Arizona’s military contribution in the Spanish-American War was three troops in the First United States Volunteer Cavalry – the famous “Rough Riders” – and three companies of the First Territorial Infantry.
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In Arizona the recruiting for a cavalry force began even before the declaration of war, April 21, 1898, and was looked after in the northern part of the state by Wm. O. O’Neill, a prominent Arizona journalist and politician, subsequently captain of the Rough Riders, and Jas. H. McClintock, a well-known journalist who afterwards became, first, a captain of the Rough Riders and later colonel in the Arizona National Guard.
Although nearly one thousand men were recruited for cavalry service, and though their officers promptly offered their services to the nation, when the call finally came from Washington it was for but 210 men, which were to constitute a part of “a crack regiment of cavalry . . . for special duty.”
Governor Myron H. McCord nominated Alexander O. Brodie as major, and McClintock and O’Neill as captains.
Brodie, later to be Arizona’s governor, was a graduate of West Point and one of General Crook’s lieutenants in his campaign against the Indians. He had retired from the army to become a civil engineer. Brodie, McClintock and O’Neill were splendid men and made good officers.
The lieutenants in O’Neill’s troop were Frank Frantz and Robert S. Patterson. Those to go with McClintock were Lieut. J. L. B. Alexander and Lieut. George Wilcox.
The mustering in took place at Fort Whipple Barracks, from where Arizona’s two troops, A and B, of 107 men each, were taken to San Antonio. Here Col. Leonard Wood assumed command and the regiment received its war training. At San Antonio thirty-seven men from A and B troops were given to a new troop “C” of which J. L. B. Alexander, prominent Phoenix attorney, was given command; Second Lieutenant Patterson was advanced to a first lieutenant in troop C, and Hal Sayre, a Colorado soldier, was made second lieutenant. In troop B, Wilcox was made first lieutenant, and First Serg. T. H. Rynning, of regular army experience and afterwards captain of the Arizona Rangers, was advanced to the position of second lieutenant.
It was at San Antonio that the term Rough Riders was really earned. The regiment was given a lot of half -broken range horses to ride that would often enliven the tedium of parade by bucking all “over the lot.” It was also there that the inspiring strains of “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” were played so often by the regimental band that the Texans decided that it must be the battle hymn of the Rough Riders.
The next halt on the way to Cuba was made by the Rough Riders at Tampa, Florida, which was reached June 4th, and there they were made a part of the First Cavalry Brigade under command of Gen. S. M. B. Young.
On June 7th word came that eight dismounted troops, including A and B, of seventy men each, were to go forward while the rest were to remain at Tampa with the horses, with the understanding that they were to follow soon. Lieut.-Col. Theodore Roosevelt and Major Brodie each commanded four of the troops that went.
There was much confusion of orders, but on June 13th the eight troops finally got to sea on a transport, the Yucatan No. 8. Landing was made at Daiquiri, Cuba, on June 22d. The next after-noon the regiment was marched twelve miles through a jungle to Siboney.
The day following the engagement of Guasimas was fought. The Spanish force was estimated at 4,000; the Americans numbered 940. The engagement lasted for about two hours in which the Americans advanced steadily, firing at will.
Captain McClintock says that probably the Spaniards had been leaving their entrenchments for some time before the final rush of the Rough Riders, for when the Americans reached the trenches only twenty-nine Spanish dead were found.
Of the Arizona men, Major Brodie was shot in the arm, Captain McClintock received several machine gun bullets in the ankle, Corp. George H. Doherty and Private Edward Ligget were killed, and T. W. Wiggins and N. L. Orme badly wounded.
Colonel Wood was now given the rank of a brigadier general and Colonel Roosevelt became commander of the Rough Riders, leading his troops in person and sparing himself no labor in seeing that, in a campaign woefully mismanaged, his troops received what comforts he could provide for them.
The Arizona Rough Riders had an active part in the sharp fighting at San Juan Hill, July 1st to 3d, besides gallantly participating in the rest of the Santiago campaign. At San Juan, led by Colonel Roosevelt, they charged an extension of the main height called Kittle Hill and took it, driving a large force of Spanish infantry from their entrenchments.
There were not a few deaths in the Cuban campaign, both in action and from fever-infested camps. Captain O’Neill was killed in the first day of the San Juan fight, when Frank Franz was advanced to his place.
Worn by fever even more than with the usual hardships of fighting, the regiment left Santiago August 8th for Montauk Point, to which place Troops C, H, I and M, which had been left at Tampa, had been removed a few days before. The regiment was mustered out of the service September 15, 1898.
A splendid statue in bronze of a mounted soldier in action, typifying Captain O’Neill and dedicated to the Rough Riders, has been placed in the court house plaza of Prescott. The statue, striking in appearance, is the work of Solon Borglum, and is a fitting memorial of the services of Arizona’s famous troopers.
The First Territorial Infantry, through their officers, made every endeavor to get to the front, but never were nearer Cuba than Camp Churchman, near Albany, Georgia. The regiment, a splendid body of men, was well officered and would doubtless have given as good an account of itself in the battlefield as the First Cavalry had it been given the opportunity. The officers included: Colonel, Myron H. McCord; mayor, Frank Russell; regimental adjutant, J. W. Crenshaw.
Company A of Phoenix was originally organized with Russell as captain, Crenshaw, first lieu-tenant, and with F. W. Hill as second lieutenant. The men were all recruited from the National Guard. Company B, with Capt. Herbert S. Gray and Lieuts. Wiley E. Jones and Emanuel Drachman, recruited its men from Tucson and other southern towns. Company C of Prescott and Flagstaff had for its officers Capt. C. E. Donaldson, Lieuts. F. C. Hochderfer and W. G. Scott. With the promotion of Russell to the position of major, George Christy became Captain of Company A; Hill, first lieutenant, and E. M. Lamson, second lieutenant.