Thursday, January 28, 2016

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Author Spotlight: Patricia Dunlavy Valenti Part II,2200.aspx

Q. Your much-anticipated second volume of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, A Life, has now been published. Who are the intended readers for your book?

A. I think my biography of Sophia will appeal to the general reader, and it will be accessible even to someone who has not read volume I. It’s clear why contemporary novels such as Z, or The Paris Wife, or Mrs. Poe have gained such popularity. The public craves access to the lives of women kept in the shadows by their famous author-husbands. But my book also presents really new scholarship in the areas of American history, gender and literary studies, and what I like to call the domestic politics of authorship, that complex influence of one spouse upon the other in the production of art. Scholars who have already reviewed Volume II attest to its contribution to these areas.

Q. Did your research and writing of this volume uncover anything completely unexpected?

A. I knew the issues that would dominate Sophia’s life between 1848 and 1871, when she died in England, but I had been unaware of the scope and significance of some of them. In terms of specifics, I had no idea that The Marble Faun, the last novel Nathaniel published, required so much of Sophia’s effort. Her life was entwined with his for nearly twenty-six years, and after his death, she lived another seven years with the burden of his bad financial decisions and failures as a writer during last decade of his life. Looking at Nathaniel Hawthorne from Sophia’s perspective reveals a side to him that was entirely ignored by his biographers.

Q. Are you saying that Sophia saw her husband in an unflattering light?

A. No, I’m not. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote to Sophia that she had “a beauty making eye.” He was referring to her artistic talent, but he coined a phrase that serves us well in understanding her character. She was optimistic to the core. She persisted in seeing Nathaniel, their children, and her marriage as the epitome of domestic bliss. Among her surviving thousands of pages of letters and journals, not one word criticizing her husband can be found. But actions tell a different story than words.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Sophia’s emotional appetite was not satisfied by marriage and motherhood. She and Nathaniel spent a good deal of time apart. Their lack of money sometimes forced them to live separately, and when they had money to spare, Nathaniel took regular summer vacations without her. While the Hawthornes were living in England, Sophia developed a pulmonary problem and went to sunny, warmer Portugal to live in the home of John Louis O’Sullivan. She became alarmingly fond—from her husband’s point of view--of this vexing figure in America history. Then, when the Hawthornes lived in Italy, Nathaniel frequently remained in their apartment while Sophia enjoyed Rome’s museums and historic sites with a group of women who were part of a thriving lesbian community. When Nathaniel’s health was failing, Sophia urged him to take one after another trip, claiming that a change of scene would restore his health. During this same period, she developed intense feelings for Annie Fields, the young, beautiful wife of Nathaniel’s publisher. Sophia also became deeply attached to General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who had been appointed by President Lincoln to oversee the return of prisoners during the Civil War.

Q. You make her sound like a scarlet woman, or like Hawthorne’s character who wore the scarlet letter.

A.That would be a huge over-simplification of Sophia’s very complex and nuanced relationships. But there is no doubt that Nathaniel Hawthorne incorporated many of her traits into his female characters, particularly into one of the best-known female characters in American literature. Like Hester Prynne--who wished that her timid, secret lover would proclaim his love publicly--Sophia bristled at the secrecy Nathaniel imposed upon their lengthy engagement. While Nathaniel was writing The Scarlet Letter, Sophia was the breadwinner, earning money for their household expenses by selling her decorative arts, a prototype for Hester’s ability to support herself and her child with needlework. And among other parallels, Sophia’s tenacious protection of her children suggests Hester’s behavior with Pearl.

Q. Why did Sophia need to protect her children?

A. All mothers need to protect their children, but at Sophia’s particular moment in history, medicine did little to prevent childhood mortality. Religious belief in the afterlife was waning and no longer provided mothers like Sophia with consolation when a child died. Sophia attempted to stave off illness and other harm through diet and hygiene; she wanted her children to develop moral character without the scare tactics of Calvinism. She refused to use any form of corporal punishment. In many ways, her story as a mother is a very contemporary one. She was a helicopter mother before helicopters were invented. The sad truth is, that even with the best intentions, there are unfortunate consequences.

