“Rough Riders & Revolvers”
Andrew L. Bresnan
1st USV Cavalry Re-enactor & Historian
The Spanish-American War of 1898 is an interesting part of American History. This is a war not many Americans know much about. For the “Rough Riders” it only lasted from April, 1898, with war being declared, to September, 1898 when the “Rough Riders” were mustered out of service. It was a war the Secretary of State at the time, John Hay, referred to as “The Splendid Little War”. The TNT movie “Rough Riders” sparked a big interest in the Spanish-American War. We as re-enactors try to portray this time period as accurately as possible including uniforms and weaponry.
Did the Rough Riders have revolvers with them in Cuba? This is a question that for years did not seem to have an answer. However upon careful study I believe there is a definite answer. Without a doubt in my mind the answer to the question is yes they did indeed have revolvers, if not the entire regiment then a large part did, including officers, non-commissioned officers as well as privates. In the following paragraphs I hope to show this conclusion to be true. While others may disagree with my finding, to state the Rough Riders did not have revolvers is to ignore the facts. For those that disagree with my finding I would ask that they produce documented information to support their viewpoint. Read this with an open mind and I am sure you too will arrive at the same conclusion that I have.
The following are some things that others have mentioned in support of the Rough Riders not having revolvers in Cuba. These include the lack of stated accounts where revolvers were used, the lack of photographic evidence, that only officers and non-commissioned officers had revolvers, revolver ammunition was not issued, the lack of reports of lost revolvers, that it was official regulation that the dismounted cavalry did not have revolvers, that revolvers were considered “horse equipment” and left behind with the horses, and finally it is just a well known fact the Rough Riders did not have their revolvers in Cuba. I have found NO evidence to support any of the above arguments used as to the Rough Riders not having revolvers in Cuba.
Lets get to some concrete evidence. Theodore Roosevelt was the author of several books and he was always complimented on his attention to detail. In Roosevelt’s book on the Rough Riders on page 182 he states, “While I was lying with the officers just outside one of the bomb-proofs I saw a New Mexican trooper named Morrison making his coffee under the protection of a traverse high up on the hill...... I watched him solemnly pounding the coffee with the BUTT END OF HIS REVOLVER, and then boiling the water and frying bacon just as if he had been in the lee of the roundup wagon somewhere out on the plains.” This same quote is mentioned on page 231 of Jones’ book on the Rough Riders. Amaziah B. Morrison joined the Rough Riders on May 5th, 1898. He was a private with a revolver in Cuba. Roosevelt made the statement on July 10, 1898. This leaves little doubt that there was at least one revolver in the trenches above Santiago.
In the book “The Arizona Rough Riders” by Charles Herner he states on page 81 that because of limited transportation the Rough Riders would leave their horses and pistols in Tampa. He cites as his reference for this as the Hughes Manuscript written by Rough Rider David L. Hughes. I found this particular interesting as I have a copy of the Hughes Manuscript and nowhere in it does it ever state the Rough Riders left their pistols in Tampa. I want to repeat, nowhere does it ever state the Rough Riders left their pistols in Tampa. In fact I could find no statements that could even be interpreted in that manner. What I have found in the Hughes Manuscript is that the horses were indeed left behind but no mention of revolvers being left behind. On page 9 of the manuscript it states that Private William Proffitt after carrying Captain McClintock to a field hospital was given one of Captain McClintock’s pistols. Proffitt had left his carbine against a tree and had no weapon. McClintock always carried two pistols. Proffitt even used this pistol to kill a Spaniard. According to Herner’s book on page 206, “he had noticed a fine pearl-handled machete lying beside the body of a Spaniard in a trench on San Juan Heights. Leaving his carbine on top of the parapet, Proffitt jumped into the trench to claim the attractive machete. To his surprise the Spaniard jumped to his feet with the machete in his hand. “Then I was mighty glad I had the old .45,” Proffitt explained. “Just a couple of shots and the dead man lay down for good.” These statements were originally made by Captain McClintock in a radio address, January 7, 1931. This is another example of a private with a revolver.
