PEGGY SAMUELS AND HAROLD SAMUELS, Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan: The Making of a President (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997), 374 pp., $39.95 cloth (ISBN: 0-89096-771-7).
Peggy and Harold Samuels analyze Teddy Roosevelt and his legendary contributions to the Spanish American War, specifically the assault on San Juan Hill. Their approach discusses his life up to the invasion of Cuba including his youth and how his life culminated with his achievement of becoming the "hero" via his cultivation of the American yellow press.
In assessing Roosevelt, the authors include a biography replete with primary and secondary references covering a broad spectrum of information. Many sources are vintage and assist in a new evaluation of Roosevelt and the issue of whether he earned the military acclaim associated with his ventures in Cuba. It is difficult to discover references through the index; the index is lengthy, and its organization prevents easy cross-references of sources.
The authors demonstrate an awareness for the need of and for an ability to use historical research, and they painstakingly examined a multitude of newspapers of the period. Roosevelt's efforts to establish a cult and make himself an icon are reviewed with the help of journalists accompanying his military train. Roosevelt had his favorites. Whereas journalists such as Stephen Crane were relegated to other units, Richard Davis, Roosevelt's ardent supporter and a major contributor to the myth of Roosevelt and San Juan Hill, accompanied him throughout the campaign.
Roosevelt's racist attitudes are not minimized. After affirming that combat was the measure of a man, Roosevelt proceeded to combine his attitude of Anglo-Saxon superiority with negative expressions about Cuban and Spanish soldiers. Accepting that it was the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon to rule lesser peoples, he found them beyond redemption and demeaned their efforts during the conflicts. His views were not limited to non-Americans and included comments about African Americans.
Two black units, the ninth and tenth units, had accompanied the American expeditionary forces to Cuba. They were involved in conflicts during the campaign, and their level of participation is open to discussion. Some Afro-centric historians allege that these units charged up San Juan Hill performing a task later attributed to Roosevelt. Roosevelt did not, however, charge up San Juan Hill. We learn that the two black cavalry regiments...