that dialogue! No, no, I promised that I wouldn't go there unless it was absolutely called for. It's just that sometimes you go in expecting something, and it still hits you like a bucket of icewater when it finally hits you.

The older man introduces himself as an old friend of Constant's father, and having just arrived in town, he'd been assured that “thy father's latch-string hath been out for me,” so he stuck his head in, and the rest of the body just followed. He hadn't been warned, however, that his friend's daughter would be tending the place. With that type of reassurance, such as it is, Content straightens herself out and snaps into hostess mode, pulling a chair by the fire for the guest. The younger man is still modestly standing off to one side, obviously hoping for a brokered introduction to “the flower-like fairness” of the young woman. Finally the older man introduces him as Resolved Archer of Plymouth, who makes it clear (in a very respectful way, of course) that he hopes to be a friend instead of just a friend of a friend. Yes, Resolved Archer. Let's get it out of our systems now. And people busted Frank Zappa's chops for Dweezil and Moon Unit...

But lo, here comes the gathering dusk.

Mistress Content, with the slightest possible flush, stooped to pick up a splinter of wood to light her candle; but Archer had forestalled her, and now, as he stood by her side holding the burning brand to the somewhat reticent wick, Content was conscious of what might have grown into an alarming confusion, had she not recognized and dismissed it in time. He was very tall, and the little torch in his hand illuminated his face as the firelight had done the other in a way to bring out a hint of resemblance between them and to exaggerate it. He had the same resolute chin, keen eyes, and youthful intensity of expression; but the restlessness was not there, nor the marks which told of contest. Just now his eyes wandered from the immediate business of the moment to the warm pallor of Content's cheek, her soft uncurled hair, and the dark lashes and white lids, which were all that he could see of the demurely drooped eyes. It was but a moment that the two stood thus. The stranger at the hearth sighed and looked up; the candlewick caught, and the brand was tossed back into the flame. Content lighted a second candle and placed one on the table by the window. (pp. 8-9)

As a post-Freudian reader, it doesn't take that much imagination to drag some unforeseen implications out of all this “lighting her wick” talk. If Archer had missed the wick the first few times, we would've been in big trouble.

Stop snickering. The old man's talking again.

“It is a great man that was buried to-day,” he said abruptly, turning back into the room; “that hath joined the church triumphant, and left the church militant — the ranks militant, I would say!” he spoke with sudden fire, “since a church is something limited and walled in, and an army is like a sea and may cover the land ! He was a great man,” he added more quietly, “and he is dead; and though there be spiritual sons of Anak with us still, we are but a few people and this is a new country;” his voice fell into momentary sadness and then rose with startling force, as he stepped forward and laid his hand upon Archer's shoulder, “wherefore it becometh us to fight — to fight that we may possess!” he exclaimed; “to withstand, to repel, to be clothed with armor, to carry the shield, to wear the helmet of salvation, and bear the sword of the spirit —“ he paused.

“And to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” said Content, in low, thrilled tones, her starry eyes fixed on his with a divine enthusiasm. She was moved, stirred, exalted by the fervor of the man, and spoke almost involuntarily.

His glance fell on her with burning intensity; he threw his head back with a gesture almost of anger, caught his breath to speak, and then paused suddenly, while the deep glow of his eyes grew brighter and the stern lines of his mouth relaxed as he looked at her in her sweet, soft-hued beauty, but with something indomitable after all in the clear note of her security. (pp. 10-11)

He was about to continue, but Mr. and Mrs. Cradock entered the room, and here comes the big reveal: “'I did think,' said the Puritan householder, as he stepped forward with hand outstretched, 'that should the Lord lead him ever again across this threshold, my voice should be the first to give a welcome to Roger Williams!'”

And that's where I figure out this book is a setter of traps for smug jerks like me, because after all that smirky, dirty thinking about wicks, the stranger in the room turns out to be the noted theologian who was a big proponent of religious tolerance at the time where it wasn't what the cool kids were doing, and also came up with the idea of the separation of church and state. As he conceived it—as if we really need to explain this—the “wall of separation” meant that civil authority shouldn't enforce ecclesiastical authority In other words, lock them up for killing and stealing, but nobody should do thirty days in the county jail for an idolatry rap. Naturally, this put him at odds with the Church of England, but he was fine with that, since like many Puritans, he didn't consider it a proper church anyway.

Anyway, while the greetings were going around, Content was in an internal tailspin from the things she said and what they meant in relation to this man. “Was this that disturber of the peace, that stumbling block and cause of offence, who yet was dear to the hearts of the best men of the colony?” Then Williams mentions to her father “I have had a foretaste of thy welcome, friend Cradock, in the readiness of thy daughter to admit us to the warmth of thy hearthstone. Methinks her disposition savors somewhat of thine own in a readiness to turn theory into practice.” As she leaves the room to help her mother prepare dinner, Master Cradock ruefully muses on how her “quick wit” isn't always tempered with grace, then turns the topic to Williams' new colony of Providence (yes, the one in Rhode Island). He's obviously skeptical of the theory of keeping the church out of the courtroom: “And is it not difficult to keep peace in your borders? Doth not the law of the members war often against the law of the body politic?” Williams responds, in effect, that he would rather take a pinch of contention over a bushel of persecution, which doesn't reassure his friend, who'd rather not have either. “Archer sat quietly by, as befitted a young man in the company of his elders, attentive to the matter in hand, but not inattentive to the possible re-entrance of Mistress Content.”

While Cradock doesn't like the idea of “continual ferment,” he's not going to let a difference in opinion kill a friendship.

“Why do I seek to show thee thy error?” he said, with a slight relaxing of the sternness of his features; “though that thou art in error, I plainly perceive. Wiser men than I have dealt with thee to no purpose. And thou hast a certain measure in thy discourse and a spirit that is at variance with thy precepts, that taketh the words out of the mouth of a man who hath thirsted for thy bodily presence, and hath mourned openly the day that the secular welfare of this commonwealth made thee an exile from its borders!” His voice shook with controlled feeling; there was a pathos in the tenderness underlying the unyielded convictions of his faith that was not lost on either of the listeners. Archer's eyes shone with the enthusiasm of his youth, as he looked up at the tall, grave man whose great stature and massive features made him seem literally an upholder of the public weal.

Williams sprang from his chair. “And I,” he said in his deep, sweet voice, laying his hand on the other's arm, “who have sought thy doorway, as the weary hart the waterbrook, for the love I bear thee — thou, who art as my brother, do I not hear in thy speech again the word that hath ever to my ears seemed good, though it fitted not with my intention or my firm conviction?” (pp. 16-17)

To boil it down into Campbell's Condensed Cream of Conversation, “I don't really like what you're saying, but it's good to be able to hear you say it again.” Of course, with the “frozen exterior of Puritan existence,” it only makes sense to bury strong feelings under (here's that phrase again) a verbal thicket.

Oy, this dialogue. I'm going to have a steep adjustment phase if this keeps up. It makes one long for Alf's cockney again. After all, I got meself to fink abart....

Next: We're walking and we're talking. Because there is a romance at the base of this avalanche, y'know, and that's what goes on in these types of stories.

One last Rough Riders sidebar before squaring myself to the new task at hand. By accident, I stumbled across the Wheeler Plantation webpage--as in the family of General Joe Wheeler, who was commander of the cavalry in Cuba--and there's a very informative essay about the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Regulars. There's also a fascinating (and, we can assume, more honest) alternate version of the Roosevelt "so I pulled out my gun" story we rolled our eyes at in Chapter 4.

The turn of the twentieth century was marked by rapidly growing racial tension and hostility. Many examples can be found of attempts to discredit the service of African-American soldiers during the Spanish American War. For example, after of the battle of San Juan Hill, Col. Roosevelt stopped two black cavalrymen as they moved to the rear. Roosevelt accused the men of cowardice and ordered them, under threat of being shot, back to the front, whereupon he learned that they were under orders to get shovels and other implements to help dig fortifications for the expected Spanish counter-attack. Roosevelt apologized to the men for not believing their story and hands were shaken all around. Two months later, at the ceremony disbanding the 5th Corps Cavalry Division at Camp Wikoff, Montauk Pt, N.Y., Col. Roosevelt shook hands and said farewell to every member of the Rough Riders as well as those of the 9th and 10th Cavalries.

Imagine the Buffalo Soldier’s sense of dismay when, after the war, Roosevelt retold the incident at San Juan Hill in "The Rough Riders" as:

"Under the strain the colored infantrymen (who had none of their white officers) began to get a little uneasy and drift to the rear… This I could not allow."

