On Sept. 15, the occasion of the disbanding of the 1st Volunteer Cavalry — better known as Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders — in 1898, I turn the blogging reins over to my grandfather. Here is his account of how he joined the Rough Riders — well, almost.
In the Spanish-American war in 1898: I was only 18 years of age; and was Easily excited; and was always ready to do what I could for the good of the country; And I was with my father in Winnsboro one Saturday; And I struck up with a man that was organizing the “ROUGH-RIDERS’ and I at once decided that I was going to join them; For I was anxious for adventure; Anyway; And I at once told the man; that if I could stand the examination; that I was ready to join; And he measured me, Weighed me, And questioned me as to my responsibilities; And told me to stand aside that I was acceptable; And just at that particular time my father stepped up And objected; and told me that the team was hitched up and ready to go home; and for me to come right along and let’s go.
So that was that; And I went home with him; But I had it made up in my mind that I was going to go back that night; and was going anyway; So when I went to bed that night, I kept my clothes on, and intended to just wait till my father went to sleep; and then to get up and go on back to Winnsboro; and turn myself in to the recruiter; And make the “ROUGH-RIDERS” Anyway; For it was the most fascinating thing that had ever come my way; And I intended to not let it slip; But when I awoke; I was still lying across the bed; Fully dressed; and the Sun an Hour up over the horizon; So I was beat again; For the recruiter told me that they were going to be gone real early the next day (that day); But I kept up with the movements of the “ROUGH RIDERS” And When I read of the SAN JUAN HILL incident; My heart was so thrilled that I just could imagine that I was right there on the spot; And felt myself right in the middle of it all; And of course I was feeling that if I was there on the ground; I would have been in the Number that reached the top of the hill; And that I would have been in the NUMBER that returned to tell the story of the climbing of “SAN JUAN HILL”; but the sad reminder was “Would I have been in the number that melted away before the blasts of the Smokeless Powder.”
Several years later, I was teaching school at HAYNESVILLE, TEXAS is near the town of MINEOLA; And one day there came a knock at my door; And upon opening it I beheld the face of one of my best friends; Who at the same time that I tried to get to go to the war, He went, and was one of the lucky ones that reached the top of San Juan Hill; And he stayed with me for several days; And told me the story as it happened.
He said that they were at the foot of San Juan Hill; and they were being fired upon by the Enemy with Smokeless powder; And were being exterminated just as fast as the enemy could fire; And that teddy Roosevelt, Who was their captain Drawed them up and made them a short speech, For there were no time to lose, And told them that they were being fired upon from behind rocks, and trees with Smokeless powder; and that they were unable to tell from where the bullets came and that the only way out of this predicament Was to take them by storm, Run and shoot as we go till we get to the top of the HILL. He said that he knew it was almost suicidal; But that was our only means of taking the Hill, And that was the only thing to do; For if we didn’t do that; that we were all going to be killed, And have nothing to show for it; And from there he said let’s Go (He didn’t say go But he said Let’s go) and he led the way; And he fought as well as we and over half of our number melted away before we got to the top of the hill; But that all that got there took the fortifications; And won the battle.
I have often wondered whether I would have survived the affray; And could have been so fortunate as to have come back and tell the story to others as well as my own children in the days that has passed; Or would I have been left on the slopes of that monumental HILL with those that fell there? We never know what would have been if things were not as they are; Then The scripture that Paul Wrote to the ROMANS “All things work together for good to those that are called of GOD according to HIS purposes.”
We can’t always see that, But if we could see ahead as the LORD can we might be able to see the wisdom of whatever has had to be; And then we could say Amen to whatever has happened.
My grandfather left multiple versions of portions of his memoir manuscript. Here is a second first-hand account of how he nearly joined the Rough Riders in 1898.
I was born at a time; that as the saying goes that my life was cast as it was, that I was shielded from military duty, and there was never a time that My entering into the service was needed that I was permitted on account of my responsibilities to my home and family to enter into its service.
Except that at the age of 18 I Offered to enlist in the “Rough Riders’; Was accepted, and as I stepped off the scales, and was accepted as a volunteer, that my father stepped up and objected, and took me by the arm, and led me away, and he would not give up to let me go into the army; and as we only lived 9 miles away from Winnsboro, I meant to go anyway, I meant to run away that night and go back to Winnsboro and get in anyway, And so thinking that when I went in my room to go to bed, I just lay down on the bed cross-wise; expecting to get up as soon as my Father went to sleep, But I dropped off to sleep, And when I woke up the sun was shining the next day, And my hope to enter the army was blasted at that time, So I watched the viscitudes and fortunes, and the misfortunes of the Rough Riders and always wished that I could have been with them as they went up San Juan Hill, Of course I might have been in the number that did not get to the top of the hill, And then I would not have had this privilege, But I have always had the feeling that I would have had another chapter to write in this report. But I had the privilege of entertaining one of the boys that did go out of the number of friends that went from Winnsboro on the same day that I tried to go.
A few years after that time I was teaching school at Haynesville, Texas, and A man knocked on my door at the School house, and when I opened it there was in the door a man that I knew Oh so well that had gone up San Juan Hill on that memorable day, and the story that he told of Teddy Roosevelt, The commander of the “ROUGH RIDERS” Was something that will always stay with me. He said that Teddy said, “Boys you see that they are shooting us with smokeless powder. We cannot see them nor tell from whence the shots are coming, and if we longer here they will get all of us, and the only way that we can survive is go forward with a rush and who ever survives will capture the fortifications, So let’s go,” and he led the way.
He did not say “Go boys,” But he said “Let’s go boys” and he led the way. And this man said that the way that TEDDY spoke that day showed that HE was the one to lead them to the top of the hill; and he inspired us so that we felt that we were going to get to the top of that Hill; But alas there were a thinning of the ranks before we reached the top. But all that got there was glad of the attempt. It brought tears to think of what I missed of the glory of that achievement; But I am also thankful for what I also missed that day. It might have been a Baptism of fire and no smoke, and it might have been an eternal “good bye” to all that near and dear to me at that time.