Monday, December 3, 2012

Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, born October 27, 1858 and died January 6, 1919, was the 26th President of the United States of America from 1901 to 1909. Known for many accomplishments  in the public arena, his experience as a Frontiersman and Cowboy are often over looked even those he was known in his day as "the Cowboy President". 

Perhaps Teddy Roosevelt is best known for as exploits in creating then eventually leading the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War. No matter your opinions of his politics, there is no doubt Roosevelt epitomized the American spirit of rugged individualism and self-responsibility.

Over coming physically aliments and sickness, Roosevelt went west in 1884 following the death of his first wife,  He settled on a ranch in the Dakota Territory and began ranching, later building a second ranch which he named Elk Horn.  

While in the Dakota's he was deputized as a Sheriff’s Deputy.  Roosevelt had several events where he hunted down wanted men, incident for stealing a river boat and another for horse thievery. Here he wrote his first of several books about frontier life which shaped the way Americans of the time perceived the West.

In 1898 Roosevelt was serving in the Navy Department when the United States declared War on Spain. Roosevelt resigned from the Navy Department and with help from Army Colonel Leonard Wood created a volunteer Cavalry regiment, mostly comprised of Cowboys, Lawmen and other Westerners, which would become known as the “Rough Riders” or officially as the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Notably some of this unit was made up of friends of Roosevelt from his Ivy League and political life on the East Coast.

While deployed to Cuba to bring the fight to the Spanish, Colonel Wood was needed to replace the Brigade Commander when illness took him and Roosevelt was promoted to Colonel and placed in charge of the Rough Riders. Colonel Roosevelt and the Rough Riders became famous for a dismounted charge up first Kettle Hill then San Juan Hill, under withering rifle fire from the entrenched Spanish soldiers. Roosevelt begin leading the charge up Kettle Hill while on horseback but due to obstacles he had to dismount.

A little known fact on this battle, which became known solely as the Battle for San Juan Hill, was that a contingent of Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry supported the Rough Riders charge on Kettle Hill, then became the main effort for the subsequent charge of San Juan Hill. While five Buffalo Soldiers would receive the Medal of Honor for actions in the Spanish-American War, oddly none of them were received for the Battle of Kettle or San Juan Hill. For his actions, Roosevelt was nominated for the Medal of Honor, which was disapproved, but later was posthumously awarded in 2001.

After the war and return to civilian life, and later his re-entry in politics, Roosevelt would enjoy a continued relationship with his Rough Rider veterans, who continued to address him as Colonel Roosevelt.  I admire Teddy Roosevelt because he brought his Western values with him whether he went, was plain spoken, and again epitomized the values of individualism and self-responsibility.  

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