As commander of the Cavalry Division, General Wheeler made no racial distinctions in his praise of the men under his command. In his after action report following the battle of Las Guasimas, June 26, 1898, General Wheeler wrote

"I was immediately with the troops of the 1st and 10th Regular Cavalry, dismounted, and personally noticed their brave and good conduct…"

It's as true now as it was then: sometimes the truth gets trampled under the hooves of a "good yarn."

Dave, the pickmaster for Round 5 and the guy who hammered me with Waters That Pass Away, is trying to strike me down yet again for dragging out The Rough Riders to an unspeakable degree. His goal is to make me wish I had chosen fantasy football as a hobby like other guys. His second nominee for instrument of my eventual destruction: Mistress Content Cradock by Annie Eliot Trumbull.

Selection #5 is drawn from the unnervingly vague category “A Group of Female Novelists,” which sounds like a police report. “A group of female novelists were apprehended at the main branch of the New York Public Library on Tuesday morning adding 'malicious capitalization' to the works of e.e. cummings. No trial date has been set pending syntax evaluation.” I have a sneaking suspicion the common thread in this grouping isn't “chick lit” so much as “lit by chicks.” Silly Victorians, you don't divide books by the sex of the author, you divide them by how much sex the author puts in them. And whether the characters buy expensive shoes. This is called “progress.” Not "annoying."

Enough of the ramble, time to roll through the bramble.

Mistress Content Cradock. By Annie Eliot Trumbull. 12mo. New York: A. S. Barnes & Co. $1

Miss Trumbull's latest work is much enhanced by the illustrations by Charles Copeland. It is a historical tale of New England life, and the action takes place in the Salem colony. Chief among the characters portrayed is Roger Williams, and the story deals with the incidents which surrounded this man's independent personality and his tireless appeals for freedom of thought and action. The thread of romance and love is rendered most attractive by the author's well-known bright and attractive style, her delicately fashioned descriptions, and her entertaining dialogue. Miss Trumbull is very happy in her New England stories, which are always sure to contain interesting types of local character.

Unlike Dave's last pick, I managed to scrape up a few biographical notes for our author: Annie Eliot Trumbull (1857-1949) was an author, poet, and playwright whose first full-length book was published in 1889 and who was just hitting the peak of her renown around the time Mistress Content Cradock was published. Trumbull was a junior member of Mark Twain's Hartford circle, the last surviving member of that group on her passing. She was the daughter of philologist and historian James Hammond Trumbull, of whom George F. Hoar of the American Antiquarian society said “[he] knows the history, the life, the manners, even the gossip, of every New England generation from the beginning, as if he had been a contemporary.” As much as I found about her, I'm finding much more about him, but at least that quote means she may have picked up a good grounding in the historical period she chose. Unless, as I suspect and the following review suggests, historical setting is beside the point.

Given a Puritan setting—a stern shore and grim ancestors. Place Oliver Cromwell, Roger Williams, and John Winthrop in the background, and pink arbutus in the foreground, then bring upon the scene Mistress Content Cradock and her two lovers, Archer and Stukely, and the stage is ready for action.

The whole question of the historical novel must be set one side in any fair discussion of Mistress Content Cradock and her virtues or shortcomings. The place and limits of the historical novel involve issues too diverse to be taken up in any right appreciation of a book so modest as this of Miss Trumbull's. Nor do the charm and value of the book depend, to any appreciable extent, on the historical element. In so far as the character of Mistress Content Cradock could have had existence in no other time or place than Puritan New England, the setting is of moment. In so far as the story is the old one of 'two men wooing a maid,” the setting is irrelevant. Mistress Content's own granddaughter could not have vacillated between her two lovers with more feminine inconsequence or have chosen the wrong one with more inevitable persistence than does Mistress Cradock herself. All the characters are very human. That they move upon a Puritan stage is a mere detail of art. That exits and entrances are adjusted somewhat primly, with an eye to effect, and that the story moves with monotonous evenness are perhaps, faults to be grateful for in a day when art seems to be, for the most part, a series of wild and incalculable experiments. --The Critic, August 1899

Any time “monotonous” is used in a book review, I send up a distress flare. Any time “monotonous” is used in a book review as a positive attribute, I check the reviewer's blood alcohol level. The pull-quotes in the publisher's ads call the book “wholesome.” How wholesome I manage to stay in my play-by-play depends on how quickly I acclimate to a love triangle where the dialogue is liberally doused in “thee”s and “thou”s. That never stopped me with Shakespeare, but the operating assumption here is that Mistress Content Cradock isn't another As You Like It. Will it be as I like it? We shall see.

And now, the text:

  • Google Books has a single copy from the NY Public Library, so that's what we're working from. Them's the conditions wot prevail. Google Books now offers two downloadable formats, the page image PDF versions or an OCR-converted text in EPUB format. Just like Google's (non-proofread) plaintext rendering, scannos abound in the EPUB version. It's not the worst I've seen, but I'm sticking with PDF.

That's all the stage dressing you get, bub. Time to roll up my elbows and get to work.

Chapter Recaps: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 (Links to the chapter recaps go live upon posting.)

Links to the spoiler-laden Chapter Recaps: Chapters 1 (parts 1, 2, 3) , 2 (parts 1, 2), 3 (parts 1, 2, 3), 4 (parts 1, 2, 3), 5 (parts 1, 2, 3), 6 (part 1, 2).

You'll remember that I singled out a sentence in the last chapter of The Rough Riders for telling more of the truth than anybody could've known at the time (my emphasis): “Sometimes General Wheeler joined us and told us about the great war, compared with which ours was such a small war—far-reaching in their importance though its effects were destined to be.” The Spanish-American War, as short as it was, cast a long shadow in its implications, and not just because armed intervention would be something we made a habit of throughout the 20th century. It was a very telling move that none of the Cubans were invited to take part in the surrender ceremonies. The official explanation was fear of armed reprisals, but it seems the Americans weren't entirely trusting of the Cubans, even if they supported independence in the abstract. When the treaty came down, Spain signed its colonies over to America, and thanks to a sneaky piece of work called the Platt Amendment, Cuba was occupied by a US Military Government for the next several years under the pretext of shaping it into a “self-governing colony.” Even at the time, it felt like one imperial power was being replaced by another.

The United States gave Cuba back to its own people in 1902—under Teddy Roosevelt's presidency, to be fair—but there were still all kinds of gotchas written into the handover that made sure we had at least one hand on their steering wheel for a long time after. One of those gotchas was the perpetual lease on Guantanamo Bay, which was still left in place even after that other Roosevelt dropped the Platt Amendment in 1934. If you were able to look forward into the future from San Juan Hill, 1898, you might find Fidel Castro scowling back at you.

There was also the matter of the Philippine campaign, which ended with a Filipino declaration of independence that the Americans refused to recognize and the Filipino rebels not being allowed to even enter Manila during the surrender ceremony under threat of gunfire. By the time The Rough Riders was being prepped for the bookstores, the Filipinos' deep sense of betrayal by the Americans led into the Philippine-American War, an intensely divisive war which officially was declared over in 1901, but unofficially dragged on for another ten years.

The Spanish-American War, as short and “splendid” as it supposedly was, left behind consequences we're still dealing with a century later, which fills me with a sharp dread about what we'll be facing in the years to come from where we are now. This is exactly why history is so important. From the bird's-eye view, the same mistakes keep cropping up in a distressingly predictable fashion. This has happened before, and this will happen again...if we're not careful. And yes, that means I'm the fifth Cylon.

As for the text—you had to know I was coming back to that eventually—Roosevelt tells the story of his corner of the war very well. In selling us on the men he led and the war into which he led them, he sketches a number of distinct personalities and their personal yarns. Sometimes this approach devolves into a simple (and simply endless) list of names, but those sections pass quickly. He does make it all sound like a bundle of frustrations broken up by pockets of armed adventure, but from the official report he includes as an appendix, that's pretty much how he saw it.

MVP Of The Book: Frankly, I'm insulted that you have to ask. While Roosevelt's far from alone in his own story, there's a reason Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley called the book Alone In Cuba. Since we spent so much time with Leonard Wood early on, it's worth your time to find out what happened to him after the war. Some parts are impressive, others distinctly unpleasant.

Would you recommend it to a friend? Yes, but only if they're predisposed to war stories or Roosevelt stories. If that's is the type of story you like, you'll like this story.

