This book includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied .
Colonel Theodore B. Roosevelt, now Governor of New York, who led The Rough Riders, tells of the Bravery of Negro Soldiers.
When Colonel Theodore Roosevelt returned from the command of the famous Rough Riders, he delivered a farewell address to his men, in which he made the following kind reference to the gallant Negro soldiers:
"Now, I want to say just a word more to some of the men I see standing around not of your number. I refer to the colored regiments, who occupied the right and left flanks of us at Guásimas, the Ninth and Tenth cavalry regiments. The Spaniards called them 'Smoked Yankees,' but we found them to be an excellent breed of Yankees. I am sure that I speak the sentiments of officers and men in the assemblage when I say that between you and the other cavalry regiments there exists a tie which we trust will never be broken."--Colored American.
The foregoing compliments to the Negro
soldiers by Colonel Roosevelt started up an
avalanche of additional praise for them, out
of which the fact came, that but for the
Ninth and Tenth Cavalry (colored) coming up
at Las Guásimas, destroying the Spanish
block house and driving the Spaniards off,
when Roosevelt and his men had been caught
in a trap, with a barbed-wire fence on one
side and a precipice on the other, not only
the brave Capron and Fish, but the whole of
his command would have been annihilated by
the Spanish sharp-shooters, who were firing
with smokeless powder under cover, and
picking off the Rough Riders one by one, who
could not see the Spaniards. To break the
force of this unfavorable comment on the
Rough Riders, it is claimed that Colonel
Roosevelt made the following criticism of
the colored soldiers in general and of a few
of them in particular, in an article written
by him for the April Scribner; and a letter
replying to the Colonel's strictures,
follows by Sergeant Holliday, who was an
"eye-witness" to the incident:
Colonel Roosevelt's criticism was, in substance, that colored soldiers were of no avail without white officers; that when the white commissioned officers are killed or disabled, colored non-commissioned officers could not be depended upon to keep up a charge already begun; that about a score of colored infantrymen, who had drifted into his command, weakened on the hill at San Juan under the galling Spanish fire, and started to the rear, stating that they intended finding their regiments, or to assist the wounded; whereupon he drew his revolver and ordered them to return to ranks and there remain, and that he would shoot the first man who didn't obey him; and that after that he had no further trouble.
Colonel Roosevelt is sufficiently answered
in the following letter of Sergeant
Holliday, and the point especially made by
many eye-witnesses (white) who were engaged
in that fight is, as related in Chapter V,
of this book, that the Negro troops made the
charges both at San Juan and El Caney after
nearly all their officers had been killed or
wounded. Upon what facts, therefore, does
Colonel Roosevelt base his conclusions that
Negro soldiers will not fight without
commissioned officers, when the only real
test of this question happened around
Santiago and showed just the contrary of
what he states? We prefer to take the
results at El Caney and San Juan as against
Colonel Roosevelt's imagination.
Colonel Roosevelt's Error
True Story of the Incident He Magnified to Our Hurt, The White Officers' Humbug Skinned of its Hide by Sergeant Holliday, Unwritten History.
To the Editor of the New York Age:
read in The Age of April 13 an
editorial entitled "Our Troops in
Cuba," which brings to my notice for
the first time a statement made by
Colonel Roosevelt, which, though in
some parts true, if read by those
who do not know the exact facts and
circumstances surrounding the case,
will certainly give rise to the
wrong impression of colored men as
soldiers, and hurt them for many a
day to come, and as I was an
eye-witness to the most important
incidents mentioned in that
statement, I deem it a duty I owe,
not only to the fathers, mothers,
sisters and brothers of those
soldiers, and to the soldiers
themselves, but to their posterity
and the race in general, to be
always ready to make an unprejudiced
refutation of such charges, and to
do all in my power to place the
colored soldier where he properly
belongs--among the bravest and most
trustworthy of this land.
Jacob A. Riis in The Outlook gives the following interesting reading concerning the colored troopers in an article entitled "Roosevelt and His Men":
"It was one of the unexpected things in this campaign that seems destined to set so many things right that out of it should come the appreciation of the colored soldier as man and brother by those even who so lately fought to keep him a chattel. It fell to the lot of General 'Joe' Wheeler, the old Confederate warrior, to command the two regiments of colored troops, the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, and no one will bear readier testimony than he to the splendid record they made. Of their patience under the manifold hardships of roughing it in the tropics, their helpfulness in the camp and their prowess in battle, their uncomplaining suffering when lying wounded and helpless. Stories enough are told to win for them fairly the real brotherhood with their white-skinned fellows which they crave. The most touching of the many I heard was that of a Negro trooper, who, struck by a bullet that cut an artery in his neck, was lying helpless, in danger of bleeding to death, when a Rough Rider came to his assistance. There was only one thing to be done--to stop the bleeding till a surgeon came. A tourniquet could not be applied where the wound was. The Rough Rider put his thumb on the artery and held it there while he waited. The fighting drifted away over the hill. He followed his comrades with longing eyes till the last was lost to sight. His place was there, but if he abandoned the wounded cavalryman it was to let him die. He dropped his gun and stayed. Not until the battle was won did the surgeon come that way, but the trooper's life was saved. He told of it in the hospital with tears in his voice: 'He done that to me, he did; stayed by me an hour and a half, and me only a nigger.'"
