A Newspaper Chronicle

Reprinted from: Bully! Colonel Theodore Roosevelt

The Rough Riders & Camp Wikoff Montuak, N.Y. (1898)

Roosevelt and Wheeler Ashore


Tuesday, August 16 (New York Herald, "The Sun)

Camp Wikoff, August 15 – General Joseph Wheeler, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and eight troops of his Rough Riders, and two troops of the Third United States Cavalry, fresh from their glorious victories in Cuba, disembarked at Camp Witoff this morning from the transport Miami.

With their shot-riven colors flying over their ragged and battle stained ranks, the Rough Riders and their gallant brother horsemen of the regular service marched proudly ashore amid the tumultuous cheers of their comrades in arms and of numerous visitors who flocked to the pier to bid them welcome.

In the ranks were many gallant men stricken by fever and bullets who had strength barely sufficient to carry their arms, but who kept their places in the line and plodded proudly along, sustained by the same indomitable spirit that enabled them to face the hail of bullets on the Cuban battlefields.

The Miami left her anchorage, four miles out in the bay, at a quarter of eleven o’clock and was soon seen making her way in, escorted by a tug. There was a rush of officers, soldiers, and civilian visitors to the railroad dock toward which the transport was heading. A picket line of colored troops from the Ninth Cavalry cleared the end of the pier, no one being permitted to approach except officers and a few friends of General Wheeler and Colonel Roosevelt. A strong guard of troopers of the Third Cavalry arrived soon afterward and formed a square cordon on the beach beside the pier, so as to reserve a space for the landing soldiers.

Visitors thronged the roof and platform of a car that was lying on the pier. Among these were Mrs. John A. Logan, her daughter-in-law, Mrs. John A. Logan, Jr., and Mrs. Downs, wife of the colonel of the Seventy-first Regiment.

The transport presented an extraordinary appearance, her main deck being covered over with a rough timber structure, evidently intended to serve as a shelter and increase her carrying capacity, on top of which were massed troops. In the centre fluttered the national and regimental colors, and here and there above the motley mass of men in blue and brown uniforms flickered the cavalry guidons.

As the ship slowly forged ahead, the men broke into cheers and yells, which were echoed and re-echoed from the shore. It was when the ship had almost touched the end of the pier that two figures, recognized by all, were distinguished among the throng of officers on the bridge, and there went up a roar of shouts, "Hurrah for Roosevelt!" Hurrah for Wheeler!" The crowd rushed forward and for a minute or two it was all the sentries could do to hold it in check.

From the end of the bridge came two flashes of sunlight from a pair of eyeglasses that looked like rays from a heliograph, and the wearer, a big bronze faced man in a light brown uniform, swung a campaign hat in the air and gesticulated frantically with both arms.

"Roosevelt! Roosevelt!" was the cry. "Hurrah for Teddy and the Rough Riders!"

A little man in blue, with white beard and mustache, standing beside the big man, lifted a white pith helmet in salute, and a tumult of cheers arose for "Fighting Joe Wheeler."

So the two heroes stood, bowing and smiling, until the ship’s sides touched the dock, and then an officer on the pier shouted, "How are you, Colonel Roosevelt?"

Back came the answer, in a voice that could be heard half a mile away,
"I am feeling disgracefully well." Then, after a pause, "I feel positively ashamed of my appearance when I see how badly off some of my brave fellows are." Another brief pause, and then, in tones of intense conviction, "Oh, but we have had a bully fight!" at which went up a roar of laughter and renewed cheering.

A few minutes were spent in making fast the ship, during which a running fire of congratulations and acknowledgements was exchanged between the bridge and the pier.

Then a broad gangplank was hoisted to the upper deck and General Wheeler ran briskly down, with all the activity of a schoolboy. He was followed closely by the Colonel of the Rough Riders, who came down the plank in long, swinging strides.

At the foot of the gangway, General Young greeted General Wheeler with a hearty handshake, and then, fairly running at Roosevelt, he grasped his right hand and flung his left arm around his neck in an embrace that was worthy of brothers-in-arms,

Scores of other officers crowded forward to extend greetings, and for a few minutes the two heroes were completely hidden in the throng of uniforms.

Colonel Roosevelt’s appearance showed that his statement of his condition was no exaggeration. He was bronzed and stalwart, his face beaming with health and smiles, and he looked fit to fight for his life. He wore a campaign hat, caught up at the left with the cavalry cap device of crossed sabres, and the regulation brown linen blouse uniform and gaiters. A heavy revolver hung on his right hip from a well-filled cartridge belt.

No greater contrast could have been offered than by the appearance of General Wheeler. The little cavalryman looked as dapper as a West Point cadet in a simple blue blouse with brass buttons, spotless white riding breeches, buff leggings and a white helmet. At his side hung an enormous machete, curiously wrought with silver about the hilt, evidently the spoil of some Spanish officer. So long was the weapon that the point of the scabbard trailed on the ground as the General walked about ... .

