|Prolific Life of Theodore Roosevelt Jr|
Much is written about Theodore Roosevelt Jr, the 26th President of the United States and leader of the famous Rough Riders of the Spanish-American War in Cuba. He was an historian who wrote while attending Harvard University entitled The Naval War of 1812. Theodore was a state assemblyman, a member of the Republican National Convention from 1882 to 1884. He was a rancher and cowboy whose herd got wiped out in the severe winter of 1886-1887, when he returned to the state of New York building the Sagamore Hill estate in Oyster Bay.
Roosevelt built a second ranch named Elk Horn, 35 miles north of Medora, North Dakota on the banks of the Little Missouri River where he practiced riding western style, roping and hunting from horseback. He said of the cowboy:
...few of the emasculated, milk-and-water moralities admired by the pseudo-philanthropists, but he does possess, to a very high degree, the stern, manly qualities that are invaluable to a nation.
Theodore wrote three books and articles for national magazines about frontier life between 1885 and 1893. He was a deputy sheriff and hunted down three outlaws who stole his riverboat, escaping with it up the Little Missouri. After capture he decided not to deliver frontier justice by hanging them from a nearby tree, but instead sent his foreman back by boat while he took the captured thieves for trial in Dickinson. He guarded them for forty hours, staying awake by reading Tolstoy and a dime-store western novel one of the thieves was carrying.
As a child, Theodore was sickly and asthmatic – but active despite his illnesses. He started getting interested in zoology at age seven and learned the art of taxidermy. At his father's estate he created what his cousins called the Roosevelt Museum of Natural History. He also began to exercise regularly and learned to box in order to overcome his poor physical condition at the encouragement of his father, who added a personal gymnasium on the estate. Theodore would write in later life about his father:
My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness.
Theodore, or “Teedie” as he was nicknamed was home schooled by tutors and his parents. He did well in biology, French and German languages, but struggled with mathematics, Latin, and Greek. At Harvard, he was active in rowing, boxing, the Alpha Delta Phi literary society, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and was a member of the Porcellian Club. He also edited The Harvard Advocate. After graduating, Roosevelt was examined by a physician who told him that he had a serious heart problem and should get a desk job and avoid strenuous activity. While he had attended the Columbia Law School, he was not interested in a legal career and spent most of his time writing his history book about the War of 1812.
On his 22nd birthday, he married Alice Hathaway Lee, who died of kidney failure two days after his daughter Alice Lee Roosevelt was born. His daughter when growing up proved to be as feisty as her father. On the same day, Theodore's mother died of typhoid fever. It was a heavy toll upon young Theodore, which made him decide to leave baby Alice in the care of his sister in New York City while he spent time recovering from sorrow.
In his diary, he marked a large “X” on a page and wrote:
The light has gone out of my life.
For the rest of his life, he rarely spoke of Alice and never mentioned her in his autobiography.
Theodore married again in December of 1886, his childhood friend, Edith Kermit Carow and they honeymooned in Europe, where he climbed to the summit of Mont Blanc which entitled him to be inducted into the English Royal Society. They had five children: Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt III (“Jr”, 1887-1944), Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943), Ethel Carow Roosevelt (1891-1977), Archibald Bulloch “Archie” Roosevelt (1894-1979), and Quentin Roosevelt (1897-1918).
From 1888 to 1895, Theodore Roosevelt served on the United States Civil Service Commission. In 1895, Theodore became president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners, serving for two years. Roosevelt was enthusiastic in his job, and in 1894, he teamed up with Jacob Ris, an Evening Sun newspaper reporter who had written about the terrible conditions of poor immigrants, which effected Theodore greatly. For two years, the reporter and Theodore would fight the crime-ridden Mulberry Street to clean it up.
Roosevelt made it a habit to walk officers' beats late at night into early morning to make sure they were on duty. As Governor of New York state, before he became Vice President in 1901, Roosevelt signed an act replacing the Police Commissioners board with a single Police Commissioner in order to more efficiently fight crime.
President William McKinley appointed Roosevelt to the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897. Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the Spanish-American War. Spain declared war on April 23rd, 1898 and the US Congress officially declared war on April 25th. On that day, Roosevelt resigned from his position as assistant Secretary of the Navy and with the help of the US Army Colonel Leonard Wood, Roosevelt gathered volunteer cowboys and Ivy League friends to form the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment that newspapers dubbed the Rough Riders.
