John G. Torbett served in Troops E and I of the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, also known as Theodore Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders.” His troop was one of the troops forced to stay behind in Florida, and did not take part in the Cuban Campaign.
John G. Torbett born on 20 June 1865, in Galston, Ayrshire, Scotland to coal miner Alexander Torbett and his wife Mary Greenwood Torbett. He was one of 6 children. The Torbett family emmigrated to the United States in the early 1870's, settling in Allegany County, Maryland. Alexander Torbett died in 1874 and by 1880 the census indicates that the family had moved to Bloomington, Garrett County, Maryland.
John Torbett found his way west and was working as a miner when he joined the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, also known as the “Rough Riders,” on May 3, 1898 at Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as being unmarried, five feet, six inches tall, with a dark complexion, black hair, and brown eyes. Torbett made himself slightly younger, indicating he was thirty years of age, rather than his actual age of thirty-three. He was initially assigned to Troop E and then transferred to Troop I on May 12, 1898. It was a fateful move. Troop E was sent to Cuba. Troop I was one of the four troops forced to stay behind in Florida. When the hostilities ended in Cuba, the entire regiment was sent to Camp Wikoff, Long Island, New York, where he was discharge on September 15, 1898.
In 1900 John G. Torbett was living at Ouray, Colorado and working for the Durango and Rio Grand Southern Rail Road as a fireman. Later, he returned to mining. In 1904, he was working at the Ochsner and Sullivan coal mine, near Durango, Colorado, and living in company housing. During the evening hours of May 9, 1904 he was reading by candlelight and fell asleep. The candle set the cabin on fire, killing him.
He is buried at the Greenmont Cemetery, LaPlata County, Colorado.
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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) 333.