A Newspaper Chronicle

Reprinted from: Bully! Colonel Theodore Roosevelt

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

Roosevelt’s Sermon

Monday, Sept. 5

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, The Sun, New York Herald, Col. Lovell H. Jerome, The World, September 5)

Montauk, Sept. 5 – There was "church" in the camp of the Rough Riders yesterday. When Chaplain Brown looked at the increasing rings of men who sat on the grass in front of his tent he became a little alarmed. He loves those rough, good-hearted fellows, and he knows that in their hearts the majority are kind and to a degree religious, but he cannot help realizing that church is not altogether their idea of a good thing. When they are sick, and are going to die, so far as they know, they turn to the chaplain with fervor on the traditional plan of the Devil.

When the Rough Riders are well, as they generally are, they skip the services. Yesterday, however, the men were there in great numbers and Chaplain Brown made up his mind that they must be ill or needed consolation badly. It wasn’t that, however, for the news had gone around that Teddy, the idolized colonel, was going to preach the sermon of the day – and it was a very remarkable sermon. **

The 300 men present sang, "Onward Christian Soldiers" so vehemently that it really made no difference that the melodian broke down and refused to omit anything more than a pathetic wheeze.

Chaplain Brown offered a prayer for the welfare of the men who had fought shoulder to shoulder, those who were well, and those now lying with pinched features on hospital cots. **

Roosevelt was the same old Roosevelt, in spite of his picturesque brown fatigue, campaign suit. He made the same old grimaces when he spoke and showed his teeth just as conspicuously as before and when he told of a man who said things that were not catalogued, in the prayer books, he repeated those things, with emphasis, too. It was not irreverent. It was merely graphic. He talked more religion right into the souls of those men than they had had for many a day. *

"...Our trials, our hardships, our victories, we have all shared together, officers and men. There has been no distinction; we have all worked for and accomplished the glory of the regiment. The men who were left back in Florida did their duty as well as the men who went to Cuba, and all did it without a murmur.

"What we have done only calls us to renewed exertion in the future. I know you are not likely to simply rest on your laurels. Life is a constant struggle, and no man can afford to remain idle. After the first fight in Cuba, you did not give up and rest on what you had so well done. On the contrary, you had gotten in touch with the Spaniards, and each one of you had registered a vow that no one should get ahead of him.

"Carry that same sentiment and spirit into your life when you separate for your homes. Every man has felt in the past that the honor of the regiment was in his keeping, and he would reflect honor or dishonor on all by his individual acts. This regimental association which we have formed will bind us together, and I hope the annual reunions will be as largely attended as possible.

"I shall always do my best to keep in touch with as many of you as possible, visiting you in your homes whenever opportunity offers. I want to feel that those of us who at the end of twenty years can look back, will see that each member has prospered, has become a better man, a better American; that we are as capable in fighting the battles of peace as of war.

"The world will be kind to you for about ten days; everything you do will be right. After that you will be judged by a stricter code, and if you prove worthless, you will be considered as spoiled by going to war. ****

"Uncomplaining obedience, an acceptance of whatever came, is one of the things that has made me admire, respect and love you all. It has been a perpetual pleasure to me to see the way the officers and men have stood shoulder to shoulder, the officers looking out for the interests of the men always. It has been illustrated in the mustering out. No officer of this regiment ever asked men to go where he would not go, or to share any privation that he was not willing to share. It was always ‘come,’ and not ‘go.’ If the officers had rations or blankets, the men had them; there was absolutely no distinction.

"I will never forget the night of July 1. After breakfasting at 4 a.m., and not sumptuously, we began by storming San Juan Hill, and kept on fighting with few intermissions until 5 p.m. We then had dinner. You all remember it. It was a Spanish dinner of what we found in the trenches, mostly rice. After that we settled down for a little rest, when the order came to dig trenches. Tired from fighting all day, there was not a murmur, but at it you went, and kept at it until 1 a.m., when you laid down for a well-earned sleep. But at 3 a.m. the fighting began again, and at it you went with all the dash you started out with the day before.

"Every man of you ran, but in the right direction – toward the Spaniards. I have been proud of you before, but that settled it. If I had ever had any doubts about you, from that moment they were gone.

"I do not intend to particularize, but must speak of our chaplain. He came among us unknown to many, but when I saw him working under fire carrying the wounded back to places of safety, I knew he was the right man, which the universal compliment of the men confirmed.

"I hope to have another opportunity of seeing you together before we part. Should there be another war, I shall endeavor to raise this regiment again and feel certain that for every vacancy there will be ten, yes, a hundred applicants. You men have demonstrated to the world that Uncle Sam has hundreds of thousands of men who are able and willing to form regiments that are simply invincible.

"In closing, I only want to say that I feel a love and attachment to each and every one of you and that we are bound together by ties that death alone can sever."

During the address the Colonel was continuously interrupted by applause. The whole regiment joined in singing, "My Eyes Have Seen The Glory Of The Coming Of The Lord," and was dismissed by the Chaplain with a blessing. The whole scene was one that will long be remembered by all who were fortunate enough to witness it.

A representative of the Christina Commission asked the Rough Riders for assistance in raising a fund for the relief of those men who have been sent to Porto Rico. He suggested that each man who is the possessor of a relic of the Cuban campaign put it in an envelope and mail it to the Christian Commission, where it will be sold. In this way the speaker said he hoped to raise a surprisingly large amount of money. The plan received instant approval by the Rough Riders, who evinced their strong desire to help along the good cause.

A friend of the Colonel spoke to him about the gubernatorial nomination. The friend looks something like the Colonel, since he has a reddish mustache and wears spectacles. He said that he had been taken for Roosevelt in the city at almost every place he went and was greeted on all sides as the next Governor. "You don’t know anything about how popular you are, Colonel," he said. "and you would be surprised at the way the people are talking about you. Even at Coney Island, where I met several Tammany men, they patted me on the back and said, ‘I am with you, old man.’ I tell you, it was something great. I had a hard time making them believe I was not you." Colonel Roosevelt laughed and only said that it reminded him of the time when he was police commissioner, how, when a man was seen on the streets of New York late at night wearing spectacles and a reddish mustache, he was at once taken for Roosevelt out on a still hunt after dilatory policemen.

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