Pays a Tribute to the Negro Soldiers
Major-General Nelson A. Miles, Commander-in-Chief of the army of the United States spoke at the Peace Jubilee at Chicago, October 11th, and said:
"While the chivalry of the South and the yeomanry of the North vied with their devotion to the cause of their country and in their pride in its flag which floated over all, it's a glorious fact that patriotism was not confined to any one section or race for the sacrifice, bravery and fortitude. The white race was accompanied by the gallantry of the black as they swept over intrenched lines and later volunteered to succor the sick, nurse the dying and bury the dead in the hospitals and the Cuban camps."
"This was grandly spoken, and we feel gratified at this recognition of the valor of one of the best races of people the world has ever seen."
coming, boys; it's a little slow and
tiresome, but we are
At a social reunion of the Medal of Honor Legion held a few evenings since to welcome home two of their members, General Nelson A. Miles, commanding the army of the United States, and Colonel M. Emmett Urell, of the First District Columbia Volunteers, in the course of his remarks, General Miles paid the finest possible tribute to the splendid heroism and soldierly qualities evidenced by the men of the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and 24th and 25th United States Infantry in the late Santiago campaign, which he epitomized as "without a parallel in the history of the world."
At the close of his remarks, Major C.A. Fleetwood, the only representative of the race present, in behalf of the race extended their heartfelt and warmest thanks for such a magnificent tribute from such a magnificent soldier and man.--Colored American.
Cleveland Moffitt, In
Leslie's Weekly, Describes the Heroism of a
"Black Color Bearer"
"Having praised our war leaders sufficiently, in some cases more than sufficiently (witness Hobson), let us give honor to some of the humbler ones, who fought obscurely, but did fine things nevertheless."
first soldier who reached the Block
House on San Juan Hill and hoisted
the American flag in a hail of
"There was Sergeant Berry, for instance, of the Tenth Cavalry, who might have boasted his meed of kisses, too, had he been a white man. At any rate, he rescued the colors of a white regiment from unseemly trampling and bore them safely through the bullets to the top of San Juan hill. Now, every one knows that the standard of a troop is guarded like a man's own soul, or should be, and how it came that this Third Cavalry banner was lying on the ground that day is something that may never be rightly known. Some white man had left it there, many white men had let it stay there, but Berry, a black man, saw it fluttering in shame and paused in his running long enough to catch it up and lift it high overhead beside his own banner--for he was a color-bearer of the Tenth."
"Then, with two flags flying above him, and two heavy staves to bear, this powerful negro (he is literally a giant in strength and stature) charged the heights, while white men and black men cheered him as they pressed behind. Who shall say what temporary demoralization there may have been in this troop of the Third at that critical moment, or what fresh courage may have been fired in them by that black man's act! They say Berry yelled like a demon as he rushed against the Spaniards, and I, for one, am willing to believe that his battle-cry brought fighting energy to his own side as well as terror to the enemy."
the fight one of the officers of the
Third Cavalry sought Berry out and
asked him to give back the trophy
fairly won by him, and his to keep,
according to the usages of war. And
the big Negro handed back the banner
with a smile and light word. He had
saved the colors and rallied the
troop, but it didn't matter much.
They could have the flag if they
"There are some hundreds of little things like this that we might as well bear in mind, we white men, the next time we start out to decry the Negro!"
the worth of Negro Soldiers by Promotion
Washington, July 30.--Six colored non-commissioned officers who rendered particularly gallant service in the actions around Santiago on July 1st and 2d have been appointed second lieutenants in the two colored immune regiments recently organized under special act of Congress. These men are: Sergeants William Washington, Troop F, and John C. Proctor, Troop I, of the 9th Cavalry, and Sergeants William McBryar, Company H; Wyatt Hoffman, Company G; Macon Russell, Company H, and Andrew J. Smith, Company B, of the 25th Infantry, commanded by Colonel Daggett. Jacob C. Smith, Sergeant Pendergrass, Lieutenant Ray, Sergeant Horace W. Bivins, Lieutenant E.L. Baker, Lieutenant J.H. Hill, Lieutenant Buck.--N.Y. World.
These promotions were made into the volunteer regiments, which were mustered out after the war, thus leaving the men promoted in the same rank they were before promotion if they chose to re-enlist in the regular army. They got no permanent advancement by this act of the President, but the future may develop better things for them.
Competent to be
Officers, The verdict of General Thomas J.
