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The Spanish-American War: First Intervention

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  • John Willson
    Michael Cawelti was superb in playing the role of TR. I believe he captured TR s personality without resorting to the eccentricities usually seen. However, I
    Message 1 of 1 , May 14, 2007
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      Michael Cawelti was superb in playing the role of TR. I believe he captured TR's personality without resorting to the eccentricities usually seen. However, I was troubled by the
      attempt to liken our involvement today in Iraq and Afghanistan with our intervention in Cuba in 1898. In my opinion, such reasoning is tenuous and convoluted at best.
       
      With regard to the emphasis on the contributions of the black troopers ("buffalo soldiers" or "smoked Yankees", as they were called), it is about time that their true value was recognized. Rough Rider Harmon Wynkoop (Corporal, Troop E) reported that "Every word that has been said in regard to the bravery and efficiency of the Negro soldier can be fairly appreciated by every man ... who is in Cuba, and more so by the Rough Riders, who were in the battles of Las Guasimas and San Juan with them. ...We saw them make great fearless charges, and we cheered them too ... Too much cannot be said of the Negro soldier, and words can never be found to express the praise due them." Lieutenant John J. Pershing (Tenth Cavalry) noted that "White regiments, black regiments, regulars and Rough Riders, representing the young manhood of the North and the South, fought shoulder to shoulder, unmindful of race or color, unmindful of whether commanded by an ex-Confederate or not, and mindful only of their common duty as Americans." TR himself in "The Rough Riders" noted that "the colored troops did as well as any soldiers could possibly do" although, in  Appendix D of the same book, he takes issue with Stephen Bonsal who, in his book "The Fight for Santiago," had claimed that the Tenth Cavalry (Colored) had rendered more valuable service than either the First Cavalry or the Rough Riders.
       
      The last verse of a poem, entitled "White and Black", written by H. A. Roby around the time of the Spanish-American War, says it well: 
           "Then do the black race justice;
               They're eager for the fray,
            And in the reeking Cuban swamps
               They yet may save the day-
            Firm hands to sight the rifle,
               Spite the color of their skin.
            Though his head be white - our eagle
               Has black feathers in his wing."
       
      I sure hope that Mr Cawelti's reflections are published in a future issue of The Theodore Roosevelt Journal.
       
      John E. Willson
       
       
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