Roosevelts Rough Riders
On May 6, 1898, Theodore Roosevelt resigned his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and volunteered to head a cavalry unit destined to fight in Cuba against Spain in the Spanish-American War. Eventually known as Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry included cowboys and gamblers, hunters and prospectors, Buffalo soldiers, college boys, and Native Americans from all 45 states then in existence, four U.S. territories and 14 countries.
The Rough Riders, consisting of 1,060 soldiers and 1,258 horses and mules, trained at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. The troops departed San Antonio on May 29, 1898, via the Southern Pacific Railroad, en route to Tampa, Florida to await embarkation to Cuba. While awaiting orders to ship-out, the unit was stationed on the grounds of the newly constructed Tampa Bay Hotel, where Roosevelt and his wife, Edith, enjoyed a final visit together. After considerable logistical challenges during which most of the horses and Troops C, H, I and M had to be left behind, the Rough Riders on June 8, 1898 boarded the ship Yucatan and nearly two weeks later on June 22, 1898 finally disembarked at Daiquiri, Cuba, on the southeastern side of the island near the strategically important port city, Santiago. On the eve of battle, Colonel Wood was promoted in the field to Brigadier General and Roosevelt to Colonel.
The most famous of all the units fighting in Cuba, the “Rough Riders” was the name given to the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt resigned his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in May 1898 to join the volunteer cavalry. The original plan for this unit called for filling it with men from the Indian Territory, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma. However, once Roosevelt joined the group, it quickly became the place for a mix of troops ranging from Ivy League athletes to glee-club singers to Texas Rangers and Indians.