Also in the Hughes Manuscript on page 13 is the following: “I immediately went over to where the equipments were left when you were placed in the hospital and selected me a carbine, six-shooter, a full cartridge belt, a canteen, a shelter half, blanket, some hardtack, and an extra 100 rounds of ammunition,”. This statement would leave one to think that when wounded soldiers were brought to the hospital their equipments were piled up. Hughes was able to select a six-shooter from the pile of equipment. He would not have been able to do so if they were left behind in Tampa. It is further interesting to note that this is on July 9, 1898 after the fighting had taken place. Hughes also goes on to state, “When I reached B Troop the boys were glad to see me. They were just forming a troop front, without sidearms and I fell in, in my place.” He does mention that B Troop fell in without sidearms on that day which would led one to think that on previous days they did indeed have their revolvers. This is the first mention that Hughes makes in not having sidearms and this is July 9, 1898 after the fighting. On page 7 just before the fighting at Las Guasimas Hughes mentions, “By this time the men had discarded what was not absolutely necessary. The trail from Siboney to Las Guasimas was litterly strewn with blankets, our extra shirts, shoes, and other little articles that we carried in our rolls were all discarded to lighten our loads, the heat was almost unbearable.” No mention of revolvers being discarded. This being June 22 but yet on July 9 he does point out the fact they formed up without revolvers. Conclusion: revolvers must have been present on June 22.
Herner also writes in his book on page 204 the following: “The determination of liability for equipment lost in B Troop posed a knotty problem for Captain McClintock....” In a letter September 6, 1898 from Lieutenant Wilcox he states “I shall clear you by affidavits if a paper holds out. Many revolvers are missing from saddle bags, but lost in action and transit covers a great deal of ground.” “Some items, however could not be cleared by affidavit. On September 5, 1898 Lieutenant Colonel Brodie convened a survey board composed of regimental officers to investigate the loss of nineteen carbines, fourteen revolvers.....Wilcox also found it easy to account for the 3,000 rounds of carbine and revolver ammunition the troop had drawn. Wilcox wrote off all ammunition as “expended at Las Guasimas and San Juan.” This is said to come from the “Abstract of Expenditures, Quarterly Returns of Ordnance”. Fourteen revolvers missing from one troop seems to be a very high number indeed. To assume that Wilcox and others lied about what happened to the revolvers and ammunitions does not sound too believable to me. Fourteen revolvers and revolver ammunition being lost and expended in Cuba does seem very likely however. If the other troops of the Rough Riders had similar loses and expenditures then it would seem a lot of revolvers came up missing when it came time for the Rough Riders to be mustered out of service and as Wilcox states these were lost in Cuba. This also shows that revolver ammunition was issued to the Rough Riders. No ammunition would have been issued if they did not have revolvers. All equipment and ammunition had to be accounted for upon the final mustering out of the Rough Riders which took place the end of August and into September of 1898. The commanding officer of each troop was held accountable for any items not accounted for in the final inventory of equipments.
