The Roughest Riders: The Untold Story of the Black Soldiers in the Spanish-American War

The Roughest Riders: The Untold Story of the Black Soldiers in the Spanish-American War

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 1613730462

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Americans have long heard the story of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charging up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. But often forgotten in the great swamp of history is that Roosevelt’s success was ensured by a dedicated corps of black soldiers—the so-called Buffalo Soldiers—who fought by Roosevelt’s side during his legendary campaign. Roosevelt admitted that the black troops actually spearheaded the charge, beating him to the top of Kettle Hill ahead of San Juan Hill, but later changed his story, claiming their perfor­mance was due to the superior white officers under whom the black troops served.
The Roughest Riders takes a closer look at common historical legend and balances the record. It is the inspiring story of the first African American soldiers to serve during the post-slavery era, first in the West and later in Cuba, when full equality, legally at least, was still a distant dream. They fought heroically and courageously, making Roosevelt’s campaign a great success that added to the future president’s legend as a great man of words and action. But most of all, they demonstrated their own military prowess, often in the face of incredible discrimination from their fellow soldiers and commanders, and rightfully deserve their own place in American history.














an even more poignant take on Roosevelt. The man is “clearly insane,” wrote the great satirist, “and insanest upon war and its supreme glories.” Roosevelt compounded his misappropriation of authority by firing off a confidential telegram to Commodore George Dewey, commander of the US Asiatic Fleet, telling him to order his squadron, except for the Monocacy, to Hong Kong. He advised Dewey to keep his boilers full of coal and, in the event of a declaration of war with Spain, to see that the

palmettoes, industrial plants, and squalid houses. A few substantial homes for a handful of richer residents, who were a tiny minority of the town’s fourteen thousand citizens, stood apart from the others. During the first two weeks of May 1898, more than four thousand black troops descended on this military staging area of “congestion and confusion,” which had been chosen as the one best suited for embarkation to Cuba, wrote historian Karl Grimser. The words chaos and confusion inadequately

limited space, and gamble away the little money they had. Finally, word came that it was time to raise anchor and set off toward Cuba. They left Port Tampa the morning of June 14 to great fanfare, with bands playing, flags flying, and the men clustered like ants on the rigging as the flotilla slowly steamed out to sea. The transports presented a picturesque spectacle as they departed toward the open ocean. The ships sailed out in three columns, each column separated from the others by a

hit indirectly himself when a bullet smashed through a palm tree and showered him with splinters and wood dust. The sounds, smells, and taste of war smothered everything. The fighting raged for a couple of hours, and Roosevelt’s Rough Riders were struck especially hard, as they were in the lead now and were in danger of being completely cut down in their tracks. Despite the chaos, US troops eventually prevailed against the Spanish defenses at Las Guasimas, the first battle in Cuba, thanks mostly

innumerable campaigns, thirteen black enlisted men and six black officers earned the Medal of Honor, and countless other African Americans pitched in to support their nation with grunt labor that included developing roads, constructing buildings, and delivering mail. After the Civil War, the US Colored Troops were eventually organized into two cavalry and two infantry regiments, including the Twenty-Fifth Infantry, which was given the name Buffalo Soldiers by the Indians they fought out west.

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