Theodore Roosevelt was a man of wide interests, strong opinions, and intense ambition for both himself and his country. When he met Leonard Wood in 1897, he recognized a kindred spirit. Moreover, the two men shared a zeal for making the United States an imperial power that would challenge Great Britain as world leader. For the remainder of their lives, their careers would intertwine in ways that shaped the American nation.
When the Spanish American War came, both men seized the opportunity to promote the goals of American empire. Roosevelt resigned as assistant secretary of the navy in William McKinley’s administration to serve as a lieutenant colonel of the Rough Riders, a newly organized volunteer cavalry. Wood, then a captain in the medical corps and physician to McKinley, was promoted to colonel and given charge of the unit.
Roosevelt later took over command of the Rough Riders. In the Battle of San Juan Hill, he led it in a charge up Kettle Hill that would end in victory for the American troops and make their daring commander a household name, a war hero, and, eventually, president of the United States.
At the Treaty of Paris in 1898, Spain ceded Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The next year, Wood became military governor of Cuba. He remained in the post until 1902. By that time Roosevelt was president. One of the major accomplishments of his administration was reorganization of the War Department, which the war with Spain had proved disastrously outdated. In 1909, when William Howard Taft needed a strong army chief of staff to enforce the new rules, he appointed Leonard Wood.
Both Wood and Roosevelt were strong proponents of preparedness, and when war broke out in Europe in August 1914, Wood, retired as chief of staff and backed by Roosevelt, established the “Plattsburg camps,” a system of basic training camps. When America entered the Great War, the two men’s foresight was justified, but their earlier push for mobilization had angered Woodrow Wilson, and both were denied the command positions they sought in Europe.
Roosevelt died in 1919 while preparing for another presidential campaign. Wood made a run in his place but was never taken seriously as a candidate. He retired from the army and spent the last seven years of his life as civilian governor of the Philippines.
It was a quiet end for two men who had been giants of their time. While their modernization of the army is widely admired, they were not without their critics. Roosevelt and Wood saw themselves as bold leaders but were regarded by some as ruthless strivers. And while their shared ambitions for the United States were tempered by a strong sense of duty, they could, in their certainty and determination, trample those who stood in their path. Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood: Partners in Command is a revealing and long overdue look at the dynamic partnership of this fascinating pair and will be welcomed by scholars and military history enthusiasts alike.
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About the Author
John S. D. Eisenhower is the author of many books, including They Fought at Anzio (University of Missouri Press), The Bitter Woods, and Yanks.
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Teddy Roosevelt & Leonard Wood
PARTNERS IN COMMAND
By John S. D. Eisenhower
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI PRESSCopyright © 2014 The Curators of the University of Missouri
All rights reserved.
The Birth of a Friendship
One evening in late-June 1897, Theodore Roosevelt and Leonard Wood met at a stag party in Washington. Their paths may or may not have crossed before—they were both visible men on the Washington scene—but this was the first time they took real notice of each other. In their own ways, they were both important men. Roosevelt, as the assistant secretary of the Navy, far outranked Wood, who was only a captain in the Army Medical Corps. But Wood was no ordinary medical officer; he was the personal physician to President William McKinley. As such, he was the man who presumably had the president's ear. Despite the disparity in their ranks, therefore, no gap in status stood between them.
For some mysterious reason—call it chemistry—Roosevelt and Wood bonded instantly. At the end of the evening's event, therefore, they decided to walk home together. The distances were not great and the weather pleasant. As they talked, they discovered that they shared personal characteristics. Both were highly ambitious, and both were dedicated to physical strength and vitality. Roosevelt was impressed by Wood's manliness. Tall and muscular, he walked at an extremely fast pace, easily outdistancing Roosevelt, who had taken pride in the speed with which he could cover the streets of New York as police commissioner. Roosevelt was also aware of Wood's distinguished record in battle against the Apache chieftain Geronimo ten years earlier. In light of Roosevelt's mind-set, it is not surprising that he, though two years older, developed something of a hero worship for Wood.
Aside from personal compatibility, however, the two men thought alike regarding the burning issue of the day: the current Caribbean crisis. There the Cubans, who had suffered under Spanish rule for about three centuries, had finally risen in rebellion. The recently appointed Spanish governor, Valeriano Weyler, had just established a set of concentration camps, and it was estimated that three hundred thousand rebels were incarcerated in these closed-off areas. It was reported that as many as one hundred thousand had died. The question was, what role should the United States play?