Q. How so?

A. You’ll have to read both volumes of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Life for the full answer. But I’ll say here that Sophia’s children came of age during the Civil War, when many of their counterparts were sacrificing their lives for the abolition of slavery. Sarah Shaw, the mother of Robert Gould Shaw, who was slaughtered in battle with his African American soldiers, was Sophia’s good friend. The Alcotts were Sophia’s longtime neighbors, and Louisa May suffered lasting effects from the disease she contracted while she nursed Union soldiers. Examining Sophia’s attitudes as a mother—and one opposed to the Civil War—helps us better understand the sacrifices of others who were, or no longer could be, her friends.

You can read about Volume 1 at the earlier Author Spotlight for Patricia Dunlavy Valenti.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baseball Past and Present

By Matthew Linenbroker
            In 1985, the Kansas City Royals faced the St. Louis Cardinals in what was deemed the “I-70 Showdown Series.” During the ninth inning of Game 6, first base umpire Don Denkinger called Royals’ batter Jorge Orta safe at first, although replays showed that Cardinals’ first baseman Todd Worrell actually beat Orta to the base. After another base hit and intentionally walking Hal McRae, a single to right field drove in two runs, giving the Royals a 2-1 win. After that loss, the Cardinals melted down in Game 7, letting the Royals take their crown. Missouri was halved into bitterness and glee, caught in a newly inflated intra-state rivalry.
            The Royals are once again in the World Series, for the first time since 1985, and the Cardinals could have potentially become their opponent. The scent of a rematch wafted through the air, but the San Francisco Giants overtook them (although the Cardinals have won the World Series twice since their loss to the Royals).
Missouri is an explosive epicenter of baseball fanaticism, which is often due to the deafening dedication of Cardinal Nation. However, Royals’ fans are doing their part this year too – Anchorman actor Paul Rudd even invited everyone to a kegger at his mom’s house in Overland Park after the Royals’ American League Championship Series win.
Hit singer-songwriter Lorde penned her breakthrough song “Royals” after seeing a picture of Kansas City Royals’ player George Brett signing baseballs in a 1976 National Geographic magazine. A couple of San Francisco radio stations have responded to this by banning Lorde’s KC-inspired song from the radio until after the World Series is over.
             A look back at Missouri baseball history reveals more than just a kegger and a 17-year-old musician, and more than just an infamous umpire and a Royals’ triumph. Before the Cardinals’ #11in11, before Jarrod Dyson, before Jon Jay, before Pujols, Eckstein, and Edmonds, even before Don Denkinger and the 1985 Show-Me Showdown, Missouri basked in the sunlight of groundbreaking baseball culture. Roger D. Launius’ book Seasons in the Sun digs into the dirt to examine the Midwestern roots of baseball. St. Louis became a charter member of the newly formed National League in 1876, and Kansas City housed one of the premiere Negro National League
teams, the Kansas City Monarchs, in the 1920’s.
The history of baseball is intertwined with the history of Missouri, existing through political turmoil, war, economic depression, and segregation. Prior to his death in Kansas City in 1982, star Negro League Pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige impacted the baseball African-American civil rights fight. Donald Spivey’s If You Were Only White follows the tense political struggle, and Satchel’s important role in it.
Stan Musial is more than a Cardinals’ legend; he is a baseball legend. When America fought the Great Depression, war, and post-war turmoil, Stan the Man offered the nation a taste of hope and escape as he broke records and barriers. James N. Giglio’s Musial illuminates the life and career of the man immortalized in statue-form outside of Busch Stadium.
Missouri’s exceptional baseball past will forever help forge the legacy of excellence in Missouri’s baseball future. It is the nature of friendly competition to bring people together in solidarity; as fans assemble for #BlueOctober and #RedOctober, seeing Missouri once again bask in the possibility of its two teams uniting once more over America’s pastime feels like an intrinsic homage to Satchel, Musial, and all the others, large and small, who made Missouri baseball the noble creation that it is today. These books highlight a time in Missouri that helped shape the baseball culture we live in today, and just as people study the Declaration of Independence to understand the conception of our current government, so can Musial be looked at as a stepping-stone to Ozzie Smith, to Pujols, to Jay, so can a possible Royals’ World Series win be viewed through a retrospective of the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs. As a central facet of American culture, Baseball is ever evolving, and by learning of its progression, we can deeper our understanding and appreciation of the glorious baseball present.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Q & A: The Cinematic Voyage of THE PIRATE by Earl J. Hess & Pratibha A. Dabholkar

The Cinematic Voyage of The Pirate: Kelly, Garland, and Minnelli at Work follows the model of Earl J. Hess and Pratibha A. Dabholkar’s previous study of Singin’ in the Rain. Drawing on exhaustive research in archives, memoirs, interviews, and newspaper coverage, it takes the reader from the original conception of the story in the mind of a German playwright named Ludwig Fulda, through S. N. Behrman’s Broadway production starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, to the arduous task of crafting a suitable screenplay at MGM. Behind-the-scenes issues such as Garland’s personal problems during the making of the film and the shaping of the film by Minnelli and Kelly are among the many subjects detailed here.