Is this (still) a summer book? I'm not so convinced on that point, going by the Times' concept of “summer reading” as something that carries you along without insisting on staying around if you can imagine something better. While it's not difficult reading, it's still the history of a particular unit in a particular war, and Roosevelt's approach to his own story assumes that you and he have some common knowledge about the Spanish-American War. Obviously that's no longer a given by any stretch of the imagination; most Americans know this war as the one Roosevelt was in if they know anything at all. To get everything this text has to offer 110 years later, you need to be a bit more actively engaged than you would with a standard lounging-around read. Have a few Wikipedia pages open, at least.

And before we move on, an acknowledgment in the spirit of humility that it's been well over a year since I started my trip report on this book. Hopefully this proves to you that I was not defeated, only delayed. Daleks and Cylons in one post...there's a fanfic waiting to happen.

Next: Finally moving on, and it could be another well-deserved penalty round. Let's find out together.

Hey, everybody! We're fever-mangled wrecks but we're going home!

The spirits of the soldiers were rising almost as fast as their lunches once they found out they would be sailing for home, but while the campaign was winding down, they were still in the dark about the disposition of the war at large. With that in mind, Roosevelt's officers began making plans for drilling the men on horseback again in case they had to make a future push against the Spanish cavalry. “The [Spanish cavalry] men were small, and the horses, though well trained and well built, were diminutive ponies, very much smaller than cow ponies. We were certain that if we ever got a chance to try shock tactics against them they would go down like nine-pins, provided only that our men could be trained to charge in any kind of line, and we made up our minds to devote our time to this.”

Without bullets and bursting shells flying around his ears, Roosevelt could now afford to get a little touristy and get a little cozier with the stuff that stuck in his craw before.

The surroundings of the city of Santiago are very grand. The circling mountains rise sheer and high. The plains are threaded by rapid winding brooks and are dotted here and there with quaint villages, curiously picturesque from their combining traces of an outworn old-world civilization with new and raw barbarism. The tall, graceful, feathery bamboos rise by the water's edge, and elsewhere, even on the mountain-crests, where the soil is wet and rank enough; and the splendid royal palms and cocoanut palms tower high above the matted green jungle.

Generally the thunder-storms came in the afternoon, but once I saw one at sunrise, driving down the high mountain valleys toward us. It was a very beautiful and almost terrible sight; for the sun rose behind the storm, and shone through the gusty rifts, lighting the mountain-crests here and there, while the plain below lay shrouded in the lingering night. The angry, level rays edged the dark clouds with crimson, and turned the downpour into sheets of golden rain; in the valleys the glimmering mists were tinted every wild hue; and the remotest heavens were lit with flaming glory. (pp. 213-4)

The embarkation orders came on August 6th, and the next morning they were on the transport Miami. While things were crowded, the conditions weren't nearly as bad as on the Yucatan. Sure, the dreaded “canned beef” was back, there wasn't a proper infirmary, and the officers slept in “an improvised shed” on the upper deck, but the illness and hygiene were kept under enough control that they didn't have to quarantine the whole lot once the ship landed at Montauk. The only death during the return trip was a dysentery case, and we're helpfully informed that it was his own damn fault for getting wasted on the Cubans' liquor and then marching in the heat before he had fully slept it off. “He never recovered, and was useless from that time on. On board ship he died, and we gave him sea burial.”

That's not to say there weren't other issues, of course.

Soon after leaving port the captain of the ship notified me that his stokers and engineers were insubordinate and drunken, due, he thought, to liquor which my men had given them. I at once started a search of the ship, explaining to the men that they could not keep the liquor; that if they surrendered whatever they had to me I should return it to them when we went ashore; and that meanwhile I would allow the sick to drink when they really needed it; but that if they did not give the liquor to me of their own accord I would throw it overboard. About seventy flasks and bottles were handed to me, and I found and threw overboard about twenty. This at once put a stop to all drunkenness. The stokers and engineers were sullen and half mutinous, so I sent a detail of my men down to watch them and see that they did their work under the orders of the chief engineer; and we reduced them to obedience in short order. I could easily have drawn from the regiment sufficient skilled men to fill every position in the entire ship's crew, from captain to stoker. (p. 215)

“Didn't you have a hip flask when we set out?” “Yeah, but Colonel Buzz Killington took it away from me.” “Buzz Killington? Did he tell you a story about a bridge?” “Thank God, no.” (long pause) The guy's Batman, y'know.” “Really? That would explain a lot...”

There was also the problem of relieving the shipboard tedium on the nine-day trip, which was dealt with through gambling and the sharing of manly yarns. “Sometimes General Wheeler joined us and told us about the great war, compared with which ours was such a small war—far-reaching in their importance though its effects were destined to be.” You don't know the half of it, Teddy, but we'll talk about that later. There was also time to contemplate the implications of a single word cable that they'd received from a man at the New York Sun before casting off: “Peace.” So much for Havana in December. Unless you're willing to book your own passage, that is...and I wouldn't put that past the Colonel.

On the late afternoon of the 14th of August, roughly two months after they left Tampa Harbor for Cuba, the ship carrying the Rough Riders cast anchor at Montauk. “A gun-boat of the Mosquito fleet came out to greet us and to inform us that peace negotiations had begun.” Now that the peace was in the bag, the men of the regiment who had been left behind were really in a bad way. “Of course those who stayed had done their duty precisely as did those who went, for the question of glory was not to be considered in comparison to the faithful performance of whatever was ordered; and no distinction of any kind was allowed in the regiment between those whose good fortune it had been to go and those whose harder fate it had been to remain. Nevertheless the latter could not be entirely comforted.”

While there was some confusion in the hospitals at first, the ill were well cared for...although Roosevelt, typically, wasn't among them in the sickbeds. In fact, he had never felt better in his life, “all the better for having lost twenty pounds.”

Oh, there were regimental mascots, too. Funny that he never mentioned them before.

The regiment had three mascots; the two most characteristic—a young mountain lion brought by the Arizona troops, and a war eagle brought by the New Mexicans—we had been forced to leave behind in Tampa. The third, a rather disreputable but exceedingly knowing little dog named Cuba, had accompanied us through all the vicissitudes of the campaign. The mountain lion, Josephine, possessed an infernal temper; whereas both Cuba and the eagle, which have been named in my honor, were extremely good-humored. Josephine was kept tied up. She sometimes escaped. One cool night in early September she wandered off and, entering the tent of a Third Cavalry man, got into bed with him; whereupon he fled into the darkness with yells, much more unnerved than he would have been by the arrival of any number of Spaniards. The eagle was let loose and not only walked at will up and down the company streets, but also at times flew wherever he wished. He was a young bird, having been taken out of his nest when a fledgling. Josephine hated him and was always trying to make a meal of him, especially when we endeavored to take their photographs together. The eagle, though good-natured, was an entirely competent individual and ready at any moment to beat Josephine off. Cuba was also oppressed at times by Josephine, and was of course no match for her, but was frequently able to overawe by simple decision of character.

In addition to the animal mascots, we had two or three small boys who had also been adopted by the regiment. One, from Tennessee, was named Dabney Royster. When we embarked at Tampa he smuggled himself on board the transport with a 22-calibre rifle and three boxes of cartridges, and wept bitterly when sent ashore. The squadron which remained behind adopted him, got him a little Rough Rider's uniform, and made him practically one of the regiment.(pp. 221-2)

Poor kid. He only wanted to shoot somebody. Well, a lot of grown men had to settle for a consolation prize, too.

Now that the excitement of battle was receding into memory, Roosevelt was confronted with the heart-stopping glamor of the mustering-out paperwork...where he discovered for the first time how fast and loose he had played his authority on the battlefield. “The mustering-out officer, a thorough soldier, found to his horror that I had used the widest discretion both in imposing heavy sentences which I had no power to impose on men who shirked their duties, and, where men atoned for misconduct by marked gallantry, in blandly remitting sentences approved by my chief of division.”

During the last month at Montauk, the Rough Riders engaged in daily bronco-busting exhibitions and a few mounted drills, including one for a visiting President McKinley. One afternoon the regiment presented Roosevelt with Remington's “The Bronco Buster” as a gift of thanks. “There could have been no more appropriate gift from such a regiment, and I was not only pleased with it, but very deeply touched with the feeling which made them join in giving it.”

If the month as a whole was a winding-down and wrapping-up period, the last night was a veritable circus.

The last night before we were mustered out was spent in noisy, but entirely harmless hilarity, which I ignored. Every form of celebration took place in the ranks. A former Populist candidate for Attorney-General in Colorado delivered a fervent oration in favor of free silver; a number of the college boys sang; but most of the men gave vent to their feelings by improvised dances. In these the Indians took the lead, pure bloods and half-breeds alike, the cowboys and miners cheerfully joining in and forming part of the howling, grunting rings, that went bounding around the great fires they had kindled.

