September 29, 1898
Theodore Roosevelt Arranges a Dramatic Presentation About the Rough Riders
Four months after he led the charge up San Juan Hill, Theodore Roosevelt was elected governor of New York. Less than three years later, he was president. How the hero of the shortest war in American history traveled that momentous distance is partially explained by this letter: Roosevelt had a grand story to tell, and he made sure it was told everywhere. Here he enlists an actor to give a “dramatic” presentation about the Rough Riders.
The heroic charge of the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill, in the face of withering gunfire, was the most famous battle of the Spanish-American War. It made Roosevelt a mythic figure as well - so much so, that humorist Finley Peter Dunne suggested Roosevelt should have titled his book The Rough Riders, "Alone in Cubia." But in a letter written two weeks after the battle, Roosevelt didn't see the glory, but rather the misery, of what he would later call a "splendid little war." On July 19th, he complained bitterly of government indifference to the suffering of his ravaged troops, tattered, sick, and hungry. By September, however, in the heat of a gubernatorial contest, all that Roosevelt - or anyone else - heard of the Rough Riders, was the sound of thousands cheering.
Typed Letter Signed, 1 page, quarto, on the elaborate letterhead of the Republican State Committee, Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York City, New York, September 29, 1898. To Mason Mitchell. With transmittal envelope, bearing two lines in autograph.