Why was it important to write a book about the MGM film, The Pirate?
The Pirate has garnered a great deal of attention from viewers and critics alike as one of the most interesting film musicals of all time. It was a controversial film in several ways and has attracted considerable commentary over the years. Arguments about its plot, acting, sets, and dances, as well as the place it holds in the creative work of its director and its stars have raged since its initial release in 1948. Those arguments continue today, more than six decades later. And yet, The Pirate had not received the acclaim it deserves in scholarly literature. Among other things, the remarkable ways that the film helped the careers of Kelly, Minnelli, and Garland, its pioneering depiction of race relations in musicals, and the mastery displayed in the staging, filming, and choreography of Kelly’s dances led us to conclude that The Pirate is an underappreciated masterpiece. In writing this book, we set about to correct that situation and give the film its due.

What can we learn about film production from this book?
Readers can get an idea of the complex process of writing screen plays based on stage plays. They can appreciate how songs and dances are created to fit into the plot and learn about repeated rehearsals to get everything right. Readers can understand how shooting has to be planned to make efficient use of resources rather than chronologically according to the story. They can also find out how moviemakers have to deal with personal problems of the players and keep up morale. It is also interesting to learn that changes are made in plot and dialogue after shooting has started and even after the previews, and that the colors one sees on the screen are often adjusted in a lab after making the film.

You write that early audiences did not always understand the tongue-in-cheek humor in the film. Can you elaborate on the mixed reviews of the film musical?

Although movie audiences were less enthusiastic than film critics when The Pirate was released in 1948, it was mainly because they were not sophisticated enough to understand that the film was made tongue-in-cheek and that the imitations of Barrymore and Fairbanks by Kelly were done with affection to delight audiences. Some early audience members did get it, however, as seen from the excellent ratings when the film was previewed. As audiences became more sophisticated, enthusiasm for the film grew. It appears that this motion picture was at least twenty years ahead of its time. Our book includes a full discussion of critical and scholarly commentary over the years (including commentary by gay studies scholars) to help readers appreciate diverse views about the film as well as how perspectives changed over time.

Is The Pirate a cult film?
Strange as it may seem, it is both a cult film and one that appeals to mainstream audiences, especially those who love musicals. The Pirate did appeal to gay audiences soon after its release. Garland’s presence in the film and her camp performance started that process, but gay audiences also appreciated Minnelli’s aesthetics and Kelly’s virile dancing. Also, the film has been a hit with many college students since the 1970s and, a decade later, it began to be a popular topic of analysis for scholars who deal with gay theory and the cinema. At the same time, the film was appreciated by mainstream audiences all along. It won high praise from many viewers, critics, and scholars who savor the particular aesthetics of dance on film, with appreciation for the movie growing over the years. In fact, many fans of the film musical rank it as their absolute favorite.

What effect did the film have on the careers of the major players?
For Gene Kelly, the film was the true beginning of his postwar fame as a dancer on the big screen. He worked more intimately on choreography in this movie than on any previous film and also played an important part in character development. Kelly also learned a good deal about camera work and direction from Minnelli that he later employed very successfully in his own career as a director. For Vincent Minnelli, the movie exemplified his fascination with colorful locale, exotic costumes, and strongly defined characters. The director used his trademark boom camera work to full effect and also worked extensively to revise the final screenplay. He worked closely with the Technicolor Corporation to create a rich visual product. The Pirate is one of Minnelli’s most effective creations, displaying verve, irony, and a sardonic gusto. For Judy Garland, her personal problems with drugs and her troubled relationship with her husband came to a head with Minnelli during the filming of this movie. She missed many days of production, costing M-G-M a good deal of money and wasted time, but she turned in a stellar performance in a role that was unusual for her. Her pairing with Gene Kelly was phenomenal, as always.

