Most integrated battle force of the 19th centuryBy Rob Carrigan, email@example.com
The times, they were changing, at the turn of the 20th Century.
"It was designated the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry and often called Roosevelt's Rough Riders. They were named after Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders, the traveling show that was popular at the time," according to John Hutchinson, in article in the Camp Verde Bugle.
"The idea was reportedly born in Prescott by former sheriff and then-Mayor Buckey O'Neill, Alexander Brodie, who later was to become territorial governor appointed by Roosevelt, and James McClintock. The three originally planned an entire regiment of cowboy cavalry. Three troops were eventually formed.
"Nearly 300 joined with him and they rode to San Antonio, Texas, and were received with open arms.
The Northern Arizona Cavalry was rapidly filled and called "A" Troop. The "B" Troop of the squadron was selected from Southern Arizona. Brodie commanded the First Squadron of four troops. O'Neill was captain of "A" Troop.
The Rough Riders landed at Daiquirí in June 1898. Three days later, they saw their first action with O'Neill leading his men in the front of the line for Las Guasimas capturing the Spanish flank.
On July 1, Capt. O'Neill was killed in combat below Kettle Hill while commanding "A" Troop. William Pulsing, a German-American businessman of New Orleans, recounted O'Neill's death: "Troop 'A' took part in the general advance on Santiago. The Mauser bullets were whizzing rapidly over us, but Captain O'Neill, who was always accustomed to expose himself recklessly to fire, stood upright, apparently unconscious of danger. He was talking to an Adjutant General. Suddenly a Mauser bullet struck him squarely in the mouth, going in so evenly that his teeth weren't injured. He fell to the ground at once, and a man named Boyle, who was afterward killed in battle, picked him up and carried his body to the rear. He died there in a few seconds."
The whole town of Dolores, where I grew up, also considered Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, a fragment of their own history and the prominent heroes of our specific past.
At least three of the 1,250 1st United States Volunteer Calvary hailed from the little town of Dolores, where I grew up. The 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry was first commanded by Colonel Leonard Wood.
Dolores cowboys James E. Akin and William H. Brumley, Jr. were both in Troop G, and Carl John Scharnhorst (or Schornhorst in some muster info), Jr., who served first in Troop F, then transferred to Troop I in San Antonio.When American newspapers cried out, "Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain," the boys from Dolores, along with group from Durango, and Theodore Roosevelt, serving at the time as assistant secretary of the Navy, dropped everything to heed the call. Roosevelt resigned his office on May 6, 1898 — the day he secured a commission — and set about putting together a cavalry regiment to lead into battle.
Roosevelt helped put together and train the outfit comprised of cowboys, hunters, miners, Indians, policemen, bronc busters and men from Harvard, Yale and Princeton, becoming "The Rough Riders," a moniker adopted from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
Most of the members of G Troop were from the New Mexico Territory, a total of 37. The second most prolific state was Illinois with 12. Other states represented include Texas, Arizona, Missouri, New York, Massachusetts, the Indian Territory, Louisiana, Kansas, Iowa, North Dakota, Michigan, Colorado, New Jersey, Kentucky, California, West Virginia and Nebraska. Most all enlisted at Santa Fe in early May, 1898, and were to receive their training at San Antonio which was selected as the training center for the 1st US Vol. Cavalry.
Colonel Wood arrived in San Antonio on Thursday, May 5, 1898. The contingent from New Mexico arrived on May 10. For the time being they were quartered in the Exposition Hall near the center of the fairgrounds. On May 11, Colonel Wood announced that there would be three squadrons of four troops each. Each troop would contain 65 but later was increased.
On May 12, the regiment was taken on a long extended drill of marching several miles from camp and over two hours of drill. Squadron drill came in the afternoon, followed by first regimental drill formation. On May 14, G Troop was issued their Krag Model 1896 carbine.
Roosevelt, by his monied connections and notable influence, had made that happen, as well, by "hurrying up the different bureaus and telegraphing my various railroad friends, so as to insure our getting carbines, saddles and uniforms that we needed from the various armories and storehouses," as he wrote in his book, "Rough Riders."
May 18, had the excitement of the demonstration of a new weapon, Colt’s rapid fire guns. These guns could fire 500 rounds per minute. On May 19, tents arrived at the camp. These were dog tents consisting of two pieces four feet wide, and six-and-a-half feet long, buttoned together over a ridge pole about three feet high.
