tv Mark Lee Gardner Rough Riders CSPAN September 2, 2019 11:30am-11:56am EDT
>> thank you for having me tonight. >> you're watching tv on cspan2. for a complete television schedule visit booktv.org. follow along behind the scenes on social media on book tv oninstagram facebook . >> the next book we want to talk about on book tv is called rough riders: theodore roosevelt, the cowboy president and the immortal charge of san juan hill the author is mark lee gardner . mister gardner, teddy roosevelt take san juan hill in 1898? >> it was a lot of hard trying, a lot of really,
theodore roosevelt said i put myself in the way of things happening and they happen . and he tried his best to form a military regimen and to get his troops to cuba and it was just force of will to get him to that spot where he created that iconic moment in 1898. >> he was not regular army. >> he was not, us volunteer. >> and did he operate independently? >> yes, i think to the chagrin of commanding officers he had an independent spirit and his own way of doing things but he did have a commanding officer and he was part of the 64 so they did have their marching orders. at what their role was going to be but rehe took on additional roles and that charge of san juan hill, a lot of the credit for that does go to colonel roosevelt.
>> whereas san juan hill? >> it in cuba on the eve of santiago. >> and why was it militarily significant? >> the reason for its significance was one of the spanish fleet was holed up at the harvey harbor at santiago and the navy wanted to force that fleet out of their to destroy it in combat and they thought the best way to do that was to send a land force to take santiago. oncesantiago was taken, the fleet in the harbor was going to be vulnerable . >> and it turns out the fleet fled shortly after san juan hill was taken and destroyed by the u.s. navy . >> why was the us military in cuba in 1898? >> it's a good question, it can be kind of complicated and at times not so complicated but there was a lot of sympathy for the cause of cubans in the 1890s.
newspapers carried stories of atrocities committed by the spanish government in cuba against the people that lived there on another very important event, the explosion of the uss maine in havana harbor. all those combined to bring the us at loggerheads with spain and were with the gun in april 1998. >> what happened to the main? >> we don't know exactly what happened. there was an explosion in thavana harbor when the battleship was there. there were two different independent studies done, on by the us government, one by the spanish government . the us government determined it was an external mine, a summary in mind that caused the explosion. thespanish government determined it wasn't internal explosion, something had blown up inside the ship .
we don't really know for sure exactly but there were lots of jumping to conclusions and a lot of americans fed by the yellow journalists at the time instantly blamed spain and said this was a dirty trick by the spanish government against this battleship more than 200 lives were lost and that made a lot of sympathy for war against spain based mostly on thebelief that spain was behind the destruction of that battleship . >> and the role of william randolph first? >> william randolph first is one of the publishers of those yellow papers, intermediate greatly to this worse. and anti-spanish. but of course once the war broke outhe had reporters on the scene w , artists that were set to report back almost daily and he had reported on the atrocities in cuba. >> was american involvement withcuba ?
>> there was lots of american involvement with the sugar grown in cuba. that was probably the biggest economic interchange where the sugar plantation in cuba, other than that there wasn't a great deal going on between the united states and cuba. except for economics, economic exchange. sugar, that kind of thing. >> you know where the term yellow journalism came from? >> know. i could look it up quick but i forgot where the term yellow journalism comes. >> what was teddy roosevelt doing in 1898? >> teddy roosevelt was a bureaucrat, he was 39 years old at the time . and he was trying, his assistant secretary to prepare the united states for war with spain which looked like it was coming and by preparing i mean making sure there was cold in various ports for navy ships to use
to get to the caribbean in the event of war. trying to really enable preparedness. he was trying to prepare and get the fleetready in case war broke out because just the way it was going downhill between spain and the united states at the time , and he certainly was one of those was pushing for war. in fact, william mckinley, president mckinley was the president at the time jokingly referred to theodore roosevelt and his buddies leonard wood as the war party . because they were really, they felt the united states should intervene in cuba. mostly because of the atrocities occurring with the civilian population there. >> and this was the cause of the war? >> it was one of the main causes, that and the kexplosion of the battleship maine but the cubans were trying to get their freedom. there was a lot of sympathy in the united states to help them get rid of this yoke of
same.theodore roosevelt actually really didn't like what he considered this old world dominance. here's this colony that's still in existence in 1898 and he really wasn't a fan of having the influence of the old world in the new world and he was, he would really prefer to get rid of that dominance and the new world it's its own place. the united states is an up-and-coming country and we should be having some influence ourselves and not really following what is going on in your. >> mark lee gardner, this is your first book. >> know it is not. i've written about jesse james, 1876 which was really the defamation, the end of the james younger dan and i've also written about two westerners, billy the kid and pat garrett, both nonfiction. >> are you a historian full-time?