The regiment mobilized in Texas, their encampment being established at the San Antonio International Fair Grounds, now called Roosevelt Park. A recruiting table was set up at the Menger Hotel next to the bar. The Rough Riders received their horses and equipment from the Quartermaster Depot at Fort Sam Houston and their uniform and gear were unique. They wore brown canvas fatigues as their field uniform, carried machetes in lieu of sabers and had a dynamite gun and Colt Machine Guns as part of their equipment.
The Rough Riders, commanded by Lt Colonel Roosevelt, was a diverse unit that included Ivy Leaguers, football and baseball athletes, golf and polo players, gentlemen from exclusive clubs in New York and Boston, cowboys, frontiersmen, Native Americans, hunters, miners, prospectors, former soldiers, tradesmen, sheriffs and assorted adventurers. The unit was as colorful as its commander. After multiple-round Krag smokeless carbines arrived thanks to Colonel Wood and Lt Colonel Roosevelt's influence with the War Department, training commenced on May 16th.
On May 28th, 1898, orders came from the War Department and Colonel Wood, Lt Colonel Roosevelt and his men embarked on trains from San Antonio to Tampa, Florida.
The Rough Rider regiment was part of the Cavalry Division commanded by a former Confederate cavalry officer who became a US Representative – Joseph Wheeler. It was one of three divisions that were part of V Corps under Lt General William Rufus Shafter. After loading ships with their equipment, supplies, and horses, it was almost a week spent in Tampa Bay before departure for Cuba. The Rough Riders landed in Daiquiri on June 23rd, 1898 and the Rough Riders marched past the 1st Infantry Division commanded by Civil War veteran and Geronimo fighter, General Henry Ware Lawton [who was a captain when Geronimo was captured].
Commanded by Wood and Roosevelt and future Arizona territorial governor, Alexander Brodie and two other squadron commanders moved on a road that was parallel to the beach. The Rough Riders met the Spaniards on a narrow trail just after the Regulars came in contact with the enemy, receiving cannon fire from Spaniard positions, who were forced to leave their positions after the skirmish.
General Young was ill with fever, so Colonel Wood took charge of the brigade, and Lt Colonel Roosevelt was promoted in field to Colonel to command the Rough Rider regiment. Colonel Wood was promoted to Brigadier General of the Volunteer Forces brigade.
Under Colonel Roosevelt's leadership, the Rough Riders became famous for their charges up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill on July 1st, 1898. Theodore Roosevelt would be nominated for the Medal of Honor, later disapproved.
Malaria and other diseases killed more troops than in battle. In August of 1898, Colonel Roosevelt and other officers demanded that the soldiers be returned home.
In 2001, Theodore Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on San Juan Hill. John Gable, an historian, wrote:
In later years Roosevelt would describe the Battle of San Juan Hill as the 'great day of my life' and 'my crowded hour'.
|Edith Roosevelt & son, Ted|
Theodore Roosevelt was, to date, the only President of the United States to be awarded the highest military honor and the only person in history to receive both his nation's highest honor for military valor and the Nobel Peace Prize. His eldest son, Ted, would also earn a posthumous Medal of Honor during World War II, for rallying and leading troops in the midst of heavy German resistance during the invasion of Normandy in June of 1944. Ted died a month later and was awarded posthumously in September of 1944.
While Theodore's nickname was “Teddy”, after his return to civilian life, most referred to him as “Colonel Roosevelt' or “The Colonel”.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr became the 26th President of the United States in 1901 after President McKinley assassination, after being the Vice President for only six months.
|"Speak softly and carry a big stick"|
He was reelected in 1904 in a landslide victory with Charles W. Fairbanks as his vice president. In 1902 he dealt with the United Mine Workers union by stopping the strike and at the same time getting more pay for the workers with fewer hours. Theodore was always looking to improve conditions of the regular citizen. He helped pass laws such as the Meat Inspection Act of 1905 and the Pure Food and Drug Act. He also was instrumental in establishing the American School Hygiene Association of which he was honorary president.
Like McKinley, Roosevelt valued the press to ensure that citizens were kept abreast of what was going on at the White House. He became more popular with the press when on a rainy day, President Roosevelt notice that the White House reporters were huddled together in the rain and he ordered that they have a room inside. Theodore had invented the presidential press briefing and the grateful press ensured that Roosevelt received ample coverage.
