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World of 1898: International Perspectives on the Spanish American War

Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt. Exciting experiences in our wars with Spain, and the Filipinos, p. 241. Download an uncompressed TIFF (.tif) version of this image.


Born in New York City, Theodore Roosevelt spent the earlier part of his life battling asthma; once he conquered the disease, he passed the remainder of his days battling external foes, often conquering them as well. His greatest gift, among many, was his unerring ability to promote himself in the media. Despite his upper class upbringing and education at Harvard College, Roosevelt was always able to get along with men of any class and social background. He sought a political life in order to reform society and prevent what he perceived was the threat of revolution by the lower classes.

His fearless work as president of New York City's Board of Police Commissioners caught the attention of political associates of William McKinley. After his election as President, McKinley appointed Roosevelt assistant secretary of the navy in 1897. Much to Navy Secretary Long's chagrin, Roosevelt would make policy himself particularly when the secretary was out lunching. One such case involved the appointment and supply of Admiral Dewey's Asiatic Squadron with orders that they head for Manila harbor.

After resigning his post in May 1898, Roosevelt joined Colonel Leonard Wood's First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, soon to become known as the Rough Riders. After Wood's promotion, Roosevelt took command of the group and on July 1 led the right wing of the attack on San Juan Hill on July 1. His uncanny flair for publicity coupled with his own writings of the affair made him the most celebrated participant of the Spanish-American War except for Admiral Dewey himself.

At the conclusion of the war, Roosevelt almost immediately was elected Governor of New York State. In order to get him out of New York, the head of the Republican machine there, Thomas C. Platt put him on the ticket as McKinley's running mate for the second term. They were elected, but on September 14, 1901 McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States. He was one of the most activist presidents in U.S. history and is usually rated in the top five of those who have held that office. One of his greatest disappointments was President Woodrow Wilson's refusal to allow him to fight in World War I.

Teddy Roosevelt in Puerto Rico. Historia de Puerto Rico, p. 413. Download an uncompressed TIFF (.tif) version of this image.

Roosevelt published a book titled The Rough Riders in 1899. The table of contents gives an idea of the topics he addressed relating to his experience and the experiences of the Rough Riders in the war.