Drill continued all through May. The heat was punishing with several of the Rough Riders suffering its effects, but they continued to drill. May 29 reveille sounded at 3 a.m., an hour earlier than usual. By 9 a.m., the regiment was on their way to the stockyards to load on the waiting trains.
The Rough Riders reached Tampa June 2. Not having enough transport ships, the Rough Riders would go as dismounted cavalry. They would operate as infantry while in Cuba.
G Troop would travel to Cuba on the transport ship the "Yucatan" and arrive at Daiquiri on June 22. The landing at Daiquiri was unopposed. Any Spanish in the area had already took off toward Santiago.
William H. H. Llewellyn served as the captain of Troop G.
Llewellyn had previously served as Indian Agent on Mescalero Apache Reservation in southern New Mexico. He soon became one of the few agents who considered the welfare of his charges, worked for their betterment, subjected them to discipline and won their respect. He organized an Indian police force and strove to bring the lawless situation on the reservation under control. Going hunting with them, the Mescaleros called him “Tata Crooked Nose”.
In 1883 he also became agent for the Jicarilla Apaches and supervised their transfer to the Mescalero reservation. Later he established an Indian boarding school, added a doctor to the agency staff and had the Indians join the Cattle Growers Association.
In Cuba Captain Llewellyn was credited with an important contribution to the American victory in the battle for a hill at San Juan. Dubbed “Kettle Hill”, a sentry named Ralph McFie had been posted for night duty, when he heard the stirrings of Spanish troops moving into position. Retreating to his own lines he was intercepted by Captain Llewellyn. McFie was also from Las Cruces and Llewellyn knew him well. The Captain lost no time to notify headquarters, causing the promoted Colonel Roosevelt to order an early counterattack that went into history as the celebrated charge of San Juan Heights.
McFie’s vigilance and Llewellyn’s prompt action earned the latter a promotion to Major. The campaign also caused him to contract yellow fever and put him into the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
As Roosevelt’s comrade-in-arms on San Juan Heights, Llewellyn returned to Las Cruces as something of a war hero.
Since the 1890’s Llewellyn had been a member of the New Mexico Territorial Militia, and when he was appointed Judge Advocate General of the New Mexico National Guard, he was promoted to Colonel. He also was active since at least 1899 in New Mexico’s long drawn out struggle for statehood, in fact serving as Speaker of the House in the Territorial Legislature. He served in the Constitutional Convention of 1910 and in November 1911, was chosen a member of New Mexico’s first state legislature, where he represented Dona Ana County.
Fifty rears afterwards, the Prescott Daily Courier recalled Dolores local William Brumely's visit.
"Billy Brumley of Dolores, Colo., whose memory for names and incidents after a half century is amazing, tells a good story about the battle of Las Guasimas which occurred on June 24, 1898, the Rough Riders' first engagement in Cuba," reported the paper.
"WE HAD reveille at 3:45 a. m. and were told we were going to attack." the 68-year-old veteran started. "We fell into file (single line) and started toward the Spaniards." He explained the First Volunteers were on a ridge to the left of the Negro 10th outfit and the Third Cavalry, which was moving up a parallel ridge. "After about three hours of going forward through the jungle, we heard several volleys of shots," the now retired hotel owner recalled. "I threw away my rations and hung onto my Krag-Jorgensen carbine, the .45 Colt six-shooter and about 100 rounds of ammunition." HE SAID they were given an order to "spread wide and fire at will." The battle started with the Spaniards holed up in a jungle clump of cane, mangos, and other tropical trees. "We crawled and waded into the thicket," he said. "The man on my right, Harry Hefner, was hit in the stomach and killed. Louie Givers, on my left, was shot in the hip. The Spaniards' bullets were zipping. He went back to recall that after the first 100 yards advance he stepped across the body of Sgt. Hamilton Fish (of a prominent New York family), who as leader of the advance guard had been shot in the heart on the first volley. "SEVERAL hours later we pushed them out into the open," Brumley recounted. "There we fell to our knees and started firing at the running Spaniards. When they had got away, I spit on my gun barrel and it sizzled." The veteran declined to describe a kill, but he said he was a "good shot." Asked if he was frightened when the shooting started, Brumley maintained he was not and gave a good reason he was only 18 years of age. He said 21 was the minimum for enlistment in the Rough Riders, but he lied when he enlisted at Santa Fe. May 6. 1898. "AFTER the battle, the officers asked how the youngster fared," said Brumley, one of the youngest men in the regiment. "They said I didn't show a white feather." He added that as in any war there were men who "threw away their cards and prayed," and those who turned and ran to the rear. Eighty men made the attack. Enthusiastic and crotchety about delays as GIs usually are, the Rough Riders wandered at will about Prescott. They were all on hand, however, for the noon lunch. The chairman of the board of the B. F. Goodrich company, made an address in which he thanked the State of Arizona for erecting the Bucky O'Neill statue and said, "The golden anniversary of any organization is an impressive event and particularly so that of the Rough Riders, who served under the gallant leadership of two men like Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood." "Lasting friendships were built by these men a half century ago and it is wonderful to return and find they are the same grand old fellows we knew so long ago." Among the speakers at the luncheon were Acting Governor Dan E. Garvey and U. S.-Representative Richard E. Harless. TOMORROW the Rough Riders will visit the Grand Canyon, returning late tomorrow afternoon and ending their reunion."
