The Rough Riders was the nickname coined by the press to reference the 1st United States Volunteer Calvary. Led by Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War. this group contained men from every walk of life and they won acclaim at the Battles of Las Gusimas, the Battle San Juan Hill and the Siege of Santiago.
There were three volunteer units formed at the start of the Spanish-American War. These units were formed in a hope to fill in the gaps of an American military that was at an all time low. Each of these units were made of volunteers that applied to help the effort against Spain in Cuba. These volunteers came from all walks of life: cowboys, gold or mining prospectors, hunters, gamblers, Native Americans and college boys. They joined to follow Colonel Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt. They joined to fight for their country.
Before deployment to Cuba, the Rough Riders went through training and got their equipment ready. Roosevelt used his political influence to make sure that the Rough Riders were as equipped as they could be. The regular men in the regiment had bowie knives, Colt .45 Revolvers and Krag-Jorgensen carbine rifles. They received the same basic training as other regiments in the army and were as prepared as they could be on short notice to purport themselves on the battlefield.
Battle of Las Guasimas
This was one of the first big battles for the Rough Riders in Cuba. Las Guasimas was on the way to Santiago and held the main access road. Wood & Roosevelt led the Rough Riders into battle with the regulars and in the end they held the road, they lost only 8 men (with 31 wounded). This fight, uphill against a fortified enemy helped set the Americans up to win the war.
Battle of San Juan Hill
At the Battle of San Juna Hill, Roosevelt led the charge on Kettle Hill. The purpose of the infantry and the Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill was to distract the Spanish army so that the artillery bombardment could have the most effect. As the Rough Riders began their charge up Kettle HIll, the Gatlin Guns in the regiment opened fire, clearing the way and pinning down the Spanish forces. After taking Kettle Hill, the Spanish attempted to retake the position and were thwarted by the Rough Rider Gatlin guns again.
Siege of Santiago
The Siege of Santiago was effectively the end of the Spanish-America. The Rough Riders were part of the siege. They helped hold the Spanish forces at bay while the US Navy bombarded the city and sank the ships in the harbor.
All in all, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders helped defeat the Spanish and win the Spanish-American War. This band of volunteer soldiers showed themselves to be a very effective group of warriors. They fought alongside military regulars and they helped fight back the Spanish in Cuba. The Rough Riders have gone down in history as defining the American spirit and the country’s ability to pitch in when needed.