Next morning Sergeant Wright took down the colors, and Sergeant Guitilias the standard, for the last time; the horses, the rifles, and the rest of the regimental property had been turned in; officers and men shook hands and said good-by to one another, and then they scattered to their homes in the North and the South, the few going back to the great cities of the East, the many turning again toward the plains, the mountains, and the deserts of the West and the strange Southwest. This was on September 15th, the day which marked the close of the four months' life of a regiment of as gallant fighters as ever wore the United States uniform. (pp. 228-9)

Since the book was written barely six months after the muster out, it seems a bit premature to ponder how well everybody turned out in the end, but after an assessment of the uniqueness of his unit among volunteers, Roosevelt goes on to tell us how the men's self-reliance saw the survivors through the short-term future. “[A]s a whole, they scattered out to their homes on the disbandment of the regiment; gaunter than when they had enlisted, sometimes weakened by fever or wounds, but just as full as ever of sullen, sturdy capacity for self-help; scorning to ask for aid, save what was entirely legitimate in the way of one comrade giving help to another.” This in spite of the fact that many of the men had lost their jobs while in service—way to stand behind your army, homefront—and were too sick to go back to work immediately. Roosevelt and a few others managed to scrape up a fund to help these men out, and while a few reluctantly accepted the money, we're told most of them wouldn't accept any kind of help.

In the first chapter, I spoke of a lady, a teacher in an academy in the Indian Territory, three or four of whose pupils had come into my regiment, and who had sent with them a letter of introduction to me. When the regiment disbanded, I wrote to her to ask if she could not use a little money among the Rough Riders, white, Indian, and half-breed, that she might personally know. I did not hear from her for some time, and then she wrote as follows:


December 19, 1898.

“MY DEAR COLONEL ROOSEVELT: I did not at once reply to your letter of September 23d, because I waited for a time to see if there should be need among any of our Rough Riders, of the money you so kindly offered. Some of the boys are poor, and in one or two cases they seemed to me really needy, but they all said no. More than once I saw the tears come to their eyes, at thought of your care for them, as I told them of your letter. Did you hear any echoes of our Indian war-whoops over your election? They were pretty loud. I was particularly exultant, because my father was a New Yorker and I was educated in New York, even if I was born here. So far as I can learn, the boys are taking up the dropped threads of their lives, as though they had never been away. Our two Rough Rider students, Meagher and Gilmore, are doing well in their college work.

“I am sorry to tell you of the death of one of your most devoted troopers, Bert Holderman, who was here serving on the Grand Jury. He was stricken with meningitis in the jury-room, and died after three days of delirium. His father, who was twice wounded, four times taken prisoner, and fought in thirty-two battles of the civil war, now old and feeble, survives him, and it was indeed pathetic to see his grief. Bert's mother, who is a Cherokee, was raised in my grandfather's family. The words of commendation which you wrote upon Bert's discharge are the greatest comfort to his friends. They wanted you to know of his death, because he loved you so.

“I am planning to entertain all the Rough Riders in this vicinity some evening during my holiday vacation. I mean to have no other guests, but only give them an opportunity for reminiscences. I regret that Bert's death makes one less. I had hoped to have them sooner, but our struggling young college salaries are necessarily small and duties arduous. I make a home for my widowed mother and an adopted Indian daughter, who is in school; and as I do the cooking for a family of five, I have found it impossible to do many things I would like to.

“Pardon me for burdening you with these details, but I suppose I am like your boys, who say, 'The Colonel was always as ready to listen to a private as to a major-general.' “

Wishing you and yours the very best gifts the season can bring, I am,

“Very truly yours,


Is it any wonder that I loved my regiment? (pp. 234-6)

And yes, that offhand comment about “your election” is the only time the text even hints that the book came from the pen of Governor Roosevelt of New York.

Next: The post-game report...with a few pointed comments.

The Rough Riders will be wrapping up later today, but before I call it a night, here's a fabulous tiny-print ad I found in an 1898 edition of McClure's Magazine that included another account of the Cuban campaign.

And in case you can't (or won't) read the image, for whatever reason:
Study Law at Home: Instruction by mail adapted to every one. Methods approved by leading educators Experienced and competent instructors. Takes spare time only. Three courses, preparatory, business, college. An opportunity to better your condition and prospects. Students and graduates everywhere. Eight years of success. Full particulars free. Sprague Correspondence School of Law, 248 Tel. Bldg., Detroit, Mich.
Nice to know that you get your toes wet in the complex, high-stakes lawyerin' world in your down time in the world of 1899, and since they've been in business eight years, you know they're not going anywhere (until Mr. Sprague's checks stop clearing). But would you, the modern sophisticate of the 21st century, feel comfortable with a lawyer holding a mail-order degree? Yeah, I know that's how Orly Taitz did it, but I'm assuming you're looking for one who isn't hilarious.

Why the hell is a cherub holding the book? Are we studying Valentine Law today?

Peace is bustin' out all over as we begin Chapter 6 (“The Return Home”), and the cavalry had moved to the foothills west of El Caney with the artillery, but if the war had a heavy cost, the peace was raring to beat the living daylights out of the remaining men. “It was a most beautiful spot beside a stream of clear water, but it was not healthy. In fact no ground in the neighborhood was healthy.” The chief issue was a constant recurrence of malarial fever, and while it never knocked more than 20% of the men flat at any one time, there were never more than 50% of all the men who were actually well enough to do anything. To compound the misery, they made the move to the foothills (“through some blunder”) during the hottest part of the day, so the five-mile march tipped put half of the guys down before they reached the new campsite.

The malaria would come and go, then come back again to ask if you were talking about it, which means the men would recover just enough to feel like being up and around, only to taste the backhand of the illness again. “Every officer other than myself except one was down with sickness at one time or another. […] All the clothes were in rags; even the officers had neither socks nor underwear. The lithe college athletes had lost their spring; the tall, gaunt hunters and cow-punchers lounged listlessly in their dog-tents, which were steaming morasses during the torrential rains, and then ovens when the sun blazed down; but there were no complaints.” Even Bardshar, Roosevelt's orderly, had lost eighty pounds from illness.

Of course, the conditions at the larger field hospitals were still pathetic enough to cause all kinds of nightmares, so they were laboring mightily to prevent anybody from getting sent down.

There were but twelve ambulances with the army, and these were quite inadequate for their work; but the conditions in the large field hospitals were so bad, that as long as possible we kept all of our sick men in the regimental hospital at the front. Dr. Church did splendid work, although he himself was suffering much more than half the time from fever. Several of the men from the ranks did equally well, especially a young doctor from New York, Harry Thorpe, who had enlisted as a trooper, but who was now made acting assistant-surgeon. It was with the greatest difficulty that Church and Thorpe were able to get proper medicine for the sick, and it was almost the last day of our stay before we were able to get cots for them. Up to that time they lay on the ground. No food was issued suitable for them, or for the half-sick men who were not on the doctor's list; the two classes by this time included the bulk of the command. Occasionally we got hold of a wagon or of some Cuban carts, and at other times I used my improvised pack-train (the animals of which, however, were continually being taken away from us by our superiors) and went or sent back to the sea-coast at Siboney or into Santiago itself to get rice, flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, condensed milk, potatoes, and canned vegetables. The rice I bought in Santiago; the best of the other stuff I got from the Red Cross through Mr. George Kennan and Miss Clara Barton and Dr. Lesser; but some of it I got from our own transports. Colonel Weston, the Commissary-General, as always, rendered us every service in his power. This additional and varied food was of the utmost service, not merely to the sick but in preventing the well from becoming sick. Throughout the campaign the Division Inspector-General, Lieutenant-Colonel Garlington, and Lieutenants West and Dickman, the acting division quartermaster and commissary, had done everything in their power to keep us supplied with food; but where there were so few mules and wagons even such able and zealous officers could not do the impossible. (pp. 200-2)

As if things weren't squirrelly enough, some of the Cubans in the rear were tagged with yellow fever, a nasty piece of viral work which freaked out some of the doctors and a few of the generals. Fortunately, the yellow fever didn't turn into an epidemic. Unfortunately, there was no telling that to the men in Washington who made the decisions about whether or not to get the hell out of the country, since a few incidents in recent decades had worked a special kind of paranoid magic on their decision making. “I doubt if there were ever more than a dozen genuine cases of yellow fever in the whole cavalry division; but the authorities at Washington, misled by the reports they received from one or two of their military and medical advisers at the front, became panic-struck, and under the influence of their fears hesitated to bring the army home, lest it might import yellow fever into the United States.” The verdict seemed to be to stay in Cuba with their misery and disease.