Theodore Roosevelt was also an inspiration to immigrants, and in one of his speeches he insisted that immigrants coming here to become citizens of the United States not be “hyphenated Americans” but just Americans. In 1907, Roosevelt signed the Gentlemen's Agreement that banned all school segregation of Japanese, but also enforced the limited immigration of Japanese that were pouring into California. In the same year, he signed the proclamation that established Oklahoma as the 46th state of the Union.
In 1908, Theodore chose not to run another term, and supported William Howard Taft for the presidency, instead of his vice president Fairbanks, who withdrew from the race and would later support Taft for reelection against Roosevelt in the 1912 election.
During his presidency, Roosevelt appointed 75 federal judges, a record, and appointed three Justices to the US Supreme Court: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr and William Rufus Day and William Henry Moody. In addition to those three, Roosevelt appointed 19 judges to the US Court of Appeals, and 53 judges to the US District Courts.
After leaving the White House, Roosevelt left New York and went on a the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition in 1902, financed by Andrew Carnegie. Among the group was the legendary hunter, R. J. Cunninghame, as well as scientists from the Smithsonian Institution.
Specimens of animals hunted were donated to the Smithsonian Institution and the American Museum of Natural History in New York city. Roosevelt brought on the trip, four tons of salt for preserving animal hides, a luck rabbit's foot given to him by John L. Sullivan, famous boxer; a Holland and Holland double rifle in .500/450 caliber, donated by British fans; a Winchester 1895 rifle in .405 Winchester, an Army M1903 Springfield rifle in .30-06 caliber custom stocked and sighted for him; a Fox No. 12 shotgun, and his famous Pigskin Library, a collection of classic books bound in pig leather transported in a reinforced trunk.
Accompanied by Kermit, his son, other notables of the expedition were Edgar Alexander Mearns, Edmund Heller, and John Alden Loring. The group killed or trapped 11,400 animals ranging from insects and moles to hippopotamuses and elephants. The 1000 large animals, included 512 big game animals, that included six rare White rhinos. The expedition ate 262 of the animals. The quantity of the collection was so large it took years to mount them all and display them at the Smithsonian and other museums.
While Theodore was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1912, a saloon-keeper, John Flammang Schrank shot him, but the bullet entered his chest only after piercing his steel eyeglass case and a 50-page speech he carried in his jacket pocket. Roosevelt was taken off the campaign trail in the final weeks of the campaign. The bullet lodged in his chest and later caused rheumatoid arthritis that he suffered for years to get worse, and soon prevented him from doing his daily exercises, which caused Roosevelt to gain weight - reaching 220 pounds.
From 1913 and 1914, Roosevelt embarked on the South American Expedition, financed by the American Museum of Natural History. One of his goals was to find the River of Doubt, which was later named the Roosevelt River in his honor.
|River of Doubt Expedition Team|
Roosevelt suffered a minor leg wound in a canoe incident, which soon gave him tropical fever that resembled malaria he had contracted fifteen years earlier in Cuba. Weakened, he suffered greatly after six weeks on the expedition and had to be attended night and day by the expedition's physician and his son, Kermit. By that time he could no longer walk because of the infection of his injured leg and because of an injury from a traffic accident ten years earlier. Theodore suffered from chest pains and fought a fever that had rose to 103° F and was so delirious at times he would repeat the opening line of Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan. Roosevelt felt that his condition was a threat to the survival of others and insisted he be left behind, but his son persuaded him to continue. During the experience, Roosevelt lost 50 pounds, formerly being overweight at 220 pounds.
Friends and family were startled when Roosevelt returned, his physical appearance changed from fatigue and disease. Later Theodore would write to a friend that the trip had cut his life short by at least ten years. That analysis would prove to be true. For the rest of his remaining life he would be plagued with reoccurring malaria bouts and leg inflammation so severe it would require surgery. The National Geographic Society reviewed his claims of exploring and navigating uncharted river for over 625 miles, and the River of Doubt was named Rio Roosevelt.
|Kaiser Wilhelm & T. Roosevelt|
When World War I commenced, Theodore strongly supported the Allies and demanded harsher policies toward Germany, especially regarding submarine warfare. Roosevelt angrily denounced the inept foreign policy of President Woodrow Wilson, stating it was a failure because of atrocities in Belgium and various violations of American rights. In 1916, he campaigned energetically for Charles Evans Hughes and denounced Irish-Americans and German-Americans who were unpatriotic because they put Ireland and Germany ahead of America's neutrality. He insisted that a citizen had to be 100% American, not a “hyphenated American”.
