Article abstract: Military significance: On July 1, 1898, Roosevelt led his volunteer regiment against Spanish positions on Kettle Hill outside Santiago de Cuba. The successful charge secured fortifications on the heights overlooking the city.
Because Theodore Roosevelt’s father did not serve in the American Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt was determined to prove himself in combat. He was serving as assistant secretary of the navy in the administration of William McKinley in early 1898 when war with Spain was declared. Roosevelt resigned his post and became an officer in the volunteer cavalry regiment commanded by Colonel Leonard Wood. The press, which followed Roosevelt’s military career closely, dubbed the unit Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Sent to Cuba in June, 1898, the unit fought a skirmish at Las Guásimas. The climactic battle on July 1 at Kettle Hill saw Roosevelt lead his men on foot against fortified Spanish regulars. The dramatic charge carried the day, and Roosevelt killed at least one Spaniard himself. The victory helped the Americans gain control of the approaches to Santiago de Cuba and brought negotiations with the Spanish for surrender. That came several weeks later.
Roosevelt’s bravery under fire made him a national hero. The Republicans nominated him as governor of New York, which led in turn to the vice presidency in 1900 and the White House after McKinley was killed in 1901. In office, Roosevelt advocated a strong army and navy, and he sent “The Great White Fleet” around the world in 1907-1909. Roosevelt tried to raise a volunteer division during World War I, but his proposal failed to gain the approval of President Woodrow Wilson and the army. In later years, partisans of Roosevelt pushed legislation to award him the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in Cuba.
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