He’d advocated going into the war and he was, ah, still a young man. He therefore felt he had to put his body where his mouth had been and so that he’d better live up to his own ideals. So that’s why he resigned. Secretary of the Navy John Davis Long wrote in his diary that this was a big mistake and of course Roosevelt would come out as a big war leader if he stayed in Washington with the Navy Department because there’d be so much focus on the Navy Department. And, of course, if Roosevelt had been killed, it certainly would have been a bad career move, wouldn’t it?
Roosevelt joined the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, nicknamed the Rough Riders.
The Rough Rider regiment summed up a great deal about TR. The regiment was largely composed of Northeastern aristocrats, Ivy League athletes, and, of course, that was TR’s own background. He was a knickerbocker aristocrat from New York City. And then, the regiment was composed also of cowboys and Indians, largely from the West and from the Southwest. Now what did these guys have in common? This. They didn’t need to learn how to shoot or to ride. They didn’t need that training because all rich people, you know, had guns and went hunting and had horses. And, of course, cowboys and Indians knew how to ride and shoot. So that’s what they had in common. They were ready to go!
In seven camps from Texas to Florida, new recruits drilled for action in Cuba. With few experienced officers to train them, the volunteers were unprepared for what lay ahead.
There was a correspondent named Poultney Bigelow who decided he was going to write an article exposing how unready the American troops really were for combat. And he did and he was ostracized for this, ah, quite severely, ahm, and denounced as unpatriotic and so forth. But, in private, the correspondents really understood that he was correct.