Another "Rough Rider" that had a revolver in Cuba was Sgt. Matt T. McGehee of G Troop. This was information that came to me by way of his grandson. Family histories are very interesting. Through histories handed down by word of mouth is how we know much about the lives of the early American Indians and are very valuable sources of information. Although oral histories are not necessarily primary sources much can be attained from them. Here is the story that Bill McGehee sent to me. "Granddad lived his life in Arkansas, Texas and the New Mexican Territory. Handguns were a part of him just like a pocketknife and a watch. After Cuba he did a stint in the Regulars in the Philippines and China. He carried a SAA in .45 Colt or a Colt 1911 until the day he died. His regard for the .45 dated to his Cuba Service. He said in his first fight at "Las Guasimas" he had trouble loading the "damned Krag" and used his Colt until he settled down. He told his sons that the Colonel carried that damn Navy .38 DA but we carried good old Army .45s. He told both of his sons that the ".38s"(.38 Colt) he saw in Cuba and in the Philippines were worthless. He said he carried a .45 Colt in the Philippines because it had served him well in Cuba. I have a picture of him taken in Manila wearing a Colt SAA. He, of course, also cursed the Krag's loading system. He told of the ground "glittering" from the dropped ammo during the fights in Cuba. He was not fond of the Winchester M-95 as a combat weapon either. He told his sons that it was damned hard to load and hard to shoot in the prone. Both of his sons carried .45s to World War II. They both stated this was because of what their father had taught them and from listening to his stories. I also know that when I enlisted I was told by my father that I would take a .45 with me to Vietnam even if I had to smuggle in my own, which I did." This was the family history given me by Bill McGehee the grandson of "Rough Rider" Matt T. McGehee. It is both interesting and also supports the view that the 1st USV Cavalry did indeed have revolvers with them in Cuba.
Frank Knox became FDR's Secretary of the Navy and was also a member of the 1st USV Cavalry during the Spanish-American War of 1898. In a biography on Frank Knox by Norman Beasley written in 1936 there is even more evidence as to the 1st USV Cavalry carrying revolvers with them during their Cuban service. On page 16 of Beasley's book he states; "Frank drew his Krag-Jorgenson, his two six-shooters, his horse and his brown denim uniform.". Beasley quotes Frank Knox relaying a story about the mail that Brodie wanted Knox to go and get. "You'd better go on to Daiquiri and get the mail, Colonel's orders," said Brodie. "That's what I intend to do, sir", said Knox. "But I'll tell you something, son, "Brodie continued. "The trees around here are loaded with guerillas. If you meet one, you'll never be able to get the carbine out of the boot in time. You better leave it and have your pistol handy." Beasley goes on to state the following; "Trooper Knox followed the good advice, and a mile from Siboney he encountered his "guerilla. Knox got the drop, but he had seen enough killing. He called to the guerilla to drop his gun. The guerilla, couldn't get the words, but he knew the music, all right. He edged away from the gun." Knox finally got to Daiquiri. The mail was under the guard of a civilian postal employee. He states that a person that was handling the mail came down with yellow fever and the civilian postal employee would not go near the mail or unlock the door so anyone else could go in. Here is a quote from his book on what Knox did to get the mail. "But Sheriff Boride's advice had been good, and Trooper Knox diplomatically fingered his firearm(revolver) in a mild warning manner that would have been approved in technique by Sheriff Buck O'Neill or any of the other famous rangers in the rough riders....The postal clerk changed his mind about opening the mail shed. After all, yellow fever was only a chance. The careless handling of a pistol by this red trooper fresh from the war's killings seemed a sure thing. It might be wisdom to yield to his "diplomacy". Mr. Beasley account of Frank Knox does give us another example of a private in the 1st USV Cavalry having a pistol in Cuba. I might also add that I have yet to find any documented accounts that state that the members of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry left their pistols back in the states.
In Virgil Carrington Jones’ book “Roosevelt’s Rough Riders” on page 209 there is a picture of Rough Riders grinding coffee with their pistol butts. This same picture may be seen in the hardback book “The Arizona Rough Riders”. In this book it mentions that this picture was taken in Cuba, at least that is what I have been told as I have the paperback edition. Also in the Jones book on page 186 picture #55 is a sketch by William Glackens showing Rough Riders complete with revolvers.
