Col. Roosevelt's Reports

Col. Roosevelt's Reports  (1898) 
by Theodore Roosevelt

The New York Times, Page 4, December 4, 1898



His Accounts of the Rough Rider's Experiences in Cuba.




Toil in the Trenches and Suffering for the Lack of Food, Shelter and Medicines.


WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 - The War Department to-day made public two reports of Col. Roosevelt on the fights of the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, "Rough Riders." in front of Santiago. One is addressed to Col. Wood, commanding, and the second is to Brig. Gen. Wood, after Col. Roosevelt took command of the regiment. The War Department has hitherto refused to make these reports public.

The first report is as follows:

"Trenches Outside of Santiago,
"July 4, 1898.
"Col. Leonard Wood, commanding Second Cavalry Brigade:
Sir: On July 1, the regiment, with myself in command, was moved out by your orders directly following the First Brigade. Before leaving the camping ground several of our men were wounded by shrapnel. After crossing the river at the ford we were moved along and up the right bank under fire and were held in reserve at a sunk road. Here we lost a good many men, including Capt. O'Neill, killed, and Lieut. Haskell, wounded. We then received your order to advance and support the regular cavalry in the attack on the entrenchments and blockhouses on the hills to the left.
"The regiment was deployed on both sides of the road and moved forward until we came to the rearmost lines of the regulars. We continued to move forward until I ordered a charge, and the men rushed the blockhouse and rifle pit on the hill to the right of our advance. They did the work in fine shape, although suffering severely. The guidons of Troops E and G were first planted on the summit; though the first men up were some of A and B troopers who were with me. We then opened fire on the entrenchments on a hill to our left, which some of the other regiments were assailing and which they carried a few minutes later.
"Meanwhile, we were under a heavy rifle fire from the intrenchments along the hills to our front, whence they also shelled with a piece of field artillery until some of our marksmen silenced it. When the men go their second wind we charged again and carried the second line of entrenchments with a rush. Swinging to the left, we then drove the Spaniards over the brow of the chain of hill fronting on Santiago, troops were commanded, two by Captains, three by First Lieutenants, two by Second Lieutenants, and one by the Sergeant whom you made Acting Lieutenant. We went into the fight about 490 strong; 86 were killed or wounded, and there are half a dozen missing. The great heat prostrated nearly 40 men, some of them among the best in the regiment. Besides Capt. O'Neill and Lieut. Haskill, Lieuts Leahy, Devereaux, and Case were wounded. All behaved with great gallantry. As for Capt. O'Neill, his loss is one of the severest that could have befallen the regiment. He was a man of cool head, great executive ability, and literally dauntless courage.


"The guerrillas in trees not only fired at our troops, but seemed to devote themselves especially to shooting at the surgeons, the hospital assistants with Red Cross badges on their arms, the wounded who were being carried in litters, and the burying parties. Many of these guerrillas were dressed in green uniforms. We sent out a detail of sharpshooters among those in our rear, and also along the line where they had been shooting the wounded, and killed thirteen.
"To attempt to give a list of the men who showed signal valor would necessitate sending in an almost complete roster of the regiment. Many of the cases which I mention stand merely as examples of the rest, not as exceptions. Capt. Jenkins acted as Major, and showed such conspicuous gallantry and efficiency that I earnestly hope he may be promoted to Major as soon as a vacancy occurs. Capts. Lewellen, Muller, and Luna led their troops throughout the charges, handling them admirably. At the end of the battle Lieuts Kane, Greenwood, and Goodrich were in charge of their troops, immediately under my eye, and I wish particularly to commend their conduct throughout.
"Corps. Waller and Fortescue and Trooper McKinley of Troop E; Corp. Rhoades of Troop D; Troopers Albertson, Winter, McGregor, and Ray Clark of Troop F; Troopers Bugbe, Jackson, and Waller of Troop A; Trumpeter McDonald of Troop L; Sergt. Hughes of Troop B, and Trooper Geieren of Troop G all continued to fight after being wounded, some very severely. Most of them fought until the end of the day. Trooper Oliver B. Norton of B, who, with his brother, was by my side throughout the charging, was killed while fighting with marked gallantry. Sergt. Ferguson, Corp. Lee, and Troopers Bell and Carroll of Troop K, Sergt. Dame of Troop E, Troopers Goodwin, Campbell, and Dudley Dean, Trumpeter Foster of B, and Troopers Greenwold and Bardehan of A are all worthy of special mention for coolness and galantry. They all merit promotion when the time comes.
"But the most conspicuous gallantry was shown by Trooper Rowland. He was wounded in the side in our first fight, but kept in the firing line. He was sent to the hospital the next day, but left it and marched out to us, overtaking us, and fought all through this battle with such indifference to danger that I was forced again and again to rate and threaten him for running needless risks.
"Great gallantry was also shown by four troopers whom I cannot identify, and by Trooper Winslow Clark of G. It was after we had taken the first hill. I had called out to rush the second and having by that time lost my horse climbed a wire fence and started towards it. After going a couple of hundred yards under a heavy fire. I found that no one else had come. As I discovered later, it was simply because, in the confusion with men shooting and being shot, they had not noticed me start. I told the five men to wait a moment, as it might be misunderstood if we all ran back, while I ran back and started the regiment, and as soon as I did so the regiment came with a rush.
"But meanwhile the five men cooly lay down in the open, returning the fire from the trenches. It is to be wondered at that only Clark was seriously wounded, and he called out as we passed again to lay his canteen where he could reach it, but to continue the charge and leave him where he was. All the wounded had to be left until after the fight, for we could spare no men from the firing line. Very respectfully,
"Lieutenant Colonel First U.S. V. Cavalry."


