The combined Spanish-American War writings of a pioneering American Correspondent
Richard Harding Davis (1864-1916) remains important as the first American War correspondent to cover the Spanish-American War, the Second Boer War and the First World War. He was indisputably talented and his writings ranged from journalism to novels, several of which were adapted for the screen in the silent film era. This original Leonaur book combines his writings on the conflict in Cuba with his correspondence written in the same period, including 'Cuba in Wartime' and relevant extracts from 'Adventures and Letters of Richard Harding Davis' and 'Notes of War'. Davis was a friend to Theodore Roosevelt and was instrumental in the creation of the legends surrounding 'The Rough Riders' and was made an honorary member of the regiment. The book is enhanced by the inclusion of several line illustrations by the well-known American artist Frederic Remington. This is a recommended edition for those interested in fine journalism, the war or Davis himself.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Colonel Roosevelt, on horseback, broke from the woods behind the line of the Ninth, and finding its men lying in his way, shouted: “If you don’t wish to go forward, let my men pass.” The junior officers of the Ninth, with their negroes, instantly sprang into line with the Rough Riders, and charged at the blue blockhouse on the right.
I speak of Roosevelt first because, with General Hawkins, who led Kent’s division, notably the Sixth and Sixteenth Regulars, he was, without doubt, the most conspicuous figure in the charge. General Hawkins, with hair as white as snow, and yet far in advance of men thirty years his junior, was so noble a sight that you felt inclined to pray for his safety; on the other hand, Roosevelt, mounted high on horseback, and charging the rifle-pits at a gallop and quite alone, made you feel that you would like to cheer. He wore on his sombrero a blue polka-dot handkerchief, à la Havelock, which, as he advanced, floated out straight behind his head, like a guidon.
Afterward, the men of his regiment who followed this flag, adopted a polka-dot handkerchief as the badge of the Rough Riders. These two officers were notably conspicuous in the charge, but no one can claim that any two men, or any one man, was more brave or more daring, or showed greater courage in that slow, stubborn advance, than did any of the others. Someone asked one of the officers if he had any difficulty in making his men follow him.
“No,” he answered, “I had some difficulty in keeping up with them.”
As one of the brigade generals said: “San Juan was won by the regimental officers and men. We had as little to do as the referee at a prize-fight who calls ‘time.’ We called ‘time’ and they did the fighting.”
I have seen many illustrations and pictures of this charge on the San Juan hills, but none of them seem to show it just as I remember it. In the picture-papers the men are running uphill swiftly and gallantly, in regular formation, rank after rank, with flags flying, their eyes aflame, and their hair streaming, their bayonets fixed, in long, brilliant lines, an invincible, overpowering weight of numbers. Instead of which I think the thing which impressed one the most, when our men started from cover, was that they were so few. It seemed as if someone had made an awful and terrible mistake. One’s instinct was to call to them to come back. You felt that someone had blundered and that these few men were blindly following out some madman’s mad order. It was not heroic then, it seemed merely absurdly pathetic. The pity of it, the folly of such a sacrifice was what held you.
They had no glittering bayonets, they were not massed in regular array. There were a few men in advance, bunched together, and creeping up a steep, sunny hill, the tops of which roared and flashed with flame. The men held their guns pressed across their chests and stepped heavily as they climbed. Behind these first few, spreading out like a fan, were single lines of men, slipping and scrambling in the smooth grass, moving forward with difficulty, as though they were wading waist high through water, moving slowly, carefully, with strenuous effort. It was much more wonderful than any swinging charge could have been. They walked to greet death at every step, many of them, as they advanced, sinking suddenly or pitching forward and disappearing in the high grass, but the others waded on, stubbornly, forming a thin blue line that kept creeping higher and higher up the hill.
It was as inevitable as the rising tide. It was a miracle of self-sacrifice, a triumph of bull-dog courage, which one watched breathless with wonder. The fire of the Spanish riflemen, who still stuck bravely to their posts, doubled and trebled in fierceness, the crests of the hills crackled and burst in amazed roars, and rippled with waves of tiny flame. But the blue line crept steadily up and on, and then, near the top, the broken fragments gathered together with a sudden burst of speed, the Spaniards appeared for a moment outlined against the sky and poised for instant flight, fired a last volley, and fled before the swift-moving wave that leaped and sprang after them.
The men of the Ninth and the Rough Riders rushed to the blockhouse together, the men of the Sixth, of the Third, of the Tenth Cavalry, of the Sixth and Sixteenth Infantry, fell on their faces along the crest of the hills beyond, and opened upon the vanishing enemy. They drove the yellow silk flags of the cavalry and the flag of their country into the soft earth of the trenches, and then sank down and looked back at the road they had climbed and swung their hats in the air. And from far overhead, from these few figures perched on the Spanish rifle-pits, with their flags planted among the empty cartridges of the enemy, and overlooking the walls of Santiago, came, faintly, the sound of a tired, broken cheer.