The Roughest Riders: The Untold Story of the Black Soldiers in the Spanish-American War
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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.
and other scouts, and to their rear was Captain Capron leading a platoon of sixty troops walking in single file. Roosevelt followed Capron and his group, although he quickly began to pick up his pace to move closer to the front. Marching with the main body of men, with the entire line stretched out for more than a mile, were Stephen Crane, Richard Harding Davis, and most of the other correspondents selected by Roosevelt and Wood. Only one journalist, Herschel V. Cashin, marched with Young’s
the so-called military crest, the ridgeline that should have been the Spaniards’ first line of defense. Compared to the geographical crest, it would have provided them with an even better vantage point over the American attackers and the entire field of combat. General Linares, however, had determined earlier that his heavily outnumbered forces stood little chance of ultimate victory against such overwhelming odds, and, realist that he was, had positioned his troops for retreat. Having expected
troops had a clear view of the harbor and the city, its streets empty except for the commotion of Spanish troops wandering shell-shocked in every direction. A number of Buffalo Soldiers from the Tenth and some white regulars started to run down the hill toward Santiago without authorization, but an officer called them back and told them to remain on the ridge until they received orders to proceed. Stephen Crane had joined them at the overlook and described the men as “dusty” and “disheveled,”
replenish their ammunition. “Everyone who saw the incident knew the Colonel was mistaken about our men trying to shirk their duty,” he wrote in a letter to the New York Age. As far as white leadership was concerned, Holliday said that many black noncommissioned officers filled in for the whites when they were killed or wounded in combat. Roosevelt’s statement was “uncalled for and uncharitable,” Holliday wrote. “Considering the moral and physical effect the advance of the Tenth Cavalry had in
a more conciliatory officer, General Ramón Blanco, the Cubans were not about to be mollified. They had long since reached the tipping point under Spanish domination. Cuba’s economy lay in tatters, with unemployment soaring and Spain still maintaining a tight rein on the citizens themselves. On January 24, 1898, McKinley gave in to the pressure and ordered the USS Maine to sail from Key West, Florida, to Havana. It departed from Florida at 11:00 PM that night and arrived in Cuba at 9:30 the