Now that we have put revolvers in the hands of privates lets look at what the official regulations state. One regulation that has been stated as to supporting the claim that the dismounted cavalry did not have revolvers is found on page 50 paragraph 376 of the U.S. Regulations 1895. Here is what it says and you be the judge if it states that dismounted cavalry turned in revolvers. “In the field, every enlisted man of the cavalry detailed for dismounted service will, before he marches, take to the first sergeant of his troop his horse equipment and saddle, ready packed. In case of alarm the first sergeant sees that the horses of these men are equipped and led to the rendezvous.” Nowhere in that regulation does it state that revolvers were turned in. One of the reasons this topic is even debated is that many seem to think that the Rough Riders left their revolvers state-side along with their horses. Some have mentioned that a revolver is part of “horse equipment”. This could not be further from the truth. All one would have to do is to consult the Cavalry Regulations to find out that the revolver is not included in “horse equipment”. A careful look into the Cavalry Regulations will reveal what this equipment specifically is item by item. The Cavalry Regulations do state the saber is not worn on dismounted duty but does not mention the same for the pistol. In fact under the section entitled “Armament, etc. for Garrison Duty, Dismounted” in paragraph 62 it mentions, “Complete armament: Rifle and pistol.” In paragraph 374 on page 50 of U. S. Regulations 1895 it states, “Soldiers march armed, and if necessary, fully equipped, on all duties of the first class.” Armed I would take to mean that they had their carbine and revolver. In looking through the US Army Regulations of 1895 with appendixes to Jan. 1, 1900 nowhere does it state that the dismounted cavalry turned in their revolvers when dismounted.
In the Regulations for Small Arms of 1898 it mentions in chapter I Part VIII on page 239 the training of dismounted practice with revolvers. The entire chapter I is devoted to dismounted practice. It would seem that the army did indeed plan for the cavalry to fight with revolvers when dismounted. There is also the belief that non-commissioned officers carried revolvers while the privates did not. I could find no regulation that so states this in checking with the Cavalry Drill Regulations, Regulations for Small Arms or the U.S. Regulations of 1895. However in the Cavalry Regulations it does state in paragraph 459 the following: “Non-commissioned officers commanding troops or platoons have the same armaments as the men of their troops…” Armaments as define by the Cavalry Regulations are both rifle and pistol. This would mean that if the non-commissioned officers did indeed have their pistols then the privates under their command would also have their pistols according to regulations.
Did the Rough Riders have revolvers before they went to Cuba? I think the answer to this is a 100% yes. Pictured on page 116 of the book “Images of the Spanish-American War” by Stan Cohen shows parts of Troop G and I posing for a picture that was taken on May 16, 1898 in San Antonio, Texas. In this picture the men are seen wearing holsters or if no holster the revolver is stuck in their cartridge belt. Many of these same revolvers may have ended up in haversacks for the journey to Cuba. The revolvers are the Colt Single Action Army revolver with the 5 ½ inch barrel in .45 Colt caliber with wooden grips different from the picture. Another picture on the same page also shows a Rough Rider wearing a revolver while posing with the Colt’s Machine guns. The same picture of G Troop and I Troop is also pictured in Jack Stewart’s book “Cowboys in Uniform” on page 47. On page 49 of Jack Stewart’s book is pictured “Smoke ‘em up Bill” William Owens. He is pictured with what looks like a Colt revolver holstered. On pages 7 and 8 are two other pictures of Rough Riders with revolvers at San Antonio. So I guess I could conclude that the Rough Riders did have revolvers before leaving for Cuba. Question: Where is the documentation that takes these revolvers out of the hands of the Rough Riders?
The unfortunate thing about pictures is that they will not always tell the truth. There are not a lot of clear pictures nor is there “jillions” of pictures that show the Rough Riders while in Cuba. There is an old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and that is pretty much true. The problem with using pictures as the only judge for historic interpretation is that pictures don’t always tell the whole story. The time period of the Spanish American War of 1898 is one example where many have tried to use pictures as a sole source to prove certain equipment was used in Cuba by the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, otherwise known as “The Rough Riders”. One piece of equipment that many say was not used by the Rough Riders is their revolvers. Many state they were left behind in Florida with their horses and horse equipment. It is cited that because there are no pictures of the Rough Riders in Cuba with their revolvers then they must not have had them. Another piece of equipment is the machete. The only picture of a Rough Rider with a machete was taken at Montauk Point after the Rough Riders returned to the US. Does this mean that they never used a machete to clear the way when they were advancing on Las Guasimas?
