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Notes of a War Correspondent

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(1897)


Richard Harding Davis was the preeminent battlefield war correspondent of his day. Davis wrote the book "Notes of a War Correspondent" based on dispatches filed for the Hearst newspapers. Quite a dandy among correspondents of his time, when the US declared war on Spain in early 1898 and volunteer regiments were being raised all across the United States, Davis endeared himself with Lt Col Theodore Roosevelt and Roosevelt's military mentor, Colonel Leonard Wood, who together had raised the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, the rag-tag collection of Cowboys, Indians and Wall Street society types that came to be known as the "Rough Riders." The Rough Riders were described as a combination of Wall Street and Wall Street millionaires, society page, sports page and rags-to-riches stories all rolled into one.

When the Rough Riders deployed from San Antonio to Tampa Florida in May 1898, Davis went with them and boarded the same vessel as the over-all Corps Commander, General Shaffer. However when Davis chafed at being treated as just another reporter and challenged his being kept back from the initial landing at Daiquiri, Cuba, on 22 June 1898. Davis managed to get completely on the wrong side of the rotund Shaffer who was not at all impressed with his resume and told him quite angrily that he did not give a damn who he was, he would be treated no differently than the rest. This put Davis and Shaffer at permanent odds from that day on. Davis eventually went ashore with Wood and Roosevelt and after covering the developments from the US, he wrote several outstanding accounts of the then subsequent events including the landings at Daiquiri and Siboney, the June 24th Battle of Las Guasimas and the final battle of San Juan Hill on 1 July 1898. Roosevelt had Davis by his side from the landings onward. Davis' account of the Battle of Las Guasimas is based on first-hand experience not only as a reporter but as a participant who picked up a rifle from a wounded soldier and plunked away at the hidden Spaniards. With his superior British army binoculars, Davis was able to locate the concealed position of Spaniards on the right side of the battle line. This help to the future 26th US President would be noted in T.R's own series of articles that would be published in book form as "The Rough Riders." Davis would go on to describe the famed charge of the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill and the final surrender of Santiago de Cuba and the Spanish Army in SE Cuba. Davis would cover the Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War. His books are inside looks at warfare and the crucial component of warfare and leadership.-- Submitted by Major Keith F. Simon, USMCR (Ret) Trustee, Theodore Roosevelt Association.

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