A Brief History and Roster
"Chanler's Rough Riders"
By Patrick McSherry
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Chanler’s “Rough Riders” was a small group of Americans who
served under the command of the Cuban revolutionary forces in Cuba during the Spanish American War.
Not much is known about “Chanler’s Rough Riders”. The unit was
conceived by William Astor Chanler, a cousin of John Jacob Astor, and a
millionaire in his own right. When William Astor Chanler was informed
that the roster of the 1st U.S. Volunteer
Cavalry (Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders”) was already full , he came up
with a plan to raise a full regiment which he would completely fund.
The regiment was to be commanded by Robert Emmet, a man related through
marriage to the Chanler family, and who was formerly a brevet colonel
with the 9th U.S. Infantry.
Recruiting began at 140 – 142 Sixth Avenue, in New York City on April
21, 1898, four days prior to the declaration of war with Spain.
However, the plans changed when William Chanler obtained the position
of assistant adjutant general on the staff of Major
General Joseph Wheeler. Completing the formation and deployment of
the unit fell to Winthrop Astor Chanler, William’s brother and also a
member of the new military unit.
The size of the organization changed and only consisted of about
fifteen to twenty-five men when finally deployed. Membership in the
organization consisted of New York socialites, sportsmen, former
military men and those with riding and shooting skills – similar to the
requirements of members of Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders”. The known roster
of the group is shown below. It is not known if all listed below were
deployed to Cuba
or if they remained with Chanler’s Rough Riders throughout.
“Chanler’s Rough Riders” departed from Key West, Florida on June 25,
1898. The cavalry unit was part of an expedition that was to land 650
Cuban troops, a company of the 10th U.S.
Cavalry, Chanler’s men, armaments and supplies in Cuba. The first attempt near
Cienfuegos failed between serious Spanish opposition and the coral
reefs at the proposed landing site. The next attempt was made at the
mouth of the Tayacaboa River. Chanler and his men and a Cuban force
landed, only to find themselves pinned down by Spanish fire in what
became known as the skirmish at Tayacaboa.
Early in the engagement, Chanler went down with a broken arm from
Spanish fire. He was helped into the brush line and into a swamp at the
edge of the beach by two physicians who were part of the group –
Maximilian Lund and William Louis Abbott. Subsequently during the
skirmish, Lee Hervey was wounded in the leg, and Eli Carpenter was
killed, both apparently part of Chanler’s force. The landing forces,
including Chanler and his men, were extricated in a daring nighttime
landing by the 10th U.S.
After the skirmish at Tayacaboa,
the expedition was successfully landed at Palo Alto and joined the
forces of Maximo Gomez. “Chanler’s Rough Riders” took part in actions
at El Jibaro (July 18) and Arroyo Blanco (July 27). At El Jibaro the
Cuban forces, aided by the use of the Dudley-Sims dynamite guns landed
by the expedition, captured eighty men, ninety rifles, forty thousand
of ammunition and ten thousand rations. Similarly, with the aid of the
dynamite guns, fifty Spaniards were killed, two hundred wounded out of
a Spanish force of four hundred at Arroyo Blanco. In his book, In Darkest Cuba: Two Months'
Service Under Gomez Along the Trocha From the Caribbean to the Bahama
Channel, basically a diary of a man serving with the Cuban
forces under another command, the author, N. G. Gonzalez, notes that
Chanler’s Rough Riders maintained their own camp and so the unit must
have maintain its identity as a distinct fighting force. It appears
that the unit served about two months. It is unclear how the unit
disbanded, because some men served a bit longer and make no mention of
a muster out of any sort. For instance, Hugh Thomason stated he
did not learn of the August 12 armistice until September, and had
remined fighting beside the Cuban forces until that time. At that point
he went to a Spanish camp, surrendered to an officer who had been
paroled by his force. He was given assistance. After recovering from a
tropical fever, he was finally able to leave Cuba on December 3, 1898.