>> yes, the historian and a musician who performs story american music. >> where did the term roughriders come from western mark. >> roughriders was a term being used by buffalo bill cody in his wild west show the roughriders of the world , a congress of roughriders of the world and it was a popular phrase at the time. and denoted kind of rough and ready, western types. cowboys and that was certainly what they had envisioned with the roughriders is that the men they were enlisting were from southwestern territories, new mexico, arizona and the whole impetus behind these special edicts, there were three that were authorized in the melted regiment was they were supposed to be enlisted from the western states and good horsemen, good shot and everybody just imagine primarily because it shows like buffalo bill at all these western cowboys were excellent marksmen and could write a bucking bronco.
and they thought get a bunch of these cowboys in cuba and that world will beover lickety-split . >> were the excellent marksmen? >> know. some of them were. they did recruit individuals from those territories. they were in new mexico but very few were actual bronco cowboys, buckaroos, that kind of thing. they were all walks of life. they were school teachers, actors, printers, a lot ofher first . all walks of life enlisted and when this was brought up, that was thecriticism at the time that these are the real deal these roughriders . and theodore roosevelt said we want men of fine character though that was the makeup for their lack and maybe horsemanship skills. one of the funny stories when they were in training camp in san antonio, some of the wealthy roughriders and there were buddies of pr that it enlisted.
there were people from harvard and sportsmen, tennis players but they would hire the real cowboys to tame their broncos because they didn't know how to break a ehorse and the real cowboys did so it was a real mixture and probably the majority were not cowboys. but just a portion of the unit was real western cowboys . >> how many people are we talking about ? >> the regiment ended up being 1200 men and end so there were 12 company roughriders and you probably know this but not all of them got to go to cuba. they left for companies behind and they had to leave their horses behind so even though they were recruited the cavalrymen, to be able to charge of the cells in cuba , they became infantry when they got there. it wasn't enough room on the ships for the horses though they had to leave them behind . >> mark lee gardner, 1898, tr is assistant secretary ofthe navy . how did he get from their to the head of theroughriders ?
>> it's a great story. theodore roosevelt was offered plenty, once they decided to have the three regiments of melted cowboys troops . secretary of war alger knowing theodore roosevelt's burning desire to go to war even at age 39, he offered him the colonel c of the first regiment and to the amazement of everyone, he turned it down.to he admitted that if you give me a few more weeks, i feel like i can get some information under my belt and training but i'm not ready to lead a regiment of1000 men . so, everyone knew theodore roosevelt had an ego. and it was shocked, alger was shocked that theodore did not take this position but he recommended his good friend. it was an army captain who was a medical officer named leonard wood. a couple years younger but he had fought in the apache wars in arizona and was a medal of honor recipient and he said
if you make leonard wood the colonel, i would gladly accept the lieutenant colonel shift and alger respected his wishes and that's what happened so that's how theodore roosevelt became part of the first regiment mounted volunteers in the spanish-american war . >>how quickly was he in cuba . >> very quickly. once the war breaks out or is declared in late april, theodore roosevelt is madly rushing around trying to get arms, uniforms, equipment and because he's a bureaucrat he knows lots of people in the various departments so leonard wood goes on to texas to san antonio where their training, theodore roosevelt stayed behind trying to get their arms, asammunition and detectives for their training but by late may, they're on board a ship in tampa florida or outside tampa florida getting ready to part and they arrived there in a matter of days. we have our first action june
23rd, 1898. it's their trial by fire in cuba and july 1 is the battle of san juan hill so you got april and san juan hill taught a bunch of lifers. >> mark lee gardner, i assume the assistant secretary of the navy was not well known around the country. >> yes and no. he had already published some books and articles about his wrenching experience in the dakotas. so he was a bit of a celebrity but certainly nothing like everybody knows pr and theodore roosevelt today but he was well-known, but he had much more to accomplish after ecthe spanish-american war was over but in places like san antonio, he was a bit of a celebrity because a lot of times because of his writing andhis publications , known as agreat sportsmen .
