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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”...


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