The public at that time was divided on the issue. Most Americans were probably inclined to a hands-off policy. Some, however, were now beginning to feel that the United States had an obligation for a military intervention. Goaded on by two newspaper magnates, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, the issue was becoming a topic of intense discussion.
It is not surprising that Roosevelt and Wood viewed this situation alike, because both were ardent expansionists whose imperialist ambitions reached even beyond the Cuban situation. Both, for example, were foreseeing an occupation of the Hawaiian Islands far beyond the elimination of Spain from all the Caribbean. The construction of a canal across Central America to join the Atlantic and Pacific was still in the future.
By the time the two men reached their respective destinations, an association, both an alliance and a friendship, had been born.CHAPTER 2
Sagamore Cowboy, Theodore Roosevelt
Though Roosevelt and Wood had much in common, their personalities were quite different. Roosevelt was ebullient, loquacious, even frenetic by nature; Wood, though no recluse, was relatively reserved, as befitted his New England birth and upbringing. Roosevelt was a politician whose success depended on the success with which he promoted himself. Wood, as part of the established military society, knew his place and kept it. Neither man could change, and neither had any desire to do so.
* * *
Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858, in New York City, the first son and second child of Theodore Roosevelt Sr. and Martha Bulloch Roosevelt. Although the name Roosevelt is automatically associated with privilege, the members of Theodore's branch of the family, in contrast to Franklin's, were not very wealthy; they had to work to maintain their comfortable standard of living. The elder Theodore Roosevelt made a good living as a glass importer and later as a banker. The family loved the outdoors and spent as much time as possible at their weekend retreat at Oyster Bay, Long Island. The father also owned property in what was then the Dakota Territories. Zeal for the wide-open spaces never left young Theodore Roosevelt.
As a child, young Theodore Roosevelt was afflicted with serious asthma, which made him sickly. For that and other reasons, he was educated at home until he entered Harvard in 1876 at the age of eighteen. He was, however, energetic, curious, and determined, far from subdued by his malady. He played sports with zest. He also developed a strong interest in nature, especially ornithology. He seemed to need physical activity. Professor Aloysius Norton describes one incident that occurred when Theodore was at Harvard University: "While skating on Fresh Pond with [Harvard] classmate Richard Welling on a bitter winter day, Roosevelt went endlessly round and round. Welling from boyhood had accepted heavy weather as a challenge, but this day was just too much for him. When Roosevelt shouted, 'Isn't this bully?' Welling could only wonder. He later commented, 'It puzzled me how this youngster who had not my health, for he was asthmatic, and he not my muscle, could want more of that winter gale.'"
The elder Roosevelt exercised an unusual influence on his son. The boy respected and loved his opinionated mother, a belle who had never accepted the defeat of the South in the Civil War, but it was his father to whom young Theodore looked for guidance. One dark spot of his father's past haunted the boy, however. Theodore was aware that his father had avoided service in the Civil War by hiring a substitute.
At Harvard, Roosevelt stood high in his class, high enough to be invited to join Phi Beta Kappa on graduation. However, he seems to have made no effort to reach the very top. Unfortunately, his father died during his sophomore year, and his grief was almost overwhelming. It has been said that the anguish stemming from that loss hardened him to face later similar experiences. He would have his full share of them.
Roosevelt never regarded his experience at Harvard as one that had done much for him, and he may have been right; formal academics had never enchanted him. But the period was significant for the outside activities he participated in. He made hunting and fishing trips to Maine, where his zest for the outdoors was whetted and where he came in contact with many working men. Perhaps to his surprise, he found himself to be completely comfortable with them. His respect for the "ordinary" people stayed with Roosevelt all his life.
In early 1879, while he was visiting family friends in Cambridge, Roosevelt met a young lady named Alice Lee. Immediately taken by her, he quickly resolved to make her his wife. She, however, was not so sure. During his entire senior year at Harvard, Theodore wooed her ardently but without success. Finally, he determined to bring matters to a head; he demanded that she marry him and made it clear that if she refused, he would seek a wife elsewhere. Alice, realizing that it was now or never, dropped her coy attitude and consented. They were married in October 1880.