along was in cuba? >> they departed cuba in august so they were just a few really a matter of weeks that they were there. >> was this a declared war? >> it was. >> it? the american people? >> the american people supported it but there were people that were real keen on the war and i should say that congress part of the declaration, the legislation that allowed the war was that edcuba would not become annexed or part of the united states. there was a fear by some leaders that this is just a landgrab. so yes, we can go assist the cubans and get spain out of cuba but the united states will not annex cuba for the united states. >> walk us through the day, set up and the day of the charge of san juan hill.
>> one thing you have to understand is the roughriders are one small part of this assault on what was called san juan heights and the roughriders were forced to leave behind not only their horses but horse companies so essentially there's something like 600 men in the roughriders . the entire assault force was around 8000 so you can see the percentage of the roughriders but there a key part of theassault . they're now dismounted cavalry. the dismounted cavalry is to charge the right side of the line of san juan heights. the infantry and this involved regulars as well as volunteers, they're going to charge the left side and san juan heights is along rolling ridge . what it was encountered by theodore roosevelt, the roughriders that they , they're told to really wait in reserve until called for which theodore roosevelt does not like one big area by the
time i should say leonard wood has been promoted because of illness within the officers. he then pumped up to take charge and that leaves the indoor roosevelt as the commander of the roughriders which is what you wanted all along. now he has his own regiment of cavalrymen so they told to wait in reserve in the foreground of a location known as cattle hill kendall hill is before you get to the san juan bridge . as there waiting there there being ticked off. there's spanish cypress in the trees, a lot of roosevelt orderlies are getting picked off and roosevelt is the only one on horseback in this assault so the spanish snipers are trying to pick him off and there missing theodore and they hit his orderlies but eventually, they get the order to advance but as the roughriders advance encounter the regulars up ahead of them
benny cattle hill and they haven't gotten those orders and roosevelt says if you're not going to go, let my men through and all of a sudden he starts and that starts a whole movement. they said all those roughriders are going. we have african-american buffalo soldiers that are part of this, other regular dismounted cavalry and theodore roosevelt will discharge happen. they get to the top of cattle hill, easily take cattle hill with him casualties, heavy firing.once there on top they can steer to the left. and of san juan ridge which is a big block house, that would become known as the san juan block house and they see the infantry going up so they start firing over to hear who kind of give the cover for the infantry that are advancing. once that seems to be taken care of and there's a block in front of them the roughriders with load roosevelt charge up to their own block house and take that forced to san juan heights . one roughriders described it just a pell-mell, he said there was no order to it
whatsoever . theodore roosevelt takes off, charge, let's go and it's a mad rush area he said that the spanish would have been better shots we have all been dead. >> the end of the day, what was the result? >> they have the top of the hill. they forced the spaniards into santiago itself . it still wasn't a piece of cake caused the spanish had their alto read down below and the idea was to hold the height and once they held the height, they were a few actions later, the roughriders begin. all the troops digging on top he of the hill. they have it securely but eventually negotiations n between the leader of the american forces, general schachter and the leaders of the spanish forces and after a couple of days , it was done. theysurrendered. once they had the height, santiago wasthere essentially . >> many roughriders lost ?
