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Rough Riders--The Facts Behind the Story


The 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry - rowdy, hell-raising outfit that came to be known as The Roughriders - was raised for service in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The prime movers in enlisting, training and equipping this band of disparate characters were Theodore Roosevelt and his professional soldier friend, Colonel Leonard Wood.

Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, horseman and hunter had political clout and boundless enthusiasm for the war against Spanish colonial aspirations in Cuba and the Philippines. He did not have much military savvy. That came to the unit through the firm leadership of Colonel Wood, a physician and experienced military professional who had won the Medal of Honor in earlier campaigns against the Apaches. Under the guidance of Roosevelt and Wood, the 1st Volunteer Cavalry enlisted Ivy League sophisticates, hard-bitten cowboys and anyone else who expressed an ardent desire to get into the fight against Spain.

The unit eventually went - dismounted - to Cuba where they earned a place in military history as the conquerors of San Juan Hill. It was actually nearby Kettle Hill that they charged and secured, but the fact remains that The Roughriders were an unconventional military asset on the battlefield and a boon to public opinion of the American soldier.