Annotated Roster of Chanler’s “Rough Riders”:
ABBOTT, WILLIAM LOUIS
William Louis Abbott
(Source: National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
Abbott had earned a medical
degree from the University of Pennsylvania
in 1884, and traveled to London to study surgery. After receiving a
very sizable inheritance in 1886, Abbott devoted his life to being a
naturalist. However, in 1894, he attempted, but failed, to join
with the Malagasy natives to fight the French in Madagascar. Five years
later he joined with Chanler in the expedition to Cuba, and was wounded at the Tayacaboa skirmish.
Afterwards, Abbott continued his life as a naturalist. During his
career he discovered forty new species and collected sixteen thousand
animal specimens from all over the world. Near the end of his career he
became the director of the Philadelphia Zoo. He died on his estate in
Cecil County, Maryland on April 2, 1936.
Carpenter was killed in the boat
during the Tayabacoa resuce from the
beach. Since the landing party consisted of Chanler’s men and a Cuban
force, he is assumed to be one of Chanler’s men. Some sources identify
him as a stevedore, but it is unclear why a stevedore would have been
part of the initial landing party.
CHANLER, WINTHROP ASTOR
Chanler was born on October 13,
1863. After being wounded in the left
arm at Tayacaboa,
he returned to Tampa aboard the Transport FLORIDA, planning to return
to his unit in Cuba when sufficiently healed. It is unclear if he did
so. Later in life, in 1909, he aided in the search for missing
Americans following the Taomino earthquake in Italy. During World War
One he served as an aid to Major General John J. Pershing. In his later
years he retired to breed horses and hunt on his estate in Geneseo, New
York. He died on August 24, 1926 after suffering a head injury
following a fall from a horse.
CHARLES, W. A.
Charles was a wealthy American
and African explorer who had offered to
raise a regiment at his expense, as did William Chanler. The two
traveled in the same social circles.
COWAN, JOHN H.
DELAIGNE, H. B.
Delaigne was apparently from
Lakewood, Ocean County, New Jersey and a
reporter for the Washington
Times. After the war he became the “Superintendent of Dumps” in
the Canal Zone of Panama.
EMMETT, CHRISTOPHER TEMPLE
Temple was a brother-in-law of
Winthrop Chanler, an attorney and
sportsman. He later served also in World War One and in the New York
GALVIN, GEORGE E.
Galvin was a friend of William
Astor Chanler having been on Chanler’s
on African expedition.
Flint was the son of a Civil War
general. He was a foreign journalist,
and had lived in Madrid, London, and in Chile. In the years leading up
to the Spanish American War, Flint joined the Cuban revolutionaries,
writing a book on the experience entitled Marching with Gomez. The
book was published in 1896. Flint was wounded in the right arm at the Tayacaboa Skirmish, and
returned to Port Tampa aboard the Transport
with the intention to
return to Cuba when sufficiently healed. After serving with Chanler’s
Rough Riders he continued to travel in the Philippines and the far
east. Flint died in 1909.
Hankins was listed as being from
Lakehurst, New Jersey and in
association with Delaigne. Both are listed as being “Rough Riders.”
Hankins does not appear on the roster of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry (“Roosevelt’s Rough
Riders”) so it is assumed that he was with Chanler’s
HERRINGTON, WILLIAM T.
Herrington was a native of
After being wounded at Tayacaboa,
Hervey joined the U.S. Volunteers, and claimed to have been wounded
five times in one leg, though some claimed the wounded were from a
previous trolley accident. One meber of the unit states that Hervey
claimed prior military service when he joined Chanler’s men, which
later roved to be untrue. Following the war he went to the Klondike to
take part in the gold rush, and apparently did fairly well, with his
prospecting allowing him to live at the Imperial Hotel in New York
City. He was later arrested having deserted his wife before the war.
HOOD, JOHN B.
