Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE BOYS OF '98 by Dale L. Walker

THE BOYS OF '98

Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders

By Dale L. Walker

Pub Date: May 29th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-86479-5
Publisher: Forge

The adventures of the famed volunteer cavalry regiment led by the ebullient, romantic, and charismatic Teddy Roosevelt in 1898. Walker (Legends and Lies: Great Mysteries of the American West, 1997) observes the 100th anniversary of the Spanish- American War by retelling the story of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, an unlikely collection of tough cowboys, western sheriffs, ranchers, hunters, veterans of the Civil and Indian wars, foreign adventurers, Indians, Mexican rebels, retired West Point graduates, wealthy college athletes and playboys, New York policemen, and even a German band. They flocked to the flag looking for adventure and stirred by the war propaganda of American newspapers and the public jingoism of such figures as Teddy Roosevelt. The US was, as usual, woefully unprepared for war. The overwhelmed army issued woolen uniforms to men headed for a tropical climate and couldn—t assemble enough ships to transport the troops. The Rough Riders, Roosevelt’s brainchild and a unit meant to serve as calvary, embarked for Cuba without their horses because of lack of space. Some 500 Rough Riders took part in hot battles in very difficult jungle terrain (against better-armed Spanish troops), culminating in their remarkable charge up San Juan Hill, following an ebullient Roosevelt into and over enemy positions. More American troops, however, were felled by disease (mostly malaria or yellow fever) than by enemy bullets. The war was a short one and the life of the regiment, whose men did not take kindly to professional military discipline, lasted only four months. The campaign, and more particularly the charge up San Juan Hill, helped to eventually carry Roosevelt to the White House. This lively and carefully detailed narrative of one of the more unlikely military units and of a short, savage war, celebrates some gallant men and catches their nation at the moment it emerged as a world power.