The history behind the production of The Pirate seems awfully complicated. What challenges did you face while writing this book?
We had to get access to the stage plays and all the versions of the screen plays to see how the story evolved and why it took such a long time and so many writers to produce an acceptable script for the screen. We had to research all possible primary sources (including archival material, interviews, and so on) as well as secondary sources, and piece together the history of making this film, including its production, marketing, and legacy. Very often, there were divergent accounts and we had to evaluate which versions were based on fact and which were not. Also, scholarly accounts had misrepresented some facts, stating that the film was panned by critics on its release and made a loss over its lifetime. Researching original documents, we found that neither was true. Our book corrects the errors others have propagated.  

Despite the challenges, was it fun to write the book?
We had as much fun researching and writing this book as we do when watching this great movie musical. Everything we discovered about The Pirate is in this book, presented in a way that helps us understand and enjoy the film even more. Each time we watch the film, it offers more layers of meaning and enjoyment, tied closely to everything discussed in our book.

Monday, October 6, 2014


By Sara L. Deters

As a history major at the University of Missouri, I've always hoped that Missouri's history would deservedly receive more attention. Mark A. Lause, author of Price's Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of Missouri does just that by exploring the largely ignored events that took place in Missouri during the Civil War. Focused around one military general, Sterling Price, Price's Lost Campaign describes the unsuccessful military raid in Missouri of 1864. Emphasizing guerrilla warfare and how that brutality shaped the political elections in Missouri during 1864 provides cultural as well as political history for the readers out there interested in more than just warfare history. 

What prompted you to write about the military campaign in Missouri?

Most of what’s written on the Civil War in Missouri has focused on the early days - before the Federal authorities secured their hold on the state - or on the colorful and violent events of the guerilla war in the state. 

Although I’ve always had an interest in the 1864 Missouri campaign, I didn’t pursue it seriously until after writing the book Race and Radicalism in the Union Army, which focused on the efforts of John Brown’s surviving followers to build a tri-racial Federal army in the Indian Territory--present Oklahoma.  It isn’t surprising that such a prospect did not please the Confederates at all, but I was surprised at the extent to which the Federal authorities did everything they could to divert it, drain it of resources, and even to line their pockets from the artificial misfortune imposed upon the project.  By the conclusion of that book, I had a very different and much dimmer view of the prospects for a real Reconstruction after the war.

Missouri troops and events in Missouri generally figured heavily in those operations.  At one point, for example, the Indian brigade essentially took over Neosho as a base--the place had been essentially abandoned.  And the fact that the Confederate army ended the 1864 campaign by retreating south right past a Union Indian brigade rendered helpless by Federal policies seemed to require another look at the movements of Price’s Army and his pursuers.

You say that your grandmother passed down stories of her grandfathers witnessing and participating in the 1864 campaign. Any stories you wish to share?

Both of her grandfathers and several great uncles were in the Enrolled Missouri Militia.  However, their wives and children may have seen more of this campaign than they did.  Riders went along those country roads warning that Confederate columns were on the way and everybody grabbed what they could and headed out across the fields into the woods.  They stayed there for several days.  Most of their houses were robbed of anything not nailed down and vandalized. 

The Federal Department of Missouri later made a great issue about the cold-blooded murder of Major James Wilson and his men outside of Union, Missouri.  This was a truly horrific act, but there was no mention of the murder of captured members of the militia the same day only a few miles away, or the previous day in Union, or in the other days before and after Wilson’s murder. The killing of Union soldiers, militia or civilians that fell into Confederate hands was a daily occurrence. 

And, yes, it went the other way, too, though never to the same extent.  

Why did the Federals call Price’s army a “raid” instead of a “campaign?”

The book argues that the Confederates planned the operation as an invasion to reoccupy as much of Missouri as they could on the eve of the 1864 presidential elections.  This included taking St. Louis and/or Jefferson City.  Union Generals William S. Rosecrans and Alfred Pleasanton, though, did not think that the Confederacy had that much life left in it, and originally thought that reports of Price’s presence with a large army represented a panicked response to a mere raid with no more than a few thousand men or less.  They staked everything on this mistaken assessment. 

Notwithstanding the stories later told that Pilot Knob alerted St. Louis to the danger and inspired Rosecrans to mobilize the population in the city’s defense. In fact, Rosecrans and his staff did not really mobilize city’s militia and continued to discuss this is a “raid,” almost until the Confederate advance probed the borders of St. Louis county on September 30.  Among other things, Price’s decision not to attack St. Louis permitted the Federals to continue to speak disparagingly of the operation as “a raid.”