Just a few days before his marriage to Alice Lee, Theodore Roosevelt entered Columbia University Law School. But his enrollment did not mean that he would spend his honeymoon poring over law books. In the somewhat relaxed world of the day, the couple visited Europe, and when they returned to New York Roosevelt entered politics while still a law student. It happened almost by chance. Roosevelt's friends nominated him to run on the Republican ticket for the position of assemblyman from New York's Twenty-First District. His acceptance of the nomination met with some protests from relatives, who considered the position of assemblyman beneath the family dignity. In November, much to his amazement, he was elected. He was still only twenty-three.
Those were busy times for Roosevelt. In addition to his duties as an assemblyman, which he performed conscientiously, he also found time to write a book, The Naval War of 1812. His voracious reading had convinced him that all previous treatments of the subject had been inaccurate and needed revision. It was a huge success. A few years after its publication, when Roosevelt met Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, the celebrated naval strategist, Roosevelt's enemies sniffed that he had stolen some of Mahan's ideas. They were misguided: Roosevelt's book had come out earlier than Mahan's.
As an assemblyman from a prominent family, Roosevelt and his wife were much involved in New York society. Robert Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln and a successful man in his own right, introduced the couple to such luminaries as writer Henry James, author Edward Everett Hale, and Lieutenant General Irvin McDowell, whose defeat as the Union commander at the Battle of Bull Run twenty years earlier had not prevented his being a social celebrity.
On February 14, 1884, this happy life came to an abrupt end. By incredible coincidence, Roosevelt's mother and his beloved Alice both died on the same day and in the same house, Alice leaving Roosevelt with an infant daughter. Roosevelt's grief was overpowering. He wrote in his diary, "The light has gone out of my life." He went into a state of physical shock, and for a few days he remained nearly unconscious of reality.
Nothing, however, could hold Theodore Roosevelt down for long. He soon began to recover from his grief. Two months later, in April 1884, he wrote to the editor of a Utica newspaper, "Although not a very old man, I have lived a great deal of my life, and I have known sorrow too bitter and joy too keen to allow me to become either cast down or elated for more than a very brief period over any successes or defeats."
At the end of his term as a New York assemblyman, Roosevelt chose not to run for reelection. He was now attaining a national reputation because of a civil service bill he had pushed through the assembly, and he was noted even more for the enthusiastic reception of The Naval War of 1812. He therefore left his infant daughter, Alice, with his sister Anna and took to the outdoors at his properties near Medora, Dakota Territory. He went not to assuage his grief, but because he was bored with the routine of his life in New York.
Roosevelt's couple of years in the Dakotas constituted a significant period. He was not skilled as a rancher—shooting, roping, and riding—but he put such effort into his work that he managed to build his once frail body into a strong one, a continuing process. He mixed well with his three hands, who lived with him in a two-story cabin he called Maltese Cross Ranch. In 1884, after staying a year at Maltese Cross, he bought another, more elaborate, establishment that he called Elkhorn, on the Little Missouri River. He had no intention of being a serious farmer, but he bought a herd of a thousand cattle for the sum of twenty-six thousand dollars and went on hunting expeditions in the Badlands, especially along the Little Missouri River.
He also took on the chore of local sheriff, in which his most noted exploit was to track down three men who had stolen his boat on the Little Missouri. By vigilante law, he could have hanged them, but he chose instead to deliver them to Dickinson for trial. He made the trip without assistance from other guards, staying awake for a full forty hours.
Although living with his ranch hands increased Roosevelt's comfort with the "working man," he did not confine his activities to ranching. He traveled back and forth to New York to visit his daughter, Alice, in the meantime building up his political connections. Principal among these new friends was a man who was Roosevelt's senior by eight years, Henry Cabot Lodge, then a representative from Massachusetts.
The close friendship that developed between Roosevelt and Lodge was unusual in that they were poles apart domestically. Lodge was a rock-ribbed Republican conservative; Roosevelt, though also officially a Republican, was instinctively a progressive. What they had in common was that both men were fervid expansionists, a fact that would cement their alliance throughout their lives. Incidentally, both men at that time considered themselves to be primarily authors.