That wasn't the only thing on which the crazymaking remote-control driving from Washington was wreaking havoc. There was the matter of whether to stay in one place in Cuba, and how to get to the other place, wherever they decided that needed to be. This is one of the longer quote block, but stick with me here...

They unfortunately knew nothing of the country nor of the circumstances of the army, and the plans that were from time to time formulated in the Department (and even by an occasional general or surgeon at the front) for the management of the army would have been comic if they had not possessed such tragic possibilities. Thus, at one period it was proposed that we should shift camp every two or three days. Now, our transportation, as I have pointed out before, was utterly inadequate. In theory, under the regulations of the War Department, each regiment should have had at least twenty-five wagons. As a matter of fact our regiment often had none, sometimes one, rarely two, and never three; yet it was better off than any other in the cavalry division. In consequence it was impossible to carry much of anything save what the men had on their backs, and half of the men were too weak to walk three miles with their packs. Whenever we shifted camp the exertion among the half-sick caused our sick-roll to double next morning, and it took at least three days, even when the shift was for but a short distance, before we were able to bring up the officers' luggage, the hospital spare food, the ammunition, etc. Meanwhile the officers slept wherever they could, and those men who had not been able to carry their own bedding, slept as the officers did. In the weak condition of the men the labor of pitching camp was severe and told heavily upon them. In short, the scheme of continually shifting camp was impossible of fulfilment. It would merely have resulted in the early destruction of the army.

Again, it was proposed that we should go up the mountains and make our camps there. The palm and the bamboo grew to the summits of the mountains, and the soil along their sides was deep and soft, while the rains were very heavy, much more so than immediately on the coast—every mile or two inland bringing with it a great increase in the rainfall. We could, with much difficulty, have got our regiments up the mountains, but not half the men could have got up with their belongings; and once there it would have been an impossibility to feed them. It was all that could be done, with the limited number of wagons and mule-trains on hand, to feed the men in the existing camps, for the travel and the rain gradually rendered each road in succession wholly impassable. To have gone up the mountains would have meant early starvation.

The third plan of the Department was even more objectionable than either of the others. There was, some twenty-five miles in the interior, what was called a high interior plateau, and at one period we were informed that we were to be marched thither. As a matter of fact, this so-called high plateau was the sugar-cane country, where, during the summer, the rainfall was prodigious. It was a rich, deep soil, covered with a rank tropic growth, the guinea-grass being higher than the head of a man on horseback. It was a perfect hotbed of malaria, and there was no dry ground whatever in which to camp. To have sent the troops there would have been simple butchery. (pp. 204-7)

The option that was agreed to? The “we'll just stay where we are until you guys get your heads out of your asses, thank you kindly” option. You know, the one that doesn't spell assured doom.

Keeping morale up was starting to become a problem, mainly because there wasn't a whole lot to do that didn't wring the sick ones out like a dishrag. ”Once or twice I took some of my comrades with me, and climbed up one or another of the surrounding mountains, but the result generally was that half of the party were down with some kind of sickness next day.” There was epic heat in the mornings, and the rains that usually drenched the countryside in the evening made walking around a mucky ordeal. Even if they were well enough to make the trip into Santiago—and there were restrictions—there wasn't much going on in “the quaint, dirty old Spanish city.” By this time, Roosevelt's buddy Leonard Wood had been appointed military governor, and was operating out of “the low, bare, rambling building which was called the Governor's Palace.” Roosevelt was thus the head of his entire brigade, which put him in a prime position to take part in the next bit of drama.

There had developed a consensus among the army officers in Cuba that if there wasn't anything for them to actually do in Cuba, they'd like to get the hell out and go to the fighting in Puerto Rico or wherever, instead of sitting around and waiting for the fever to kill them. Whatever happened after Santiago, everyone in Santiago agreed that the army needed to get out or face ruination. With all of this in mind, General Shafter called a conference of all the division and brigade commanders around the last day of July. “The telegrams from the Secretary stating the position of himself and the Surgeon-General were read, and then almost every line and medical officer present expressed his views in turn. They were almost all regulars and had been brought up to life-long habits of obedience without protest.” However, while every man present agreed that it would be an unforgivable waste to stay put, the officers who were regular army were a bit twitchy about sacrificing their careers to make this point. Since Roosevelt wasn't a career soldier, he presumably had the least to lose from reprisals, so it fell to him to bear the brunt of this gambit. “So I wrote a letter to General Shafter, reading over the rough draft to the various Generals and adopting their corrections. Before I had finished making these corrections it was determined that we should send a circular letter on behalf of all of us to General Shafter, and when I returned from presenting him mine, I found this circular letter already prepared and we all of us signed it.”

In what came to be known as “the 'round robin' incident”, the text of both Roosevelt's letter and the circular letter were dutifully leaked, possibly by Roosevelt himself, to an AP correspondent (as reprinted in Appendix C). “I was present when [the correspondent] was handed both letters; he was present while they were being written.” The goal was to embarrass the government into action, and on that point, it was very successful. “Within three days the army was ordered to be ready to sail for home.” Well, it accomplished that, but there's a possibility that the blowback from the incident was one of the things that cost Roosevelt a much-desired Congressional Medal of Honor, an oversight that was eventually corrected...103 years later. Which only proves yet again that Bill Clinton got to do everything.

Next: Going home! And more boats!

While we're between chapters (and while I'm bored and awake in the dead of night) is a good time to test out the "clip" function on Google Books: one of the many photographs tipped into the original editions of The Rough Riders was of Sergeant Guitilias, the Civil War vet who helped man the dynamite gun.

Questions for discussion: Do you think that's a look of stoicism, exhaustion, or resentment? And what's up with his hat? That's the flattest hat I've seen on anybody in this book.

It's still Chapter 5 and we're still waiting for a truce, a surprise ambush, a Spanish brigade in a clown car...anything to break up the monotony of the waiting. All this lollygagging around was killing our man Teddy, who wasn't feeling particularly useful if something wasn't testing his mettle. “Indeed, as long as we were under fire or in the immediate presence of the enemy, and I had plenty to do, there was nothing of which I could legitimately complain; and what I really did regard as hardships, my men did not object to—for later on, when we had some leisure, I would have given much for complete solitude and some good books.”

While the war's motor is idling in the 2-hours-only parking space, Roosevelt holds forth on what it takes for an officer to get his soldiers' loyalty.

With all volunteer troops, and I am inclined to think with regulars, too, in time of trial, the best work can be got out of the men only if the officers endure the same hardships and face the same risks. In my regiment, as in the whole cavalry division, the proportion of loss in killed and wounded was considerably greater among the officers than among the troopers, and this was exactly as it should be. Moreover, when we got down to hard pan, we all, officers and men, fared exactly alike as regards both shelter and food. This prevented any grumbling. When the troopers saw that the officers had nothing but hardtack, there was not a man in the regiment who would not have been ashamed to grumble at faring no worse, and when all alike slept out in the open, in the rear of the trenches, and when the men always saw the field officers up at night, during the digging of the trenches, and going the rounds of the outposts, they would not tolerate, in any of their number, either complaint or shirking work. When things got easier I put up my tent and lived a little apart, for it is a mistake for an officer ever to grow too familiar with his men, no matter how good they are; and it is of course the greatest possible mistake to seek popularity either by showing weakness or by mollycoddling the men. They will never respect a commander who does not enforce discipline, who does not know his duty, and who is not willing both himself to encounter and to make them encounter every species of danger and hardship when necessary. The soldiers who do not feel this way are not worthy of the name and should be handled with iron severity until they become fighting men and not shams. In return the officer should carefully look after his men, should see that they are well fed and well sheltered, and that, no matter how much they may grumble, they keep the camp thoroughly policed. (pp. 181-3)

Whatever it was, Roosevelt's men were so loyal that they even shared their meager rations with him when they saw he was doing without. As it happened, their food supply began finding them again once all that guns-and-bombs distraction settled down—mainly hardtack, pork, and half of the coffee and sugar they were getting before. Since this wasn't the greatest menu in the world for the tropics, especially since yellow fever was starting to make the rounds, T.R. once again did some extracurricular fiddling around out of pocket money for beans, canned tomatoes, and the like, supervising the pack train personally on a few occasions. “If I did not go myself I sent some man who had shown that he was a driving, energetic, tactful fellow, who would somehow get what we wanted. […] My regiment did not fare very well; but I think it fared better than any other. Of course no one would have minded in the least such hardships as we endured had there been any need of enduring them; but there was none. System and sufficiency of transportation were all that were needed.”

