Who Were the Rough Riders, and Who Was Their Leader?

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"The Rough Riders" was a nickname for the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, a unit created in 1898 to fight the Spanish-American War. Its first leader was Colonel Leonard Wood, and after he left, future president Theodore Roosevelt took the reins.

The Rough Riders began as a motley group of hunters, college athletes, miners, cowboys and other volunteers mostly from Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The Rough Riders were very well supplied, thanks to the influence that Roosevelt, who had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy, wielded among the nation's military elite. Therefore, unlike many other volunteer units in the Spanish-American War, the Rough Riders actually saw action. The unit departed for Cuba in June 1898, where they joined up with other units. They first saw action in the Battle of Las Guasimas, a Spanish outpost. The victory there, despite disadvantageous positions and difficult terrain, confirmed the group's ability to fight. This courage under fire also displayed itself at the famous Battle of San Juan Hill. At that battle, the Rough Riders, assisted by the Buffalo Soldiers, charged up Kettle Hill in the face of a strong Spanish attack, taking the Spanish fortifications and helping to secure the victory for the United States. This attack filled the newspapers at home, bringing fame to Roosevelt and his scrappy group of volunteers. After helping at the Siege of Santiago, the Rough Riders came home. The group was officially disbanded on September 15, 1898.