A few days later, after Price again decided not to attack a strategic objective at Jefferson City.  Thereafter, Confederate goals centered on the idea of supporting themselves as long as possible in Missouri.  Indeed, the campaign proved to be such a dismal failure that Price and his staff increasingly preferred to have their achievements viewed in terms of a “raid.”    By the original standards, there was no seizure and occupation of St. Louis or Jefferson City, but nabbing dozens of farm wagons as you pass through Saline County might make a raid successful. 

What can we learn about Missouri’s role in the Civil War from Price’s Lost Campaign?

I hope that readers of the book will realize that historians have been making choices about what priorities to place on aspects of the Civil War.  The sectional tensions between the east and west, perhaps, were secondary only to those between the North and the South.  And sectional tensions represent a gross oversimplification.  The Civil War pit two different ways of seeing America’s future against each other, but there were also many variations in those aspirations, especially on the most complex side of the war. 

What was the most fascinating part for you during your research?

What always amazes me in doing historical research is the extent to which we can actually probe the experience of the rank and file--the soldiers, militia, and civilians touched by the war.   Part of this is has to do with new technologies, such as the digitalization of newspapers, military records, and even some manuscript collections. 

When they digitized the Official Records some years ago, I remember saying that this would probably enable critical researchers to start putting some holes into the often conflicting information contained in them.  That process has started.  I hope that, in a way, Price’s Lost Campaign and the forthcoming Collapse of Price’s Raid will be able to contribute to this.

Any other projects currently in the works?

I have several books already on the way to press, including The Collapse of Price’s Raid: The Beginning of the End in Civil War Missouri (University of Missouri Press), Free Labor: the Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class and a book on the politics of spiritualism in the Civil War years.  I am also finishing a book that grew out of what I learned in the Trans-Mississippi Civil War and applies it to the Franco-Prussian War, tentatively entitled The Last Republicans.  I have started another on political violence in the Wild West, aimed at the role of violence in reconstructing and imposing the two-party system.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood: Partners in Command by John S.D. Eisenhower

By Matthew Linenbroker

Simon and Garfunkel. Antony and Cleopatra. Abbott and Costello. John and Yoko.
Okay, not John and Yoko. No one actually liked Yoko, did they? 
But my point still stands! History has a way of bringing people together, people with compatible strengths and weaknesses who, together, can forge their way through the world and make their mark.
Partners in crime. Partners in comedy. Partners in song. And partners in command.
Part of me would very much like to imagine President Roosevelt, lieutenant colonel of the Rough Riders at the time, dressed in black polyester and Kevlar, mask covering his face, cape fluttering in the wind, riding his trusty Bat-Steed off towards the Bat Signal glaring over San Juan Hill. And who is by his side? Commanding colonel and boy wonder Leonard Wood.
I know, I know, it’s a weird image – Leonard Wood could totally be Batman, and Roosevelt be Robin. I don’t think there’s a right way to sort it. But if I didn’t compare Roosevelt and Wood to the greatest (sadly fictional) duo ever, well, to quote Roosevelt, I would “consider myself the damndest ass within ten miles of this camp!”
            How we handle the extraordinary circumstances life so often dumps us in is the true showing of our character. Roosevelt and Wood’s bond in Partners in Command showcases the way that two vastly different people can do more together than they ever could have alone. Each with an insatiable ambition and overwhelming zeal for the United States, together the two men make history and propel themselves and their country to a better standing.

            Below is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood: Partners in Command by John  S.D. Eisenhower:

Leonard Wood knew that his appointment as a line officer, even of volunteers, would cause resentment in the Regular Army. However, his ambition far overcame his inhibitions. He knew he was prepared for that transition, for in his off hours throughout his years of doctoring he had been studying tactics and military history with a view to this end. On learning of the sinking of the Maine, therefore, he had lost no time in approaching President McKinley and volunteering his services as a line officer of any grade. McKinley refused the request, primarily because he hated to lose the services of the doctor upon whom his sick wife was so dependent. The president, however, promised not to stand in Wood’s way if he could attain his goals by dealing directly with the Army authorities.
Wood’s task in convincing the Army authorities was more difficult than manipulating McKinley, for the regulars, especially the West Pointers, believed they had a monopoly on military knowledge. Wood’s recent award of the Medal of Honor, which had been pending for a dozen years, did little to further his cause, because his services in earning it had involved duties other than those of a line officer.
Unable to sell himself to the War Department, Wood resolved to attain his ends as a volunteer, the appointee of a state governor. Armed with lavish recommendations from Roosevelt, Army chief Nelson Miles, and even Secretary of War Alger, he approached the governor of his home state of Massachusetts. The governor, however, had no intention of organizing such a regiment. Wood also met failure in New York, but for another reason: that governor had his own favorite son in case such a unit should be called up.
Finally, fortune smiled from two directions. Roosevelt had begun his campaign, and the governor of Arizona, where Wood was still a big hero, decided to contribute a volunteer unit as a gift to the nation. Senator Francis Warren of Wyoming was also creating a similar unit. Secretary Alger finally agreed to organize several volunteer regiments, of which three would be cavalry. The first would be commanded by Wood, with Roosevelt as his lieutenant colonel. It was really a political act; the professional head of the Army, General Miles, appeared to lack interest in organizing any volunteer regiments at all.
But Roosevelt had broken the bureaucratic barriers, and Wood’s greatest ambitions had been exceeded: he was to be the colonel of a regiment. He was ready. Once his appointment had been confirmed, he flew into action. He even knew the location where he wanted the regiment to be recruited and trained: a large piece of unoccupied territory near San Antonio, Texas. He also knew what he wanted in other matters. He insisted, for example, on issuing his troopers a lightweight tan uniform, far different from the heavy blue of the regulars. He also knew the type of boots he wanted, based on the report he had sent to Washington from Arizona many years previously. In the matter of armament, he would accept only the best. He demanded that his men be issued the same rifles as those of the regulars, the new Krag Jørgensen. Wood made all these arrangements informally with the chief of ordnance and the quartermaster general, but to implement them officially he needed to have them ordered formally by the secretary of war. Taking no chances on Alger’s shillyshallying, Wood brought the stack of orders for his requests into the secretary’s office all at once. In a short period, a be-wildered Alger had given Wood all that he wanted. Wood was then ready to depart Washington for San Antonio.
On arriving at his destination, Wood had many urgent tasks to accomplish. Although there would be overlap, he had a set of priorities. First was sanitation, second was housing, third was the reception of incoming packets of troops, then came the issue of clothing and equipment, and finally came the instruction of noncommissioned officers. Mixed with all these activities were training of new recruits, care of mounts, drill, and ceremonies. Wood performed this program with quiet dignity and intensity. Occasionally, Wood slipped out of his role. On one occasion, when a young soldier was flung against a tree by a recalcitrant mount, the colonel was quickly on his knees beside him: the commanding officer had temporarily been transformed into a physician. He took pride in the regiment and his role as its commanding officer. It was always, despite public perception, Wood’s regiment.
Although Roosevelt’s appointment as Wood’s lieutenant colonel was effective in early–May 1898, he did not leave Washington for Texas immediately. He and Wood had decided that he would be more useful for the moment by staying behind to see to it that the War Department came through with its promises— even written orders. It was well that Roosevelt did so, because the administrative services were slow to respond. On May 10, however, Roosevelt was able to send a message to the friend he now called “Colonel Wood”: “I spent a good deal of yesterday and today fussing with the Ordnance and Quartermaster General’s Department. They have sent out tracers and tell me that by day after tomorrow the rifles and most of the supplies will be at San Antonio. I hope you got your horses pretty well purchased by this time. The enclosed letter shows that you are allowed to purchase over the number if necessary.”