As Colonel Roosevelt made his way through the throng behind the line of pickets, hands were thrust forward to greet him, and men fairly fought for the honor of grasping his hand. Questions were volleyed at him.

"Will you be our next Governor?" shouted half a dozen men in a breath, at which the Colonel threw up his hands with a gesture of vehement deprecation and exclaimed: "None of that I won’t say a word about myself. All I’ll talk about is the regiment. It’s the finest regiment that ever was, and I’m proud to command it." *

Then, as the crowd was growing wildly demonstrative, he took off his had, smiled that old Police Board smile, and walked up the dock again.

And just as the Colonel went away that remnant of a band struck up, "Rally Round the Flag, Boys," and down the gangplank came Capt. Dodd with Troops F and C of the Third Cavalry, the latter in command of Lieut. Johnson. Capt. Dodd looked pale and his fine military figure a little emaciated, all the result of a Mauser bullet in the head at Bloody Bend, for the fevers let him alone. There were cheers for him from the Third Cavalrymen already in camp and kindly greetings from all the officers. The cavalry passed out on the beach and took up their position at parade rest while the band struck up, "Home, Sweet Home," and Major Hersey, leading Troop C of the Rough Riders, came striding down the gangplank. A murmur went up from the crowd at the appearance of the men, for they looked half-starved and many of them were on the verge of collapse. Weird-looking beards decorated the faces of many of the men, adding somewhat to their uncouth appearance.

When Major Hersey’s men had left the pier and taken a position on the beach, the band played, "We’ll Never Go There Any More," while Troop E came down the transport. Capt. Miller led the men, and behind him came a Sergeant with the great American flag presented to the troop by the women of Phoenix, Arizona, before it left for the war. This flag had been carried to many victories by the Arizona boys, but its proudest duty was to unfurl itself over the first blockhouse captured by the American troops in Cuba. The rain had made the colors run, but the Arizona boys think it is the greatest set of Stars and Stripes that ever waved. Badly battered were the men of Troop A, who followed Capt. Miller’s men. Not a man in all the company escaped either disease or gunshot wounds, and they seemed pallid and weak as they walked along. Troop B followed, led by Lieut. Wilcox and Lieut. Rymning.

A Rough Rider, one of those who didn’t go to the front, called out, "Here’s my troop!" A minute later, in a voice that trembled with emotion, he said: "I had five bunkies at different times in that troop, but they ain’t one of them there now."

"Why, they aren’t half there," said another man, but the first speaker had his face buried in his hands and was crying. A cavalryman, it should be explained, calls his tentmate his bunkie.

A little dapper man led Troop F, which came out next. His rather worn-out clothes were carefully brushed, and he had much the appearance of the dandy. He carried a machete at his side and saluted with infinite grace as he passed the little knot of officers at the head of the pier. He was Capt. Maximilian Luna, who has the reputation of being one of the fiercest fighters in the regiment. His men tell stories of Capt. Luna that make a man’s eyes open pretty wide, and the best part of it is that they are all true.

As the troop marched by there was a chorus of "Hello, Sinnett!" from the Rough Riders in the crowd, and a little man turned around to wave his hand at those who greeted him. He was Private Sinnett, who was left behind in Tampa when the Rough Riders sailed away. But one night he skipped out, smuggled himself on a transport, and showed up a few mornings later in the Rough Riders’ camp before Santiago. Sinnett has earned his pardon for deserting many times over. There was great joy among his friends at his safe return, and there will be several bottles waiting for the man who had the nerve to desert in order to get a fight, when he gets out of quarantine.

Led by Lieut. Greenway, the old Yale football player, Troop G came marching after F. "Hi you, Greenway, hi there!" yelled a man in the crowd, and Greenway turned and waved his hand at his enthusiastic friend. Greenway is a little pale, but his friends can count his coming out all right, for the physique and spirit that Yale training gave him have stood together and refused to break before the heat and diseases of Cuba. A funny little man in a yellow and black shirt was in Greenway’s troops, and his appearance was the signal for yells of "Oh, Hokey!, Oh Hokey!" The little man was Charley Hokey, and since he joined the Rough Riders he has developed a remarkable penchant for getting into trouble. When his troop was being recruited in San Antonio, Texas, he was the first man in the guardhouse, and he got there for purloining a Mexican dog. He never would admit taking that dog, but after it had been watched for two nights, after he was in the guardhouse, and seen to approach his tent three times a day for meals and at night for sleep, it was considered fair evidence of Hokey’s guilt, and the horrors of bread and water were his for some time after that.