Theodore sought to raise a volunteer infantry division, but he had made an enemy of Wilson, so the president refused. However, Theodore's attacks on Wilson helped the Republicans win control of Congress in the elections of 1918. If it wasn't for his health, Theodore could have been a formidable Republican nominee in 1920; so instead his family and supporters focused upon General Leonard Wood who was defeated by Taft supporter Warren G. Harding.
|Quentin Roosevelt, WWI|
Quentin Roosevelt, his youngest son, became a pilot with the American forces in France, was shot down behind German lines in 1918 at the age of 20. Theodore never recovered from his loss.
Despite the reoccurring health issues, Roosevelt remained active to the end of his life. Because of his love of the outdoors and support of youth of America, Theodore spearheaded the movement to form the Boy Scouts of America, who gave him the honorary title of Chief Scout Citizen – the only person to ever hold the title.
During Theodore's colorful career and life, he introduced the phrase Square Deal, was one of the first Presidents to make conservation a national issue and in his Message to Congress in 1908, he mentioned the need for the federal government to regulate interstate corporations using the Interstate Commerce Clause.
He reorganized the federal immigration depot at Ellis Island stating that …
We can not have too much immigration of the right sort, and we should have none whatever of the wrong sort.
He also praised the immigrant who became “Americanized” …It is unwise to depart from the old American tradition and discriminate for or against any man who desires to come here and become a citizen, save on the ground of that man's fitness for citizenship … We can not afford to consider whether he is Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Gentile; whether he is Englishman, or Irishman, Frenchman or German, Japanese, Italian, or Scandinavian or Magyar. What we should desire to find out is the individual quality of the individual man …
Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to appoint a representative of the Jewish minority to a cabinet position – Secretary of Commerce and Labor, Oscar S. Straus, 1906-1909.
Theodore Roosevelt was not a friend to Native Americans, denouncing their savage reprisals in the American West.
Regarding African Americans, Roosevelt stated:
...in as much as he is here and can neither be killed nor driven away, the only wise and honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each black man and each white man strictly on his merits as a man, giving him no more and no less than he shows himself worthy to have.
Roosevelt appointed numerous African Americans to federal office, such as Walter L. Cohen, a leader of the Black and Tan Republican faction who became the Register of the Federal Land Office.
Roosevelt regarded slavery as -
...a crime whose shortsighted folly was worse than its guilt … it brought hordes of African slaves, whose descendents now form immense populations in certain portions of the land.
In 1907, many states adopted the eugenicists plan that forced the sterilization of the sick, unemployed, poor, criminals, prostitutes, and the disabled. In 1914, Theodore Roosevelt stated:
I wish very much that the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding; and when the evil nature of these people is sufficiently flagrant, this should be done. Criminals should be sterilized and feeble-minded persons forbidden to leave offspring behind them.
T. Roosevelt was a prolific author and wrote with passion on subjects ranging from foreign policy to the importance of a national park system.
He did not like the name the press and people gave him – Teddy. He was a regular church attendee and a member of the Freemasons and Sons of the American Revolution.
Along with Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt has been considered to be one of the most well-read American politician in history.
His likeness joins the busts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln at the Mount Rushmore Memorial, designed in 1927.
In 1901 he was awarded an honorary doctorate (LL.D) by Yale University.
And, of course, the Panama Canal was built because of his efforts.
On the evening of January 5th, 1919 at about 11:00 PM, he had problems breathing. After the family physician provided treatment he felt better and went to bed. Theodore's last words were to his family servant James Amos:
Please put out that light, James.
He died in his sleep in his home at Sagamore Hill from a blood clot detached from a vein and entered his lungs. Archie, his son, telegraphed the siblings with the simple words:
The old lion is dead.
Indeed, the energetic adventurer's life ended peacefully in his sleep.
Thomas R. Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's vice president said after his death:
Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr was survived by his sisters, Corinne and Bamie, his wife Edith, and five children and eight grandchildren.