* * *
Finally, it was time for Roosevelt to return to New York. Research for historical works was difficult in the Dakotas, a region almost totally lacking in library facilities. His letters included the word lonely with increasing frequency. So it was probably without much regret that he accepted the invitation of the Republican Party to run for mayor of New York, even though he knew he never had a chance. After his expected defeat, he retired to Oyster Bay, where he built a home he called Sagamore Hill. Here his writing became serious; the expenses of maintaining that establishment required money, which he earned by writing and speaking. In 1887 he published a biography of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, and the next year he produced a similar work on Gouverneur Morris, one of the founders of the Republic. Incredibly, in the same year, he produced another book on the West, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.
Roosevelt now reentered the mainstream of life. In November 1886, he surprised his friends by announcing that he was off to London to marry Miss Edith Kermit Carow, a childhood sweetheart with whom he had never completely lost contact. Thus began a marriage that produced a daughter and four sons. In 1889, when the Republicans regained the presidency under Benjamin Harrison, Roosevelt was appointed to be Civil Service commissioner. It was a natural choice; Roosevelt's sponsorship of the bill establishing the Civil Service Commission in New York had not been forgotten. He served in that post for six years, including two under Grover Cleveland when the Democrats regained the White House in the 1892 election. (The Civil Service was not subject to partisan politics at that time.)
Cleveland was sensible in retaining the services of this Republican, because he was extremely effective. As Roosevelt boasted in his autobiography, "During my six years' service as Commissioner in the field, the merit system was extended at the expense of the spoils system so as to include several times the number of offices that had originally been included. Generally this was done by the introduction of competitive entrance examinations; sometimes, as in the Navy-Yards, by a system of registration. This of itself was good work."
Roosevelt claimed other achievements, of course, but the position was not challenging. Its greatest advantage was that it produced enough free time that he could pursue his main passion: writing. During his six years, he wrote and published three books.
By the end of that time, Roosevelt was once more becoming restless, and he gladly accepted the post of police commissioner for the City of New York. There, though he stayed only a couple of years, the time was exceedingly active and productive.
It was not an easy position. Just at the time Roosevelt was sworn in, the mayor, William L. Strong, reorganized the Police Board to include two Republicans and two Democrats, with each member empowered with a veto to negate the acts of all four. In addition, the police chief, who served under the board, enjoyed an unusual degree of latitude in his own right. The Police Department was notoriously sloppy and undisciplined, the worst difficulties being with the widespread practice of accepting bribes.
That largely rectified, Roosevelt faced other frustrations. One was his futile effort to enforce the city ordinance against Sunday drinking in public places. It was not motivated by a disapproval of drinking on Roosevelt's part, but he intended to enforce the law. Theretofore, saloon keepers had avoided enforcement of the law by slipping a little cash under the table to the police. Roosevelt succeeded in stopping the bribery, but he lost his battle against the booze. The saloon keepers cited a city ordinance that allowed liquor with meals. When a judge ruled that seventeen beers with a pretzel constituted a "meal," Roosevelt knew he was defeated.
There were other facets to this assignment, however. Roosevelt continued his friendship with the reformer Jacob Riis, and in the course of roaming the back precincts of the city, he was struck by the plight of the poor, thus enhancing his natural tendency toward reform. And while he was walking the streets of New York, he continued to build his body by making every walk a speed march. No man could keep up with him until he met Leonard Wood.
Excerpted from Teddy Roosevelt & Leonard Wood by John S. D. Eisenhower. Copyright © 2014 The Curators of the University of Missouri. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI PRESS.
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Table of ContentsContents Maps Introduction 1. The Birth of a Friendship 2. Sagamore Cowboy, Theodore Roosevelt 3. Doctor on Horseback, Leonard Wood 4. The Path to War 5. On to Cuba 6. Las Guasimas 7. San Juan Hill 8. The Surrender of Santiago 9. Governor Wood 10. Tom Platt Creates a President 11. Commander in Chief 12. The Rise of John J. Pershing 13. Philippines, 1902–8 14. Chief of Staff 15. The Sinking of the Lusitania 16. The Buildup Starts 17. On the Shelf 18. “The Old Lion Is Dead” 19. Wood Carries On Epilogue Appendix A. Order of Battle Appendix B. Timeline Bibliography Acknowledgments Index