A native of Copenhagen, Denmark,
Lund attended Heidelberg University
studying to become a physician. At Heidelberg, he was active in the
fencing societies. Heidelberg fencing was a unique sport in which
razor-sharp blades are used and the only target is the face, the
remainder of the body, including the eyes are protected. Lund’s face
bore evidence of the wounds, showing numerous scars. He claimed to have
fought in 47 duels, with three being with pistol. It is not known how
many duels were with the fencing societies and how many were outside of
these somewhat controlled conditions. Lund claimed to have spent seven
years in the German military and to have served as a member of the
bodyguard of King Albert of Saxony. In about 1895, Lund became an
American citizen. After finally getting ashore in Cuba, Lund basically
left Chanler’s force and attached himself to the company of the 10th U.S. Cavalry that landed at the same
time. After the battle of Jabaro, Lund and Lt. Carter Johnson of the 10th U.S. Cavalry and Lund
got drunk on a barrel of rum and directly disobeyed orders of the Cuban
commanders under which both Chanler’s men and the 10th U.S. Cavalry were
serving, and threatened to fire on the Cubans themselves. In later
Lund was in charge of an insane asylum near New York.
Remetrez is listed a captain at
the time of his joining the unit, but
nothing else is known of him.
Thomason served five years in the
6th U.S. Cavalry, then attended the
Michigan Military Academy. After graduating he rejoined the army.
His discharge from the army was secured so he could take charge of the
cavalry in Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show” which did an exhibition of
military riding skills.
(As a service to our readers, clicking on
will take you to that book on Amazon.com)
“Adventures of One Young Man,” The Coalville Times
(Coalville, Utah), February 23, 1900, 6. (Lee)
“Chanler to Fight,” The
Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey). April 22, 1898, 2.
“C. Temple Emmett, Skier, Lawyer,” New York Times. July 25,
“Dane Blames Prussia,” The
Sun (New York, NY), October 8, 1914, 6.
“Dr. William L. Abbott,” The
Midland Journal (Rising Sun, Maryland), April 17, 1936, 8.
“Duelist Hero Talks of Deeds,” The Los Angeles Times.
February 24, 1906, 18.
Fischer, William H., Biographical
Cyclopedia of Ocean County, New Jersey (Philadelphia: A. D.
Smith & Co., 1899), 83. (Delaigne and Hankins).
“Florida Back at Port Tampa,” The
Sun (New York, NY). July 16, 1898, 2.
Gonzalez, N. G., In Darkest
Cuba: Two Months' Service Under Gomez Along the Trocha From the
Caribbean to the Bahama Channel. (Columbia, S.C: The State
Company, 1922), 168, 203-204.
“Head Injuries Prove Fatal to Major Chanler,” The Daily Messenger
(Canadaiqua, New York). August 25, 1926, 3.
“Native Cubans in Invading Army,” Chicago Tribune. May 24,
“Major Chanler is Dead at 65,” The Buffalo Times (Buffalo,
New York). August 25, 1926, 17.
“Noted Army Surgeon Visiting This City,” Los Angeles Evening Express.
December 27, 1905, 7.
“Obituary Notes,” The Sun
(New York, NY). February 4, 1909 2. (Grover Flint).
Official Register of the
United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899)
“Regulars Never Kick,” The
Boston Globe (Boston, MA), June 25, 1898, 3 (roster).
“Rich New Yorkers,” The
Topeka State Journal (Topeka, Kansas), May 4, 1898, 2.
Some Tight Times at Tayabacoa,” The Leaf-Chronicle
(Clarksville, Tennessee). December 28, 1898, 1.
“Sixth Cavalry Troopers Chosen,” Evening Star (Washington, D.C.).
February 24, 1897, 7. (Thomason)
The Inter Ocean
(Chicago. IL), December 29, 1896, 12.
Thomas, Lately. The Astor
Orphans: A Pride of Lions, W. Morrow, 1971; p. 126.
“To Search for Americans,” The
Houston Post (Houston, Texas), January 8, 1909, 2.
“War To-Day,” Hanpshire
Telegraph and Naval Chronicle (Hampshire, England). April 23,
1898, 5 (Charles)
“William Louis Abbott (1860 – 1936)
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