Morgan, after a study of the Negro's
quality as a soldier
General Thomas J. Morgan belongs to that class of Caucasian observers who are able to think clearly upon the Negro problem in all of its phases, and who have not only the breadth of intelligence to form just and generous opinions, but who possess that rarer quality, the courage to give them out openly to the country. General Morgan contributes the following article to the New York Independent, analyzing the motives which underlie the color line in the army.
He has had wide experience in military affairs, and his close contact with Negro soldiers during the civil war entitles him to speak with authority. General Morgan says:
|"The question of the color line
has assumed an acute stage, and has
called forth a good deal of feeling.
The various Negro papers in the
country are very generally insisting
that if the Negro soldiers are to be
enlisted, Negro officers should be
appointed to command them. One
zealous paper is clamoring for the
appointment, immediately, by the
President, of a Negro Major-General.
The readers of The Independent know
very well that during the civil war
there were enlisted in the United
States army 200,000 Negro soldiers
under white officers, the highest
position assigned to a black man
being that of first sergeant, or of
regimental sergeant-major. The
Negroes were allowed to wear
chevrons, but not shoulder straps or
epaulets. Although four Negro
regiments have been incorporated in
the regular army, and have rendered
exceptionally effective service on
the plains and elsewhere for a whole
generation, there are to-day no
Negro officers in the service. A
number of young men have been
appointed as cadets at West Point,
but the life has not been by any
means an easy one. The only caste or
class with caste distinctions that
exists in the republic is found in
the army; army officers are, par
excellence, the aristocrats; nowhere
is class feeling so much cultivated
as among them; nowhere is it so
difficult to break down the
established lines. Singularly
enough, though entrance to West
Point is made very broad, and a
large number of those who go there
to be educated at the expense of the
Government have no social position
to begin with, and no claims to
special merit, and yet, after having
been educated at the public expense,
and appointed to life positions,
they seem to cherish the feeling
that they are a select few, entitled
to special consideration, and that
they are called upon to guard their
class against any insidious
invasions. Of course there are
honorable exceptions. There are many
who have been educated at West Point
who are broad in their sympathies,
democratic in their ideas, and
responsive to every appeal of
philanthropy and humanity; but the
spirit of West Point has been
opposed to the admission of Negroes
into the ranks of commissioned
officers, and the opposition to the
commissioning of black men emanating
from the army will go very far
toward the defeat of any project of
"To make the question of the admission of Negroes into the higher ranks of commissioned officers more difficult is the fact that the organization of Negro troops under the call of the President for volunteers to carry on the war with Spain, has been left chiefly to the Governors of states. Very naturally the strong public sentiment against the Negro, which obtains almost universally in the South, has thus far prevented the recognition of his right to be treated precisely as the white man is treated. It would be, indeed, almost revolutionary for any Southern Governor to commission a Negro as a colonel of a regiment, or even a captain of a company. (Since this was written two Negro colonels have been appointed--in the Third North Carolina and Eighth Illinois.) Even where there are exceptions to this rule, they are notable exceptions. Everywhere through the South Negro volunteers are made to feel that they are not upon the same plane as white volunteers."
"In a recent conversation with the Adjutant General of the army, I was assured by him that in the organization of the ten regiments of immunes which Congress has authorized, the President had decided that five of them should be composed of Negroes, and that while the field and staff officers and captains are to be white, the lieutenants may be Negroes. If this is done it will mark a distinct step in advance of any taken hitherto. It will recognize partially, at least, the manhood of the Negro, and break down that unnatural bar of separation now existing. If a Negro is a lieutenant, he will command his company in the absence of the captain. He can wear epaulets, and be entitled to all the rights and privileges 'of an officer and a gentleman;' he is no longer doomed to inferiority. In case of battle, where bullets have no respect of persons, and do not draw the line at color, it may easily happen that a regiment or battalion will do its best work in the face of the enemy under the command of a Negro chief. Thus far the Government has been swift to recognize heroism and efficiency, whether performed by Commodore Dewey at Manila or Lieutenant Hobson at Santiago, and it can hardly be otherwise than that it will be ready to recognize exceptional prowess and skill when performed by a Negro officer."
"All, perhaps, which the Negroes
themselves, or their friends, have a
right to ask in their behalf is,
that they shall have a chance to
show the stuff they are made of. The
immortal Lincoln gave them this
chance when he admitted them to wear
the blue and carry a musket; and
right manfully did they justify his
confidence. There was not better
fighting done during the civil war
than was done by some of the Negro
troops. With my experience, in
command of 5,000 Negro soldiers, I
would, on the whole, prefer, I
think, the command of a corps of
Negro troops to that of a corps of
white troops. With the magnificent
record of their fighting qualities
on many a hard-contested field, it
is not unreasonable to ask that a
still further opportunity shall be
extended to them in commissioning
them as officers, as well as
enlisting them as soldiers."
History of Negro Soldiers in the Spanish-American War, and other items of Interest, 1899