You will find listed in the Works Consulted page several of the major books and sources concerning the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War. In going through these sources I found less than 30 pictures that show the Rough Riders in Cuba. That is worth repeating, I found less than 30 pictures that show the Rough Riders in Cuba. Many of these pictures were long distance photos and very difficult to see much detail. One picture does show Rough Riders pounding coffee beans with the butt end of their revolvers. The famous picture of the Rough Riders taken a few days after the attack up the San Juan Heights does indeed show revolvers present. If a researcher uses as his or her main source for a theory pictures taken of a time period they can get a confusing indication on what was really used.
There were several pictures of the Rough Riders when they were going through training in San Antonio, Texas. These pictures show the Rough Riders with their revolvers and they proudly displayed these. In fact many of the Rough Riders did not even have a holster for the revolvers. They stuck the revolver in their belt as is indicated by pictures. There is also many pictures of the Rough Riders while in Tampa. There is also many pictures of the Rough Riders while at Camp Wikoff at Montauk Point. Many of these pictures show revolvers, Krag carbines and all kinds of other equipment.
Why were there so few pictures of the Rough Riders in Cuba? One of the big reasons is the lack of photographers and photo equipment in Cuba. Photojournalism was not what it is today. A second reason for the lack of pictures is the Rough Riders were only in Cuba for around two months, part of June, July and part of August. This is not a long time period for those photographers that were there to get pictures. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders was the most famous unit in Cuba but yet less than 30 pictures appear in the main books about the Spanish American War. One of the best books on the Rough Riders is a book by Jack Stewart, “Cowboys In Uniform”. When going through this book I could not find one picture of the Rough Riders in Cuba. Jack also mentions on page 50 of his book “The question of enlisted men keeping their sidearms after being dismounted in Florida and taking them to Cuba is unresolved.” He seems to leave the door open to the acceptance to the fact that the Rough Riders may have indeed taken their revolvers with them to Cuba. Jack did state this to me in a phone conversation but did think it was unlikely revolvers went to Cuba but did not have any documentation as to the revolvers being turned in and collected from the Rough Riders. The point being, there are just not that many pictures that show much detail of the Rough Riders in Cuba.
A picture freezes a moment in time. It will show what was in that location at that precise time. Where researches get into trouble is when they try to read into a picture messages that are not there. Just because an article does not appear in the picture does not mean that is was not at that location. It could have been out of sight or just out of view of the camera. Pictures of the Rough Riders do not show their underwear but we can probably assume that they did indeed have underwear. I have viewed many pictures with a magnifying glass to be able to see as much detail as the picture will allow. However when viewing pictures we cannot see what is behind an object or a person. One classic case in point is the famous picture of the Rough Riders atop San Juan Hill. There are four revolvers visible in the picture. However because of the way the troopers are sitting there could also be another 50 revolvers present that cannot be seen.
Another question that has been ask is: the Rough Riders displayed their revolvers predominantly while in Texas, Florida and again while in Camp Wikoff wouldn’t they have displayed them with pride in Cuba too if they had them? My answer to that question has been answered in the above paragraphs. There just was not that many pictures taken of the Rough Riders while they were in Cuba. Also while in Cuba it was a different situation. They were fighting a war and staying alive was more important than displaying a revolver. Many of the Rough Riders had been killed or wounded. Many of them had diseases. They were worried about staying alive in a hostile country. Back in the states, whether before or after the war, the atmosphere was totally different. It was much more relaxed. All you would have to do is to interview someone that has fought in a War with bullets flying overhead and ask them where they felt safer, at home in the US or in the or on the battlefront with bullets whizzing over-head? They are not going to be worried about showing off their weaponry to the camera while they are fighting to stay alive and dodging bullets.
