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1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry

September 21, 2016

Dr. Leonard Wood was an army surgeon who had also led men into battle against the Apaches.  For his service during the Indian War campaigns he received the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He was a man of military and moral discipline, and he was Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer.

Roosevelt had been offered command of a regiment, but despite his ambition, he knew there was not enough time to prepare.  He told the Secretary of War that although he believed he could learn to command a regiment in a month’s time, he could not do that without missing the Santiago campaign.  Writing after the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt remarked: “Therefore, I would be quite willing to go as Lieutenant-Colonel, if he would make Wood Colonel.”

President McKinley and Secretary Alger agreed with this proposal and commissioned Wood and Roosevelt as Colonel and Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry.  Roosevelt wrote: “This was the official title of the regiment, but for some reason or other the public promptly christened us the ‘Rough Riders.’  At first we fought against the use of the term, but to no purpose; and when finally the Generals of Division and Brigade began to write in formal communications about our regiment as the Rough Riders, we adopted the term ourselves.”

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