Roosevelt had another incentive to stay in the East for a while. He was re-solved to do some recruiting among men he particularly wanted. He made visits to the campuses of Ivy League universities, especially his own alma mater, Harvard. His theme, which seems startling today, was that the privileged classes of American society must take the lead in fighting the war. So effective were his efforts that he found himself somewhat embarrassed by the fact that he was overwhelmed with men intent on joining him. He finally selected about fifty, among them two star football quarterbacks from Harvard, a champion high jumper, a former US tennis champion, and a group of polo players. He did not, however, restrict himself to the universities; he also signed up some former members of the New York Police Force. He took great pride in the fact that almost none of these volunteers asked to come in as commissioned officers; they were content to serve as privates.
The easterners whom Roosevelt had recruited would actually constitute only a small fraction of the twelve hundred men of the Rough Riders, but Roosevelt’s visibility in recruiting them gave the public the impression that the regiment was Roosevelt’s. At one point, a friend of Wood’s from New York wrote in protest. “The newspapers about here keep talking about Roosevelt’s regiment. Give the reporters a bit of discipline and have things called by their right name.” This type of thing did not make Wood happy, but he took it philosophically. Not long after, Wood wrote a friend: “It was not long after I had been joined by Roosevelt at San Antonio, when I realized that if the campaign lasted for any considerable length of time I would be kicked upstairs to make room for the promotion of Roosevelt. I decided that, if that should happen, I would see to it that no matter in what situation I found myself, I would find justification of my being there and find a job that needed doing and would do it with all my power.”
Despite the publicity engendered by Roosevelt’s activities in the East, the basic character of the regiment followed the style of rough men from the Southwest. Most were cowboys and ranchers, although the roster also included professional men. To take them in, Wood had asked the local governors to set up about a dozen reception centers. Once his men were inducted and sworn in, they were subjected to extensive training, so intensive that the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry Regiment became known as the “Rough Riders,” the name that has lived on in history.
Roosevelt, despite his time in the Dakotas, was highly impressed by the sturdiness of the men of the regiment. In a letter to Senator Lodge, he bub-bled with enthusiasm:
It is as typical an American regiment as ever marched or fought. I suppose that about 95 per cent of the men are of native birth, but we have a few from everywhere, including a score of Indians and about as many men of Mexican origin from New Mexico, then there are some fifty Easterners—almost all graduates of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc,—and almost as many southerners, the rest are from the plains and the Rocky Mountains. Three fourths of our men have at one time or another been cowboys or small stockmen, certainly two thirds have fathers who fought on one side or the other in the civil war. . . . These men are in [the Army] because they want to be in it. They are intelligent as well as game.
Roosevelt was also content with the quality of his officers. Many of them were veterans of the Regular Army, who had fought against Apache, Ute, and Cheyenne. Some had previously been federal marshals. One individual whom Roosevelt singled out for praise was Bucky O’Neill, the current mayor of Prescott, Arizona. O’Neill had taken a leave of absence from civic duties to command Troop “A.” Roosevelt described him as “a famous sheriff throughout the West for his feats of victorious warfare against the Apache, no less than against the white road–agents and man–killers. His father had fought in Meagher’s Brigade in the Civil War, and he himself was a born soldier, a born leader of men. He was a wild, reckless fellow, soft spoken, and of dauntless courage and boundless ambition; he was staunchly loyal to his friends, and cared for them in every way.”
Roosevelt even evaluated himself. “I have been both astonished and pleased,” he wrote to Lodge, “at my own ability in the line of tactics. I thoroughly en-joy handling these men, and I get them on the jump so that they execute their movements at a gallop.”
Roosevelt had harbored one concern in gathering such a group of individuals. How would they tolerate the discipline that the Army would necessarily impose on them? In this matter, however, he described himself as “agreeably disappointed.” By and large, the men realized the difference between an army and a mob. But to keep them in such a frame of mind, the leaders—meaning himself—had to be strong. He and Wood quietly but firmly corrected infractions of protocol that would seem trivial in the more relaxed Army of later years. For example, a man would be corrected if he said, “Good evening, sir,” when saluting the colonel. The salute was sufficient in itself. On one occasion, a mess sergeant, in calling dinner, was corrected for referring to the officers as “you fellers.” All these small admonitions were taken in good part.
But Roosevelt himself still had to absorb some of the ways of the military hierarchy. One incident, which he chose not to describe to Lodge in his letters, involved his natural generosity, exuberance, and love of applause. One day, after finishing a drill with one of his units, he ordered the men to dismount and then shouted, “The men can go in and drink all the beer they want, which I will pay for.” This gesture elicited such a response that Roosevelt got carried away. He joined them for a couple of hours.
Nearly everyone in the camp thought well of Roosevelt’s boyish enthusiasm, but one who did not was Leonard Wood. That evening Wood sent for his lieutenant colonel and pointed out that, in the interests of discipline, officers did not drink with enlisted men. Roosevelt accepted the chiding seriously and left Wood’s tent. In a few seconds, however, his embarrassment overcame him. He returned to the tent, stood rigidly at attention, saluted, and made a stiff speech that ended, “Sir, I consider myself the damndest ass within ten miles of this camp! Good night, sir!”
Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for his military activities was admirable for a soldier, but in broader matters it beclouded his judgment. His obsession to see battle with the Rough Riders, for example, caused him to forget that the purpose of an army is to enforce the national will. In one letter, he exhorted Senator Lodge to do everything possible to prevent any successful negotiations between Washington and Madrid, even if such negotiations would grant the Americans everything—the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and even Cuba—without a fight. He, Roosevelt, must defeat the Spanish in battle for the sake of the battle itself.
As is always the case when a unit prepares to break camp, Wood was involved in so many administrative matters that he was forced to turn over much of the training to Roosevelt, who relished the activity. He began by drilling the men on foot, which in itself is difficult enough. Then, when he was satisfied with his men’s precision, he began practicing maneuvers on horseback. The fact that many of the horses were not broken in caused very little problem; many of the Rough Riders were sufficiently strong and adept that no horse could remain unbroken. As for weapons, Wood had decided to rely on only the Krag carbine, which he had successfully obtained, and the revolver. To the disapproval of more formal Regular Army cavalry officers, the Rough Riders dispensed with the saber. They were, after all, expecting to do a great deal of their fighting on foot, with their mounts being held by horse holders in the rear.
Although Wood and Roosevelt had trained hard during the month of May 1898, they were still uncertain whether they would ever be employed in actual fighting. Their worries dissipated, however, at the end of the month, when a cablegram arrived at San Antonio, ordering the regiment to leave by train for Tampa, Florida, to join a force being assembled, presumably for an invasion of Cuba. Wood, on receiving the message, showed no emotion; he simply stood up, shook Roosevelt by the hand, and disclosed its contents. Roosevelt showed no such restraint; he whooped and hollered, and in no time the entire camp had the news. As the scene was described, “hats, blankets, tin cups, even saddles, skyward and made a bedlam of Colonel Wood’s decorous camp of subjugated wild men.”
They had every cause to be proud. Among all the units scheduled for inclusion in the expedition, the Rough Riders were the only volunteer regiment. The other two volunteer cavalry regiments were not yet ready to go. The personality and influence of Theodore Roosevelt may also have been a factor in its selection—one suspects that it may have been critical.
On Sunday, May 29, the first three of seven sections, under the direct command of Wood, left the camp at San Antonio for the railroad station. With all the confusion, including the failure of trains to show up, Wood’s contingent was forced to wait until midnight before pulling out. Roosevelt, in charge of the other four sections, arrived at the station about the time that Wood left; they were off by the next morning. Once under way, the sections spaced out. When one section stopped to allow the troopers to water and feed their horses, it would be the only one at that station.
Eventually, both officers and men were exhausted from the heat and lack of sleep. As usual the quartermaster seldom delivered enough water and for-age to any one station. Wood therefore faced a continual battle. According to a letter he wrote home, he was forced to take “armed possession” of one train not assigned to him, though he did not specify details. Still, there were bright aspects. All along the line, people were aware that the famed Rough Riders were coming through and were out beside the tracks to greet them. In New Orleans, the crowds were particularly enthusiastic, and the sight of the American flag on proud display gave Wood a lift to realize that the hurts of the Civil War thirty years previously had been largely healed.
After four grueling days of travel, the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry Regiment reached Tampa at midnight on June 3, only to find the camp in a state of confusion. Veterans of the campaign later recalled their arrival as one of the blackest moments in the history of the US Army. According to Roosevelt:
Tampa lay in the pine–covered sand–flats at the end of a one–track railroad, and everything connected with both military and railroad matters was in an almost inextricable tangle. There was no one to meet us or to tell us where we were to camp, and no one to issue us food for the first twenty–four hours; while the railroad people unloaded us wherever they pleased. . . . We had to buy the men food out of our own pockets, and to seize wagons in order to get our spare luggage taken to the camping ground which we at last found had been allotted to us.
Soon, however, Wood established a semblance of order. The area was soon cleaned up, and drill had been instituted immediately. Wood arranged the camp in the standard manner: a rectangle with the twelve troops lined along the long sides with the officers’ tents located at one end of the rectangle and the mess tents at the other. Everyone, especially the officers, worked hard and took no time for leisure, even though the town of Tampa was full of generals, members of the press, and fine ladies. Their industry was noticed, however, and attachés of various countries—English, German, Russian, French, and even Japanese—came out to visit them. Chapel services were held on the one Sunday the Rough Riders were at Tampa. The regiment was outstanding, even among the regulars.