Pictures can also lie to you. A case in point is during the Spanish American War the yellow trim on the cavalry uniform comes out to be a dark color in photographs of the time period. The Spanish uniform many time comes off looking as a solid off white uniform. In reality the Spanish uniform is a rayadillo pattern of dark blue and white stripes. This was also the case at a national Spanish American War reenactment in Texas where the Spanish uniforms were photographed and appeared as an off white using black and white film. At Montauk Point in 2000 at the national reenactment another picture was taken of Spanish uniforms but this time in color. The uniforms appeared to be a solid light blue uniform. Again the picture lied. Another way that pictures lie is that possibly a negative of the picture gets reversed. When this happens a rifle could appear to be a left-handed rifle. I have seen this in pictures of Sharps rifles as well as in the TNT movie “The Rough Riders” where it appears there is a left-handed Krag carbine. There were no left-handed Krag carbines ever made.
When looking at pictures for historic research don’t believe everything that you see in the picture with regard to color or right or left handed and don’t make conclusions about what you do not see in the picture. Pictures freeze a particular moment in time and place. It does not show what happened a few seconds before the picture was taken or a few seconds after the picture was taken. A picture does not show everything that was in the location in which the picture was taken, you cannot see behind things. However with all of that said, pictures are a very good source of information about a particular time period. It is just one source. As a researcher one should look at all available information including books, diaries, movies, interviews of people, paintings, prints, official records, regulations and, of course, pictures. Many times researchers think that pictures tell all but as I have shown pictures do not tell the whole story and in some cases, depending on how they are used, can give a false indication of the true story of events.
In Lieutenant John H. Parker’s book “The Gatlings at Santiago” he states on page 33 that there are hundreds of thousands of rounds of rifle and revolver ball cartridges stored at the Ordnance depot in Tampa. He goes on to say on page 46 of his book that Lt. Thompson had orders to send at once to the Cherokee 521,000 rounds of rifle-ball cartridges and all of the revolver ammunition on hand. Lt. Parker was to see to it that this ammunition got onboard the ship. This was the entire reserve ammunition of the 5th Corps. He was free to take a detachment as an escort or not. He obviously chose the Gatling detachment to be the escort. This was the only way the Gatling guns were allowed to go because no reference was made to the Gatling Gun detachment in the orders to disembark. Point of reference to this is that they took all of the revolver ammunition knowing that it would be needed. Cavalry troops would be the main consumers of this ammunition. This included the 1st USV Cavalry.
In Ron Ziel’s book on the Spanish-American War he also talks of revolvers for the volunteers. On page 157 Mr. Zeal writes, “Although the regular army had been fully equipped with a total of 53,571 Krag rifles and 11,715 Krag carbines during the War with Spain, the older .45-calibre “Trapdoor” rifle was issued to volunteer units (except the Rough Riders, whose prominent and well-connected commanders used their influence to obtain Krag carbines). The volunteers were armed with 84,391 .45-calibre rifles and 3,276 .45-calibre carbines. Between them, regular and volunteers also carried 9,515 .38-calibre revolvers and 13,363 .45s as well as 8,045 sabers.” Some of the .45 caliber revolvers were issued to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry.
Probably the best-written evidence that the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry had revolvers in Cuba comes from Theodore Roosevelt himself in his writings of “The Santiago Campaign, The Rough Riders”. Six times TR mentions revolvers in his text and each one of these supports the view that the Rough Riders did indeed carry revolvers in Cuba. The following are where TR talks of revolvers:
1. page 41 “we succeeded in getting our rifles, cartridges, revolvers, clothing, shelter tents and horse gear just in time to enable us to go on the Santiago expedition.”
2. page 62 “There were Goodwin, and Buck Taylor, and Armstrong the ranger, crack shots with rifles and revolver.”
3. page 68 “Our arms were the regular cavalry carbine, the “Krag” a splendid weapon, and the revolver.”
4. page 145 “Lt Davis’s first sergeant, Clarence Gould, killed a Spaniard with his revolver, just as the Spaniard was aiming at one of my Rough Riders.”