>> we don't know the exact figure of exactly how many roughriders but they did suffer a higher percentage of casualties . than any of the other redismounted cavalry which is something that some use to explain the fact that they were at the forefront ofthe fighting . so they suffered heavy casualties but an exact numbers, we don't exactly have that. >> was he argued as reckless? >> some of the leaders did view him as reckless and i guess i would say foolhardy. he followed something that was a common belief in the 19th century, even dates back to earlier to the war that a leader should expose himself to encourage their men. this was the theory. if you're brave, you encourage your men. you want to make them strong so they're going to follow you and so he was a proponent
of that and he was always at the forefront of the fighting . it was at the front of the charge when they went up cattle hill. and again, he's the only one on horseback that the most dangerous position as he's the most visible of all the men so everyone's shooting at him area very foolhardy and to some degree it would be correct to say that he was reckless. but one regular army officer said that it was theodore roosevelt who really kind of one today and there were lots of men, lots of casualties but it was his heroics that i don't want to say turned the tide but led to the american victory. >> was theodore roosevelt shy about sharing his exploits with the press after mark. >> know he wasn't. he wasn't shy about anything, i don't think. in fact he wasn't even shy about the medal of honor . he wrote to his friend, a
congressman that i deserve the medal of honor.i think i did it. i think iwon the medal of honor and he didn't get it in his lifetime. it caused a big controversy , the sum of the military officers thought it was unbecoming to, it seemed like he was almost campaigning for the medal of honor. in truth what he did was worthy of the medal of honor but the fact that he kind of made a, kind of threw a fit aboutit didn't look too good . >> mark lee gardner, did he bring his hand-picked horse with him? >> he did not bring a hand-picked horse, he got horses like the rest of the troops in texas. he had two horses, one of the horses was named rain in the face. it was in indian chiefs. the roosevelt ballet was an african-american named marshall but he was a buffalo soldier out west so he was
responsible for naming the horse rain in the face and the other horse was named texas but ran in the face drowned as they were getting the horses off the ship. they had to push them off the ship and make their way to the beach and rain in the face didn't make it, little thtexas did so little texas actually survived the war and he's actually buried there at sagamore hill . though it's a very fond animal for tr. >> 1898, this is all taking place in the next presidential election happens in 1900 . what happens in those two years? >> theodore roosevelt is a hero just like all the roughriders. it was all the roughriders were heroes when they returned and they were the most famous of all the units and that wasn't fair to the other units that had also fought and suffered casualties on san juan hill . but because of theodore roosevelt, because of who they were, cowboys and ivy
leaguers and fifth avenue boys and they referred to some, they werevery famous and very popular . there's boardgames of the roughriders that came out in 1898 . there's a rough rider baking powder. their faces were everywhere. but what happens is that of course almost instantly, the powerbrokers in new yorkare pushing theodore roosevelt to become governor.you need to become governor of new york . and he accepted the nomination and he campaigned with his roughriders in tow, some of them came and traveled on the train in new york as he did different campaign stops and promoted that military hero aspect. he won the governorship. >> in 1900? >> he won thegovernorship in 1898 . >> as governor, fremont.
>> but then his governor and there's an appeal to put him on the ticket in 1900. so william mckinley is running for president and they put, who wouldn't put a military hero as a running mate? the vice presidential candidate and of course mckinley whenthat election easily . and theodore roosevelt is a heartbeat away from the presidency . >> and in 1901 -mark when william mckinley was assassinated. >> and theodore roosevelt is now that damn roughriders is president of the united states. >> because of that charge of san juan hill, the next three years, do you attribute the next hethree years of his career to that charge? >> yes, i do. i think that that gave him recognition that he had never had before. i mean, his face was known. he was known.
yes, for the next three years , whether intentionally or not, he wrote that same all the way to the highest elected position in the united states and i don't think that would have happened unless he had gone up sanjuan hill and survived . >> it feels incredible that he lives, that he survived san juan so it's just been an amazing story. because he lived, that led directly to his presidency. >> here's the book, it's called rough riders: theodore roosevelt, his cavalry and the immortal charge of san juan hill. mark lee gardner is the author and he's been our guest on book tv. >> book tv recently went to capitol hill to find out what books are on the reading list ofmembers of congress . >> i'm bill johnson representing ohio's sixth district . >>
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