A Brief History of the

1st United States Volunteer Cavalry ("Rough Riders")

By  Patrick McSherry

Click here for a roster of the Rough Riders
Click here to read a Newsapper Account of the Skirmish at Las Guasimas, Cuba
Click here to read Thedore Roosevelt's Account of the Attack on Kettle and San Juan Hills
Click here to read Rough Rider David Leahy's Account of the Attack on Kettle and San Juan Hills
Click here to read Sgt. John Turner's Account of the Rough Rider's Campaign
Click here to read Rough Rider Carl Lovelace's letters from the Santiago Campaign
Click here to read Rough Rider Frank McArty's Account of the Rough Riders in Cuba
Click here to read about Sgt. Ousler's Account of San Juan Hill
Click here to read Pvt. Alexander Wallace's letter home about San Juan Hill
Click here to read Sgt. Burrowes report on the use of the Dynamite Guns
Click here to read about removing a jammed dyamite gun shell with an axe
Click here to read about the Rough Rider's transport in a near-collision
Click here to read Rough Rider David Leahy's Letter from Camp
Click here to read Rough Rider Amaziah Morrison's Letter from Camp
Click here to read the Raton, New Mexico newspaper's account of the Rough Riders
Click here to read Richard Harding Davis' Account of Visting San Juan Hill Circa 1918
Click here to read one of Theodore Roosevelt's Letters to his Young Children from Camp in Florida

Click here to read the biography of Theodore Roosevelt
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider John Martin Adair
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Frank Brito
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Pvt. Peter Butler
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Capt. George Curry
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Lt. Frank Donaldson, Asst. Surg
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Lt. John Green.
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Capt. William H. H. Llewellyn
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Pvt. Carl Lovelace
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Frank McArty
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider 2nd Lt. John Avery McIlhenny
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider "Bucky" O'Neill
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Pvt. William Paige
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider 1st Sgt. Green Settle
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Pvt. John G. Torbett
Click here to read the biography of Rough Rider Pvt. Edwin Eugene Casey

Click here to see a Rough Rider Uniform
Click here to see the Rough Rider Regimental Flag
Click here to read about the Rough Riders at camp Wikoff


Click here for Information on the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry ("RoughRiders") Troop K Living History Group

Click here for information on the 1927 film about the Rough Riders

General:

The 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the "Rough Riders" is one of the most well-documented and famous volunteer fighting forces in American history. This page will provide the basic information on the organization, but will not attempt an in-depth account, as that has been published many times elsewhere.

Unit History:

The "Rough Riders" was formed from men from the western frontier of the United States - men who were used to life in the saddle and to the use of firearms - and from some eastern high-class young men who were athletic and also skilled in horsemanship and the use of guns...but for entirely different reasons. In addition there were men from almost everywhere else! The unit included miners, cowboys preachers, tradesmen, writers, professors, athletes, and clergymen. Remarkably, there were men from each of the forty-five states then in existence, the four territories and from fourteen countries! There were even sixty Native Americans on the roster.  The unique combination reflected the interesting contrasts in one of the men who was one of the driving forces behind the unit – Theodore Roosevelt, the man who was initially the regiment’s lieutenant colonel and later its colonel.

When word went out that Roosevelt and Colonel Leonard Wood, were raising a regiment, volunteers from all over appeared. Twenty-three hundred men volunteered in the first twenty-four hours, of which only a small percentage could be accepted. Even the future creator of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs tried to enlist.

The unit was mustered into service between May 1 and May 21, 1898 in various locations in Texas, New Mexico and what was then termed “Indian Territory” (Arizona and Oklahoma). At the time of muster in, the unit consisted of 47 officers and 994 enlisted men. The uniqueness of the regiment, the bombastic energy of Roosevelt (until recently the assistant secretary of the navy) and Roosevelt’s gift for public relations and self-promotion brought the unit much publicity even before its worth was proven in battle.

From San Antonio, Texas, the unit was ordered, on May 27, to Port Tampa, Florida, for the invasion of Cuba. At Port Tampa, things were in great disarray, and the Vth Corps, of which the Rough Riders were now a part, was highly disorganized. In the confusion of embarking on the transports, several regiments were assigned to the same transport, the YUCATAN. Roosevelt got his men aboard, realizing that once aboard, would probably not be forced to disembark. The Rough Riders stayed aboard, to the chagrin of the other regiments. Sadly for some, because of a lack of room in the army transports, only eight of the regiment's twelve troops (troops A, B, D, E, F, G, K, and L)  went to Cuba, with the other four (troops C, H, I, and M) remaining behind in Florida. Also, the regiment had to leave its horses behind in Florida, and essentially served in Cuba as an infantry regiment.

In Cuba, the regiment fought at Las Guasimas, and then at the famous San Juan and Kettle Hills. The regiment proved its worth and truly lived up to all of the publicity it had already received. For his efforts to lead in the assault at Kettle and San Juan hills, Roosevelt would eventually be awarded the Medal of Honor (an honor he truly earned, but which, for political reasons, he would not receive until over eighty years after his death).

After the fighting ended and the summer wore on, disease among the troops began to rise. Eventually the War Department was embarrassed into bringing the battle-worn troops back home, to be replaced by other, fresh troops. The Rough Riders arrived back in the U.S. on August 15, three days after an armistice had been declared, and went into camp at Montauk Point, Long Island (Camp Wikoff), New York (click here to read about their time at Camp Wikoff).

The unit was mustered out of service on September 15, 1898 at Camp Wikoff. At the time of muster out, the unit consisted of 52 officers, and 1,185 enlisted men. During its term of service, the unit lost two officers and 21 enlisted men killed in action; and three more men died of wounds received in battle. Nineteen more men died of disease, and twelve men deserted. Additionally, seven officers and 97 enlisted men were wounded. The Rough Riders had the highest casualty rate of all of the regiments involved in the actions in Cuba.

For only being in existence for 133 days, the unit won its place in history, and has since passed into legend.


Bibliography:

As a service to our readers, clicking on any title in red will take them to that book on Amazon.com

Correspondence relating to the War with Spain And Conditions Growing Out of the Same Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Island and the China Relief Expedition. Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902) 625.

Jones, Virgil Carrington, Roosevelt's Rough Riders. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1971) 150-151.

Nofi, Albert A., The Spanish-American War, 1898 . (Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, 1996).

Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into Service During the War with Spain; with Losses from All Causes. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).


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