5. page 165 “Goodwin was a natural shot, not only with the rifle and revolver, but with a sling.” This is important because TR would have had to witness his shooting in order to make the statement
These 5 are in addition to the evidence already cited at the beginning of this study where Roosevelt witnessed Private Morrison pounding his coffee with the butt end of his revolver which makes number 6.
The Cavalry Drill regulations of 1898 also addresses the issue of revolvers. It states in paragraph 569 the following, "Noncommissioned officers commanding troops or platoons have the same armament as the men of their troops. So it would appear that if the sergeants and corporals were armed with revolvers the enlisted men of their command would have revolvers also,
The author Franklin B. Mallory well noted for his work on the Krag rifles has also addressed the issue of the Rough Riders being armed with revolvers while in Cuba. In the Jan/Feb 1989 issue of Man At Arms magazine he writes an article entitled "Guns of the Rough Riders". He states the following: "Although the Rough riders mainly relied on their Krag carbines in the pressing attack on Santiago, there are several accounts of revolvers being used in the close-in fighting in and around the Spanish trenches that followed the famous charge; and there is no doubt that the Artillery revolvers were used in this action". Mr. Mallory leaves little doubt that the Rough riders did use revolvers while in Cuba.
The Rough Riders were a varied lot of men but mostly cowboy types and outdoorsmen. These men were expert shots and many of the westerners carried a revolver on a daily basis. Would these men want to give up a weapon they felt comfortable with and that could possibly save their life? My thought is I don’t think they would.
The Rough Riders were issued revolvers in Texas and also had revolvers at Camp Wikoff. In the absence of a paper trail of orders disarming them, they probably had them in Cuba. An order of that magnitude would more than likely be a written one but so far none has been found. Only one picture shows up of a Rough Rider with a machete but they were more than likely used in Cuba. Pictures cannot always be counted on to give us the full story. I am unsure where the information originated that supports the idea the .45 Colts did not make it to Cuba. In TR’s own words the revolvers were in Cuba. In all of the information that I have searched through not once did I find anything that would suggest that the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry had been disarmed of their revolvers. The exact opposite is true. All the information points to the “Rough Riders” being armed with revolvers in Cuba. All of the “Rough Riders” may not have had revolvers but it is for sure that many did have them from the officers down to the lowly private. Yes even the privates had them in Cuba.
Well, did the Rough Riders have their revolvers in Cuba? You be the judge. If documentation does exist that supports the fact that all did not have revolvers I would love to see it. I think that we as historians should be open to all interpretation of the information. To say that the Rough Riders did not have their revolvers is not being fair to history especially when there is no documentation stating that fact. The problem with misinformation is that the more often it is repeated the more likely it is to be accepted as fact, when, in fact, it may not be true at all. Let those that believe the Rough Riders turned in their revolvers bring forth their documentations to prove their side.
Reenactors today strive to portray as accurately as possible the time period of their interest. Spanish-American War reenactors are no different. For the powers to be to exclude a piece of equipment by saying it is not correct or in “context”, when no documentation is brought forth, is an injustice to history. It is however out of “context” to allow equipment that is documented not to have been used at a certain time period. However this is not necessarily a bad thing to allow some “incorrect” equipment to be used. An example of this is the use of Model 1898 Krag rifles instead of the rarer Model 1896 Krag rifle. Another example would be to allow the use of Gatling Guns that may not be the correct model or the use of “gas simulators” with Gatling Guns. These things, although not in “context” do add a positive to the overall impression. While these things are out of “context” but allowed, the use of revolvers while in “context” are not allowed. This is where the injustice occurs.
In closing I would like to issue a challenge to those that support the view that the Rough Riders did not have revolvers in Cuba to come forth and submit a well-written study presenting their documentation in support of that viewpoint. I do believe that I have present a convincing study to support my view of, “the Rough Riders did indeed have revolvers in Cuba”
1. Cohen, Stan, Images of the Spanish-American War, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co. Inc., 1997.
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Andrew L. Bresnan, Captain G Troop
1st US Volunteer Cavalry reenactment unit