The second report is dated "Camp Hamilton, near Santiago de Cuba, July 20," and is drected to Brig. Gen Leonard Wood, commanding the "Second Brigade Cavalry Division." Col. Roosevelt recounts the incidents covered in his first report and continues:

"For the next seven days, until the 10th we lay in our line while the truce continued. We had continually to work at additional bombproofs and at the trenches, and as we had no proper supply of food and utterly inadequate medical facilities the men suffered a good deal. The officers chipper together, purchased beans, tomatoes, and sugar for the men, so that they might have some relief from the bacon and hardtack. With a great deal of difficulty we got them coffee. As for the sick and wounded, they suffered so in the hospitals when sent to the rear, for lack of food and attention, that we found it best to keep them at the front and give them care as our own doctors could.
"As I mentioned in my previous letter, thirteen of our wounded men continued to fight through the battle in spite of their wounds, and of those sent to the rear many, both of the sick and wounded, came up to rejoin us as soon as their condition allowed them to walk. Most of the worst cases were ultimately sent to the States.
"On the 10th the truce was at an end and the bombardment reopened. As far as our lines were concerned, it was, on the Spanish part, very feeble. We suffered no losses and speedily got the fire from their trenches in our front completely under. On the 11th we were moved three-quarters of a mile to the right, the truce again being on, nothing happening here except we continued to watch and do our best to get the men, especially the sick, properly fed, and having no transportation and being able to get hardly any through the regular channels, we used anything we could find, capturing Spanish cavalry horses, abandoned mules which had been shot, but which our men took and cured; diminutive skinny ponies, purchased from the Cubans, &c.
But these means and by the exertions of the officers we were able from time to time to get supplies of beans, sugar, tomatoes, and even oatmeal, while from the Red Cross people we got our invaluable load of rice, cornmeal, &c. All of this was of the utmost consequence, not only for the sick but for those nominally well, as the lack of proper food was telling terribly on the men. It was utterly impossible to get them clothes and shoes. Those thy had were in many cases, literally dropping to pieces.


On the 17th the city surrendered. On the 18th we shifted camp to here, the best camp we have had, but the march hither under the noonday sun told very heavily on our men, weakened by underfeeding and overwork, and the next morning 123 cases were reported to the doctor, and I now have but half of the 600 men with which I landed four weeks ago, fit for duty, and these are not fit to do anything like the work they could do then. As we had but one wagon the change necessitated leaving much of my stuff behind, with a night of discomfort, with scanty shelter, and scanty food for the most of the officers and many of the men. Only the possession of the improvised pack train, alluded to above, saved us from being worse.
Yesterday I sent in a detail of six officers and men to see if they could not purchase or make arrangements for a supply of proper food and proper clothing for the men, even if we had to pay for it out of our own pockets. Our suffering has been due primarily to lack of transportation and of proper food or sufficient clothing, and of medical supplies. We should now have wagon sheets for tentage. Very respectfully,

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.