As he discussed with the other officers on the line at the time, one of the biggest failings in planning was the complete absence of supply depots. When he sent the mule train out, they had to go all the way back to the supply ships (I'm assuming they were still either at Daiquiri or Siboney), which was an extreme pain in the hindquarters because the Rough Riders never had more than twenty-four hours' worth of food with them at any given time. If a freak hurricane sank them, they better hope they have this guy with them:

You ever eat a mule? Some parts are edible. That's what I've been told, anyway.

While waiting for the end of the siege, Roosevelt busied himself in two ways. First, bolstering his defenses even further...

If the city could be taken without direct assault on the intrenchments and wire entanglements, we earnestly hoped it would be, for such an assault meant, as we knew by past experience, the loss of a quarter of the attacking regiments (and we were bound that the Rough Riders should be one of these attacking regiments, if the attack had to be made). There was, of course, nobody who would not rather have assaulted than have run the risk of failure; but we hoped the city would fall without need arising for us to suffer the great loss of life which a further assault would have entailed.

[...]The week of non-fighting was not all a period of truce; part of the time was passed under a kind of nondescript arrangement, when we were told not to attack ourselves, but to be ready at any moment to repulse an attack and to make preparations for meeting it. During these times I busied myself in putting our trenches into first-rate shape and in building bomb-proofs and traverses. One night I got a detail of sixty men from the First, Ninth, and Tenth, whose officers always helped us in every way, and with these, and with sixty of my own men, I dug a long, zigzag trench in advance of the salient of my line out to a knoll well in front, from which we could command the Spanish trenches and block-houses immediately ahead of us. On this knoll we made a kind of bastion consisting of a deep, semi-circular trench with sand-bags arranged along the edge so as to constitute a wall with loop-holes. Of course, when I came to dig this trench, I kept both Greenway and Goodrich supervising the work all night, and equally of course I got Parker and Stevens to help me. By employing as many men as we did we were able to get the work so far advanced as to provide against interruption before the moon rose, which was about midnight. Our pickets were thrown far out in the jungle, to keep back the Spanish pickets and prevent any interference with the diggers. The men seemed to think the work rather good fun than otherwise, the possibility of a brush with the Spaniards lending a zest that prevented its growing monotonous.

Parker had taken two of his Gatlings, removed the wheels, and mounted them in the trenches; also mounting the two automatic Colts where he deemed they could do best service. With the completion of the trenches, bomb-proofs, and traverses, and the mounting of these guns, the fortifications of the hill assumed quite a respectable character, and the Gatling men christened it Fort Roosevelt, by which name it afterward went. (pp. 188, 189-91)

...and secondly, dealing with the tourist trade.

One day we were visited by a travelling Russian, Prince X., a large, blond man, smooth and impenetrable. I introduced him to one of the regular army officers, a capital fighter and excellent fellow, who, however, viewed foreign international politics from a strictly trans-Mississippi stand-point. He hailed the Russian with frank kindness and took him off to show him around the trenches, chatting volubly, and calling him "Prince," much as Kentuckians call one another "Colonel." As I returned I heard him remarking: "You see, Prince, the great result of this war is that it has united the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon people; and now that they are together they can whip the world, Prince! they can whip the world!"—being evidently filled with the pleasing belief that the Russian would cordially sympathize with this view. (pp. 191-2)

At midday of the 10th, the Spanish opened fire yet again in a sort of half-hearted way, but Parker's Gatlings, along with the sharpshooters and the dynamite gun, managed to shut the assault down once they figured out that the Spanish gun battery was immediately in front of their hospital. It was obvious that the men had gotten used to their chances on the line.

While I was lying with the officers just outside one of the bomb-proofs I saw a New Mexican trooper named Morrison making his coffee under the protection of a traverse high up on the hill. Morrison was originally a Baptist preacher who had joined the regiment purely from a sense of duty, leaving his wife and children, and had shown himself to be an excellent soldier. He had evidently exactly calculated the danger zone, and found that by getting close to the traverse he could sit up erect and make ready his supper without being cramped. I watched him solemnly pounding the coffee with the butt end of his revolver, and then boiling the water and frying his bacon, just as if he had been in the lee of the roundup wagon somewhere out on the plains. (pp. 194-5)

The next day, Roosevelt's regiment was shifted to the right to guard the Caney road, along with one of the Gatlings. “That evening there came up the worst storm we had had, and by midnight my tent blew over. I had for the first time in a fortnight undressed myself completely, and I felt fully punished for my love of luxury when I jumped out into the driving downpour of tropic rain, and groped blindly in the darkness for my clothes as they lay in the liquid mud.” He ended up wrapped in dry blankets in the kitchen tent, sleeping on a table.

Of course, this monotony was broken up by peace: “On the 17th the city formally surrendered and our regiment, like the rest of the army, was drawn up on the trenches. When the American flag was hoisted the trumpets blared and the men cheered, and we knew that the fighting part of our work was over.” On the 3rd, the Spanish forces had sent thousands of women, children, and other non-combatants out of the city to the relative safety of El Caney, and while the troops originally did what they could to relieve the hardship of “these wretched creatures,” Roosevelt ended up taking a hard line against feeding them from their already scant rations. “[H]owever hard and merciless it seemed, I was in duty bound to keep my own regiment at the highest pitch of fighting efficiency.” Now that the surrender was in the bag, the refugees were streaming back into the city, and the big-hearted Yankees were helping relieve the burdens. You do remember that to love the war, you must love the soldiers? We did settle that early on, didn't we? Well, the spirit of charity hit a different kind of snag this time around.

I saw one man, Happy Jack, spend the entire day in walking to and fro for about a quarter of a mile on both sides of our lines along the road, carrying the bundles for a series of poor old women, or else carrying young children. Finally the doctor warned us that we must not touch the bundles of the refugees for fear of infection, as disease had broken out and was rife among them. Accordingly I had to put a stop to these acts of kindness on the part of my men; against which action Happy Jack respectfully but strongly protested upon the unexpected ground that "The Almighty would never let a man catch a disease while he was doing a good action." I did not venture to take so advanced a theological stand. (pp. 197-8)

Next: The “splendid little war” in Cuba is over, and the peace runs the risk of killing us. Action-packed? Depends on how you define “action”...

We've reached nightfall at this point in Chapter 5, when suddenly fires started shooting up around the mountain passes to the right. “They all rose together and we could make nothing of them.” The best theory the Americans could come up with was that these were signal fires between the main Spanish forces in Santiago and their reinforcements—naturally they had no idea that the reinforcements had already arrived in the city, since the Cubans, as T.R. doesn't hesitate to remind us yet again, were just hopeless in stopping the traffic. The Spanish, meanwhile, assumed that those were signal fires between the Americans and the Cuban rebels, not knowing that the Americans were pretty much done with the rebels. With both sides thinking the other was making with the funny business, zany hijinks ensued! And by “zany hijinks,” I mean “sudden outbursts of deadly fire into the darkness.”

Both sides were accordingly on the alert, and the Spaniards must have strengthened their outlying parties in the jungle ahead of us, for they suddenly attacked one of our pickets, wounding Crockett seriously. He was brought in by the other troopers. Evidently the Spanish lines felt a little nervous, for this sputter of shooting was immediately followed by a tremendous fire of great guns and rifles from their trenches and batteries. Our men in the trenches responded heavily, and word was sent back, not only to me, but to the commanders in the rear of the regiments along our line, that the Spaniards were attacking. It was imperative to see what was really going on, so I ran up to the trenches and looked out. At night it was far easier to place the Spanish lines than by day, because the flame-spurts shone in the darkness. I could soon tell that there were bodies of Spanish pickets or skirmishers in the jungle-covered valley, between their lines and ours, but that the bulk of the fire came from their trenches and showed not the slightest symptom of advancing; moreover, as is generally the case at night, the fire was almost all high, passing well overhead, with an occasional bullet near by. (pp. 173-4)

Roosevelt concluded that it wasn't going to get them anywhere returning fire under these conditions, and Captain Ayres of the 10th Cavalry had the same idea, but getting the idea to hold fire and actually bringing his men around to that idea were two different things.