National Park Service, at Presidio of San Francisco noted the role of black soldiers in those battles as well.
Although the Spanish American War was ostensibly fought to liberate Caribbean and Philippine islanders from Spanish oppression, the participation of African American troops was very controversial in the African American community.
Some troops and many citizens openly questioned whether African Americans should fight for the U.S. government that recognized them as citizens in name only. Despite emancipation nearly 40-year before, Blacks routinely were deprived of their rights by federal and state laws. Institutional discrimination was reinforced by savage murder and terror of African Americans primarily in the South. Articles in the Black press during the war showed a diversity of opinion in the African American community.
"In order to prepare for the invasion of Cuba, the Buffalo Soldiers were posted to the southeastern United States for the first time in their history.
Originally billeted near Tampa, Florida, where overt racial discrimination was the norm, local white citizens refused "to make any distinction between the colored troops and the colored civilians" and tolerated no infractions of local discriminatory laws and racial customs. Despite this prejudice, the troops of the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the 24th and 25th Infantry served with distinction on the battlefields of Las Guasimas, El Caney, and San Juan Heights. The terrain and climate were challenging. Troops had to deal with heat, rainstorms, mud and yellow fever. When there was an outbreak of yellow fever in the army camps, Black 24th Infantry soldiers served as nurses and hospital orderlies for the stricken Caucasian troops, ordered to do so because of the stereotype that Blacks were physically better able to deal with tropical heat conditions.
In the four months of fighting the Spanish under these adverse conditions, the Buffalo Soldiers were described as "most gallant and soldierly."
During one landing at Tayabacoa, Cuba, 10th Cavalry Privates William H. Thompkins, Fitz Lee, Dennis Bell, and George Wanton voluntarily went ashore in the face enemy fire to rescue wounded U.S. and Cuban comrades. After several failed attempts, they succeeded. Each were awarded the Medal of Honor. A career soldier, Thompkins was eventually buried at the Presidio's San Francisco National Cemetery, along with another 450 Black veterans of the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry.
Called the most integrated battle force of the 19th century, the troops of the 24th Infantry and the 9th and 10th Cavalry fought up the slope of San Juan Hill along with White regular army regiments and the 1st Volunteer Cavalry (the Rough Riders) led by Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. Twenty-six Buffalo Soldiers died that day, and several men were officially recognized for their bravery. Quarter Master Sergeant Edward L. Baker, Jr., 10th Cavalry emerged from the battle wounded by shrapnel, but was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism. After the Battle of San Juan Hill, Rough Rider Frank Knox said, "I never saw braver men anywhere." Lieutenant John J. Pershing wrote, "They fought their way into the hearts of the American people."
Dolores cowboys may have been somewhat familiar with black troops as four companies of the 9th Calvary had been encamped just below Durango in 1881 and 1882.
The Durango Daily Record, of June 11, 1881, noted that the black troops camped about one mile south of Durango and were on their way south to Fort Lewis to fight Indians in case they were needed.
"Actually those black troops were waiting for arrangements to move the Jicarilla Apaches. The Indians did not like or trust the black troops in the west and trouble was only averted by sending some companies from the 22nd Infantry to accompany the black cavalrymen," according to Robert Delaney's book about Fort Lewis called "Blue Coats, Red Skins, and Black Gowns."
President Roosevelt never lost his affection for his battle buddies and appointed them to important political offices whenever the opportunity presented itself. Among his special friends was Colonel William H. H. Llewellyn of Las Cruces, New Mexico, who was close enough to the President to dine with him at the White House, to escort Mrs. Roosevelt to the Theater, and who is one of the few 1st Calvary soldiers the President mentions in his autobiography.