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Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood

Partners in Command

John S. D. Eisenhower

Publication Year: 2014

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of his administration was reorganization of the War Department, which the war with Spain had proved disastrously outdated.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.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-4

This is the story not of two men, but of a friendship, an association. President Theodore Roosevelt and General Leonard Wood, two remarkable men, were the leading proponents of American strength and power during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Greatly different in personality...

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1. The Birth of a Friendship

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pp. 5-6

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...

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2. Sagamore Cowboy, Theodore Roosevelt

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pp. 7-13

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...

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3. Doctor on Horseback, Leonard Wood

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pp. 14-20

Unlike the wealthy Theodore Roosevelt, Leonard Wood came from relatively modest beginnings. But his ambition was just as strong, and in some ways more remarkable.
He was a New Englander, born at Winchester, New Hampshire, on October...

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4. The Path to War

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pp. 21-29

Roosevelt and Wood, having discovered how much they had in common, had no intention of allowing their new friendship to die. Because their places of work were so close—Wood’s in the White House and Roosevelt’s in the State–War–Navy Building across the street—getting together was easy. They...

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5. On to Cuba

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pp. 30-40

Leonard Wood knew that his appointment as a line officer, even of volunteers, would cause resentment in the Regular Army. However, his ambition far overcame his inhibitions. He knew he was prepared for that transition, for in his off hours throughout his years of doctoring he had been studying tactics...

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6. Las Guasimas

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pp. 41-51

General William Shafter’s Fifth Corps was small by usual military standards; it consisted of only about sixteen thousand officers and men, twenty–three hundred horses and mules, two hundred wagons, sixteen light guns, a dozen heavier guns, and other weapons.1 It was, however, the largest force that could...

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7. San Juan Hill

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pp. 52-59

Once General William Shafter had debarked from the Seguranca and assumed direct command of his corps, he lost no time in looking over the terrain between his headquarters and San Juan Hill. In so doing, he established an observation post on a key hillock named El Pozo, on the main road to Santiago...

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8. The Surrender of Santiago

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pp. 60-68

Though Shafter’s men had seized San Juan Heights, the Spaniards were by no means finished. The men previously atop the hill had merely dropped back and entrenched themselves in a strong reverse–slope position only three hundred yards away. The exhausted Americans had suffered heavier casualties...

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9. Governor Wood

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pp. 69-77

Leonard Wood’s appointment as governor of Santiago removed him from Shafter’s force, thereby ending his day–to–day official relationship with Roosevelt. Nevertheless, the friendship and periodic alliances between the two men persisted for the rest of their lives. Before their complete separation...

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10. Tom Platt Creates a President

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pp. 78-85

Alger and McKinley were rightfully angry to learn of Shafter’s “round– robin,” especially since it reached them by way of the newspapers. To boot, they somehow learned of Roosevelt’s role in giving it impetus.1 Nevertheless, in public they reacted cautiously, confining their actions to writing a letter of...

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11. Commander in Chief

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pp. 86-101

A president of the United States plays many roles—chief of state, chief executive, party leader, moral leader, among others. But the role that seems to give the greatest pride to a president is that of commander in chief of the armed forces. Certainly, it was a role that Theodore Roosevelt relished...

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12. The Rise of John J. Pershing

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pp. 102-107

While Theodore Roosevelt was in his first term as president and Leonard Wood was governing Cuba, another figure was rising on the scene: John J. Pershing, captain, 10th Cavalry.
Nobody at that time could possibly predict Pershing’s distinguished future...

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13. Philippines, 1902–8

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pp. 108-117

In late–May 1902, Major General Leonard Wood and his wife set sail from Havana, bound for the United States. With Cuba now an independent nation, his duties as the American governor had come to an end. The Cubans gave the Woods a lavish send–off, a tribute to the man who had governed them for...

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14. Chief of Staff

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pp. 118-132

On November 9, 1908, Leonard Wood assumed command of the Eastern Department, US Army, a position next to that of the chief of staff in importance. As such, his authority spread from New England down to Florida and even to the Panama Canal. Such of the country’s militia forces as were...

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15. The Sinking of the Lusitania

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pp. 133-138

Theodore Roosevelt was a man who held strong likes and dislikes, and one of his dislikes was Woodrow Wilson. Their personalities were at the ends of the pole—the man of action versus the intellectual. But the difference in personality was not the cause for animosity; it was Wilson’s habit of throwing...

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16. The Buildup Starts

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pp. 139-144

The sinking of the Lusitania came as less of a surprise to Wood than to most Americans, because, unlike his countrymen, he had long been convinced that war was coming. Nevertheless, it did not change his status.
Roosevelt, on the other hand, was aroused, so much so that he resurrected...

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17. On the Shelf

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pp. 145-157

In March 1916, Theodore Roosevelt met with a group of friends, all Republicans, in New York City. The purpose was to discuss the presidential campaign of 1916. Among the group were Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Leonard Wood. A secondary purpose of the meeting was to mend fences...

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18. “The Old Lion Is Dead”

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pp. 158-162

When Roosevelt and Wood left Washington in the summer of 1917, Wood simply stayed on duty. Roosevelt, however, resumed his campaign of fury against Woodrow Wilson, blaming the president and his administration for everything that was falling short of expectations...

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19. Wood Carries On

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pp. 163-168

Word of Roosevelt’s unexpected death flashed across the country instantly. Wood, still at Camp Funston, received the news as he sat down to breakfast that same morning. He was not a demonstrative type, and in public he displayed little emotion, but in his diary he wrote, “Sad, sad business, all of it. I...

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pp. 169-170

They were two ambitious, driving men, nearly obsessed with power, both personal and national. Oddly, Theodore Roosevelt, a master politician, fancied himself a soldier. Leonard Wood, a great soldier and administrator, flirted with the idea he had political talents as well...

Appendix A. Order of Battle

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pp. 171-172

Appendix B. Timeline

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pp. 173-174


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pp. 175-178

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pp. 179-180

As always for more than twenty years, my right arm in this effort has been Mrs. Dorothy W. (Dodie) Yentz, who keeps the “official” manuscript, prepares it for final submission, and performs a myriad of other functions. My wife, Joanne, also assists as always, by providing suggestions and giving encouragement...


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pp. 181-190

About the Author

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pp. 191

E-ISBN-13: 9780826273017
E-ISBN-10: 0826273017
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826220004
Print-ISBN-10: 0826220002

Page Count: 205
Illustrations: 14 illustrations, 4 maps, index
Publication Year: 2014