His troopers were devoted to him, would follow him anywhere, and would do anything he said; but when men get firing at night it is rather difficult to stop them, especially when the fire of the enemy in front continues unabated. When he first reached the trenches it was impossible to say whether or not there was an actual night attack impending, and he had been instructing his men, as I instructed mine, to fire low, cutting the grass in front. As soon as he became convinced that there was no night attack, he ran up and down the line adjuring and commanding the troopers to cease shooting, with words and phrases which were doubtless not wholly unlike those which the Old Guard really did use at Waterloo. As I ran down my own line, I could see him coming up his, and he saved me all trouble in stopping the fire at the right, where the lines met, for my men there all dropped everything to listen to him and cheer and laugh. Soon we got the troopers in hand, and made them cease firing; then, after awhile, the Spanish fire died down. At the time we spoke of this as a night attack by the Spaniards, but it really was not an attack at all. Ever after my men had a great regard for Ayres, and would have followed him anywhere. I shall never forget the way in which he scolded his huge, devoted black troopers, generally ending with "I'm ashamed of you, ashamed of you! I wouldn't have believed it! Firing; when I told you to stop! I'm ashamed of you!" (pp. 175-6)

The rest of the night was spent perfecting the trenches (no more relief forces hopping around like June bugs, as humorous as that image was), and on the morning of the 3rd the firing began again, with only one man catching a bullet from a sharpshooter. The annoyance of the day were the Spanish sharpshooters in the jungle just beyond the American lines, and so a team of twenty “first-class men,” including the many of the guerrilla-hunters from the previous day, were sent out to clean up the jungle.

Among them was good, solemn Fred Herrig, the Alsatian. I knew Fred's patience and skill as a hunter from the trips we had taken together after deer and mountain sheep through the Bad Lands of the Little Missouri. He still spoke English with what might be called Alsatian variations—he always spoke of the gun detail as the "góndêtle," with the accent on the first syllable—and he expressed a wish to be allowed "a holiday from the gondetle to go after dem gorrillas." I told him he could have the holiday, but to his great disappointment the truce came first, and then Fred asked that, inasmuch as the "gorrillas" were now forbidden game, he might be allowed to go after guinea hens instead. (p. 178)

Meanwhile, I just realized I didn't give a proper introduction to Dr. Robb Church, who first turned up in one of the parts I pruned from Chapter 2. He was a Princeton man assigned as Assistant Surgeon but ended up acting as Regimental Surgeon during the campaign. “It was Dr. Church who first gave me an idea of Bucky O'Neill's versatility, for I happened to overhear them discussing Aryan word-roots together, and then sliding off into a review of the novels of Balzac, and a discussion as to how far Balzac could be said to be the founder of the modern realistic school of fiction. Church had led almost as varied a life as Bucky himself, his career including incidents as far apart as exploring and elk-hunting in the Olympic Mountains, cooking in a lumber-camp, and serving as doctor on an emigrant ship.” All of this backtracking is to mention the field hospital Dr. Church set up on the far side of one of the American hills, and he did about as well as one could expect considering that he didn't really have (here comes the leitmotif again) that much in the way of hospitalin' supplies. As bad as Church had it (and he was feeling a bit sick himself), the conditions in the larger hospitals further to the rear of the lines were “so horrible, from the lack of attendants as well as of medicines, that we kept all the men we possibly could at the front.”

Here we reach an interesting point in the story of the siege of Santiago, one that's batted around in the wrong end of my imagination for quite some time. It doesn't figure into Roosevelt's story, at least as he tells it here, but I'm going to lay it on you anyway since otherwise this entry come up short.

A major player in the Spanish-American War I haven't mentioned yet was one of the biggest players of them all, as far as ground forces go: Major General William R. Shafter, a career soldier who was the commander of this whole operation in spite of being a gouty sixtysomething who weighed in excess of 300 pounds at the start of the campaign. He had a loose-limbed management style when it came to the whole expedition, which may have contributed to any number of frustrations Roosevelt has been complaining about for the past 180 pages. Shafter wasn't even aware that Wheeler had initiated the Battle of Las Guasimas until well after it was over. By San Juan Hill, he had succumbed to the heat of the Cuban jungle and was running the show (if you can call it that) flat on his back and well to the rear of the action.

Here's how the anonymous collective of Wikipedia editors phrase what happened next: “Shafter's lack of political understanding became more apparent after the battle when he proposed to Washington that he would pull his army back several miles to safety and where supplies could reach the troops more easily. However, by the time this message reached Washington a very different turn of events was actually taking place in Cuba. Instead of pulling back, Shafter demanded the surrender of Santiago. The Spaniards did not surrender the city immediately and Shafter conducted siege operations against the city.” The actual idea came from his adjutant, who said later that Shafter “looked at me a full minute for perhaps a full minute and I thought he was going to offer a rebuke,” but he finally decided to issue an ultimatum: surrender or be shelled. The shelling that closed the war came from the navy, and even then only after direct intervention from the Secretary of War. It's a shame that a Medal of Honor winner had to cap his career with this type of confused muddle, even if it was ultimately successful...more or less.

All of the above drama was diplomatically dismissed by Roosevelt, who wouldn't have been privy to any of it from the battlefield anyway, in one jungle's-eye-view sentence: “At twelve o'clock we were notified to stop firing and a flag of truce was sent in to demand the surrender of the city.” Even if it didn't accomplish anything on its own, Shafter's talk of getting a surrender gave the guys on the ground an opportunity to finally get properly restocked.

That afternoon I arranged to get our baggage up, sending back strong details of men to carry up their own goods, and, as usual, impressing into the service a kind of improvised pack-train consisting of the officers' horses, of two or three captured Spanish cavalry horses, two or three mules which had been shot and abandoned and which our men had taken and cured, and two or three Cuban ponies. Hitherto we had simply been sleeping by the trenches or immediately in their rear, with nothing in the way of shelter and only one blanket to every three or four men. Fortunately there had been little rain. We now got up the shelter tents of the men and some flies for the hospital and for the officers; and my personal baggage appeared. I celebrated its advent by a thorough wash and shave.

Later, I twice snatched a few hours to go to the rear and visit such of my men as I could find in the hospitals. Their patience was extraordinary. Kenneth Robinson, a gallant young trooper, though himself severely (I supposed at the time mortally) wounded, was noteworthy for the way in which he tended those among the wounded who were even more helpless, and the cheery courage with which he kept up their spirits. Gievers, who was shot through the hips, rejoined us at the front in a fortnight. Captain Day was hardly longer away. Jack Hammer, who, with poor Race Smith, a gallant Texas lad who was mortally hurt beside me on the summit of the hill, had been on kitchen detail, was wounded and sent to the rear; he was ordered to go to the United States, but he heard that we were to assault Santiago, so he struggled out to rejoin us, and thereafter stayed at the front. Cosby, badly wounded, made his way down to the sea-coast in three days, unassisted. (pp. 180-1)

Next: the end of the violence...the violence with guns, anyway. Yeah, as posts go, this is one of the shorter 'uns...

So here we are finally at Chapter 5 (“In The Trenches”) dealing with the day after the legend was made. The men who weren't already in trenches were moved behind the guns...then moved again...and again, because finding a place that was safe from shells and the Spanish sharpshooters (which they couldn't place from their entrenched positions because of the smokeless powder, of course) took about three hours. “Moreover, in one hollow, which we thought safe, the Spaniards succeeded in dropping a shell, a fragment of which went through the head of one of my men, who, astonishing to say, lived, although unconscious, for two hours afterward.” The next 24 hours were “cold comfort,” not only because they were bundling and nesting with whatever blankets, hammocks, etc. they found on the previous day's batch of dead Spaniards, but food was at a premium. Oh, the ammunition was making it through in great quantity, but for the most part they were stuck with rationed hardtack Bet they were sorry they scoffed at that “canned fresh beef” then.

The freshly-dug entrenchments turned out to be less than scientific—adequate for safety, if not optimal for defense or access. Do you know what a traverse is in trenching terms? Neither did Roosevelt, who had never even seen a trench until his guys captured the ones dug by the Spanish troops. While nobody actually got hit going in or out of the trenches, that didn't mean it wasn't an adventure:

Under the intense heat, crowded down in cramped attitudes in the rank, newly dug, poisonous soil of the trenches, the men needed to be relieved every six hours or so. Accordingly, in the late morning, and again in the afternoon, I arranged for their release. On each occasion I waited until there was a lull in the firing and then started a sudden rush by the relieving party, who tumbled into the trenches every which way. The movement resulted on each occasion in a terrific outburst of fire from the Spanish lines, which proved quite harmless; and as it gradually died away the men who had been relieved got out as best they could. Fortunately, by the next day I was able to abandon this primitive, though thrilling and wholly novel, military method of relief.