With the guidon ripped into tatters by Spanish bullets, and led by Lieut.Woodbury Kane, Troop K came marching next, the band doing its best with its limited number of instruments to get out a merry air. Lieut. Kane was greeted with shouts of welcome, and no one seemed so happy over the greetings accorded him as his own men who followed. Kane is a popular officer, and the men adore him. He had to take off the brown canvas helmet that he wore twice before the people would stop cheering him. Kane, like Greenway, is in fine shape, and ready for another war any day.

Cavalrymen generally see to it that their troop guidon is not shot up in battle, and so there is a story behind the tattered ensign of Troop K. A society woman of San Antonio sent the guidon to the troop and wrote:

"I want you to carry it with you wherever you go. Take it into your fights with you, for I made it for fighting men."

And so this silken guidon went into all the fights that Troop K had a hand in. It is the idol of the troop now, and when this war is all over and the men are ready to say good-by to one another and start for their homes, it will probably be sent back to the woman who made it.

The last troop of Rough Riders to leave the Miami was Troop L, and it was a sad home coming. Few had the heart to cheer the gallant men left of this troop, for they knew the thoughts running through their heads. Led by the impetuous Capt. Capron, the troop went out to the war. At Las Guasimas, Capt. Capron fell, and so did a score of others, including Sergeant Hamilton Fish, who was much beloved by his comrades. Young Thomas, the son of Federal Judge Thomas of the Indian Territory, then took command of the troop, but later he was wounded. He returned to New York some weeks ago on the Olivette, perhaps permanently disabled.

Troop L will never be forgotten in this country. There were tears in the eyes of the pale and haggard men left in it as they marched down the pier, and several of the Rough Riders in the crowd seemed on the verge of a breakdown.

Behind Troop L came the sick who were not able to carry guns or walk in the ranks. Some of them fairly staggered along, and several had to be supported by troopers from other cavalry. There were about fifteen of them altogether, and they only represented the sick who were able to get around. There were still several others in bed on the transport. These were later sent to the detention hospital in ambulances.

At 1 o’clock Col. Roosevelt mounted a horse and went to the head of his men. Before starting away he rode over the beach to greet Major George H. Hopkins, military aide to the Secretary of War, who arrived here to-day. After he left Major Hopkins, he was surrounded by a crowd of people. In the crowd were many of his friends.... .

"How are all those left behind?"

"I left Gen. Wood in good health, and Tiffany and Borrowe are getting along nicely. They will be sailing pretty soon."

Turning to a friend, Col. Roosevelt pointed to three of his men who were standing a short distance away talking together.

 

"There’s a typical trio. That’s the kind of boys that have won victories for us in Cuba," he said.

The three men were Charlie Bull, the Harvard oarsman, and Larned and Wrenn, the tennis players. Bull had a toothbrush in the rim of his hat and a pair of shoes hanging by his side from a string that encircled his neck. All three men were in tatters, but they made a picturesque group.

There was tremendous cheering when the bugle sounded attention and the Rough Riders started away... .

During the march to their camp several of the Rough Riders fainted. A number of the Thirteenth Infantry and Third Cavalrymen, who are discharged soldiers and came upon the Miami, broke ranks, and, running into the railroad lunchroom, gorged themselves with food before they could be stopped. Three of them fell flat on the floor in consequence and had to be carried away on stretchers.

By 3 o’clock this afternoon, the Rough Riders were in the detention camp. The first meal sent up to them was send from the Miami. The men refused to eat it. The meat was tainted and the hardtack mouldy. They had stood bad meat all the way up from Cuba, they said, without a complaint, but now that they were on American ground they wanted something fit to eat. Howard Townsend of the Red Cross came to the rescue with soups, canned meats and fruits, and the men had such a meal as they hadn’t received in weeks. The Rough Riders’ camp is to be quarantined for three days. On Thursday it will be thrown open, but the rule in regard to visits to the camp will still be in effect.

The Sun reporter visited the camp this afternoon and had a talk with a number of the men. They are all delighted to be home again, and now only wait the word that they are to be mustered out. They are anxious to rejoin their families. The trip up was uneventful, save on Thursday, when George Walsh of Troop A died of dysentery. He was buried at sea.

The camp is full of trophies, but Col. Roosevelt has the most interesting of all. From the sunken battleship Maine a big navy revolver was recovered and later handed to the Colonel. He vowed that he would kill a Spaniard with it, and while he won’t say that he did, his men will testify that several of the Dons bit the dust as a result of his marksmanship with that revolver.

Woodbury Kane didn’t want to be interviewed; in fact, he was a sphinx until someone told him that down in the station baggage room a great basket of delicacies from his mother had been waiting for him for two days.

"Well, say, that’s good news. I wonder if I can’t get that right up here now. Was I hurt? Not a bit of it, and I was only sick a little. Wouldn’t have missed it for anything. The trip up was all right, and I wonder if I can’t get that basket up now. No, there isn’t any more for me to say except to repeat that I wouldn’t have missed my little share in this affair for worlds."

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