When the hardtack came up that afternoon I felt much sympathy for the hungry unfortunates in the trenches and hated to condemn them to six hours more without food; but I did not know how to get food into them. Little McGinty, the bronco buster, volunteered to make the attempt, and I gave him permission. He simply took a case of hardtack in his arms and darted toward the trenches. The distance was but short, and though there was an outburst of fire, he was actually missed. One bullet, however, passed through the case of hardtack just before he disappeared with it into the trench. A trooper named Shanafelt repeated the feat, later, with a pail of coffee. Another trooper, George King, spent a leisure hour in the rear making soup out of some rice and other stuff he found in a Spanish house; he brought some of it to General Wood, Jack Greenway, and myself, and nothing could have tasted more delicious. (pp. 162-3)

The musketry and the cannon weren't doing a whole lot of good with the front line conditions that prevailed. So the regular artillery was pulled off the firing line and...and... can't possibly be! Not after all this time!


If you remember waaaay back in October, I mentioned that the dynamite gun used compressed air to fire explosive projectiles, and I was overloaded with disappointment when they kept pulling it out of my grasping fingers. Now, finally, we get the dynamite gun in action! And now that we're at that point...well...

Did you ever have a particular toy you had a massive itch to get for Christmas or your birthday? It loomed so large in your imagination, and if you could get that one present, the very existence of the concept of gift-giving would be vindicated and the sun would come out on the Fourth of July! And then you unwrapped it, and it was a crappy piece of shoddy plastic with a sheet of peel-off stickers that you were expected to stick on yourself with your clumsy six-year-old fingers. Nothing could match the shining perfection you had built up in your memory, and as it sometimes turned out, nothing did. Remember kids: you can carry a talent for creating anticlimax through adulthood...unless you learn how to live your life right.

Wow, that was (ach-HEM) alarmingly specific. Anyway, the point of that rant is that the glory of the dynamite gun was an extremely mixed bag once they rolled it out to the line.

The dynamite gun was brought up to the right of the regimental line. It was more effective than the regular artillery because it was fired with smokeless powder, and as it was used like a mortar from behind the hill, it did not betray its presence, and those firing it suffered no loss. Every few shots it got out of order, and the Rough Rider machinists and those furnished by Lieutenant Parker—whom we by this time began to consider as an exceedingly valuable member of our own regiment—would spend an hour or two in setting it right. Sergeant Borrowe had charge of it and handled it well. With him was Sergeant Guitilias, a gallant old fellow, a veteran of the Civil War, whose duties were properly those of standard-bearer, he having charge of the yellow cavalry standard of the regiment; but in the Cuban campaign he was given the more active work of helping run the dynamite gun. The shots from the dynamite gun made a terrific explosion, but they did not seem to go accurately. Once one of them struck a Spanish trench and wrecked part of it. On another occasion one struck a big building, from which there promptly swarmed both Spanish cavalry and infantry, on whom the Colt automatic guns played with good effect, during the minute that elapsed before they could get other cover. (pp. 164-5)

That's right, the stupid thing could only squeeze off a few shots before it needed several hours' worth of tweaking before you could fire it again...and tweak it again. Sure it was effective...when it worked. Even a mention of the blessed smokeless powder can't get a rise out of me now. It's like Charlie Brown getting all those rocks on Halloween.

The Colt automatic guns had issues of their own, mainly because, being tripod mounted, the extreme weight made them impossible to move without the mules, and the “delicate” mechanism got out of whack just as easily as the dynamite gun. The Colts didn't even use the Krag ammo that the Americans had piled up from here to the New Year, but Mauser shells, which they managed to capture from the Spanish. “Parker took the same fatherly interest in these two Colts that he did in the dynamite gun, and finally I put all three and their men under his immediate care, so that he had a battery of seven guns.”

Roosevelt singles out Parker here as his MVP:

I do not allude especially to his courage and energy, great though they were, for there were hundreds of his fellow-officers of the cavalry and infantry who possessed as much of the former quality, and scores who possessed as much of the latter; but he had the rare good judgment and foresight to see the possibilities of the machine-guns, and, thanks to the aid of General Shafter, he was able to organize his battery. He then, by his own exertions, got it to the front and proved that it could do invaluable work on the field of battle, as much in attack as in defence. Parker's Gatlings were our inseparable companions throughout the siege. After our trenches were put in final shape, he took off the wheels of a couple and placed them with our own two Colts in the trenches. His gunners slept beside the Rough Riders in the bomb-proofs, and the men shared with one another when either side got a supply of beans or of coffee and sugar; for Parker was as wide-awake and energetic in getting food for his men as we prided ourselves upon being in getting food for ours. Besides, he got oil, and let our men have plenty for their rifles. At no hour of the day or night was Parker anywhere but where we wished him to be in the event of an attack. If I was ordered to send a troop of Rough Riders to guard some road or some break in the lines, we usually got Parker to send a Gatling along, and whether the change was made by day or by night, the Gatling went, over any ground and in any weather. He never exposed the Gatlings needlessly or unless there was some object to be gained, but if serious fighting broke out, he always took a hand. Sometimes this fighting would be the result of an effort on our part to quell the fire from the Spanish trenches; sometimes the Spaniards took the initiative; but at whatever hour of the twenty-four serious fighting began, the drumming of the Gatlings was soon heard through the cracking of our own carbines. (pp. 167-8)

Roosevelt also gave all due credit to the cavalry regulars, who were held up as the standard of excellence, and T.R. was extremely proud that the Rough Riders were treated as equals. Of course, Roosevelt indirectly toots his own horn by tooting the horn of his guys, which may be justified to a degree: “In less than sixty days the regiment had been raised, organized, armed, equipped, drilled, mounted, dismounted, kept for a fortnight on transports, and put through two victorious aggressive fights in very difficult country, the loss in killed and wounded amounting to a quarter of those engaged. This is a record which it is not easy to match in the history of volunteer organizations. The loss was but small compared to that which befell hundreds of regiments in some of the great battles of the later years of the Civil War; but it may be doubted whether there was any regiment which made such a record during the first months of any of our wars.” The digest version: We were awesome because they were awesome, and I just didn't have the heart to suck while they were in the room.

As the day of the 2nd wound on, the fighting dwindled to fits and starts, but while the sharpshooters in front of the line were making occasional problems, the guerrillas, who were still lingering in the trees behind the American lines, were indiscriminately popping caps at everybody they could find. “At times they fired upon armed men in bodies, but they much preferred for their victims the unarmed attendants, the doctors, the chaplains, the hospital stewards. They fired at the men who were bearing off the wounded in litters; they fired at the doctors who came to the front, and at the chaplains who started to hold burial service; the conspicuous Red Cross brassard worn by all of these non-combatants, instead of serving as a protection, seemed to make them the special objects of the guerilla fire.” It didn't help a bit that the Spanish were told all kinds of nonsense about Americans showing no quarter with captured prisoners, and therefore they would fight to the end unless they were talked down from the ledge. Regardless, these pests had to be smoked out, so he sent out a party of “first-class woodsmen” to go squirrel hunting.

My sharp-shooters felt very vindictively toward these guerillas and showed them no quarter.

Now what the hell did I just get through saying about that “no quarter” crap??! I even put it in italics! Italics = important! Jeez...maybe I'm still bitter about that dynamite gun.

They started systematically to hunt them, and showed themselves much superior at the guerillas' own game, killing eleven, while not one of my men was scratched. Two of the men who did conspicuously good service in this work were Troopers Goodwin and Proffit, both of Arizona, but one by birth a Californian and the other a North Carolinian. Goodwin was a natural shot, not only with the rifle and revolver, but with the sling. Proffit might have stood as a type of the mountaineers described by John Fox and Miss Murfree. He was a tall, sinewy, handsome man of remarkable strength, an excellent shot and a thoroughly good soldier. His father had been a Confederate officer, rising from the ranks, and if the war had lasted long enough the son would have risen in the same manner. As it was, I should have been glad to have given him a commission, exactly as I should have been glad to have given a number of others in the regiment commissions, if I had only had them. Proffit was a saturnine, reserved man, who afterward fell very sick with the fever, and who, as a reward for his soldierly good conduct, was often granted unusual privileges; but he took the fever and the privileges with the same iron indifference, never grumbling, and never expressing satisfaction. (pp. 172-3)

Forgive me if I do the "never expressing satisfaction" bit without the more redeeming "never grumbling" part accompanying it, but I'm still bitter about that dynamite gun. Should've asked for a lousy BB gun when I started the book...

Next: The night of the day after. Sorry, that's all you're getting tonight, ya dynamite gun-totin' jerks...

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