Edith asked to raise Theodore’s daughter Alice as if she were her own, Theodore agreed. But in that same year, Edith gave birth to a child of her own. A baby boy who they named Theodore Roosevelt Jr and four more children would follow over the next decade. Their names were Kermit, Ethel, Archie and Quentin.
After deciding to step back into politics and helping out Benjamin Harrison, Roosevelt would spend the next six years in the nation's capital, learning the ways of Washington and making friends. But rooting out unqualified postmasters did not sustain the national attention he craved. In a memo, Roosevelt wrote…
I used to walk past the White House, and my heart would beat a little faster as the thought came to me that possibly–possibly– I would some day occupy it as President.
On May 6, 1895 at 8:30 in the morning, Roosevelt walked up the steps of New York police headquarters on Mulberry Street. Following him were a group of eager reporters rushing alongside him, trying to keep up as he shouted “Where are our offices!?” “What do we do first?!”
At this time the NYPD was corrupt and the newly elected Mayor appointed Roosevelt as one of four police commissioners to clean it up. He would take reporters with him as he walked around New York at night; he was on the lookout for policemen who dared sleep or drink on duty. Roosevelt forced the police superintendent and his deputy inspector to resign. He also enforced the Sunday closing law that would force saloons to close on the day of the Sabbath, a law that was ignored by the police up until that time.
This angered a lot of German workers. Sunday was the only day off work they had and on that day off they all looked forward to a drink. Because of Roosevelt, this was no longer possible. Roosevelt didn’t necessarily agree with the law, but he enforced it because it was a law and when 30,000 German workers decided to protest, Roosevelt made it a point to turn up to the protest. They thought he wouldn’t show up because he wouldn’t be able to bare the criticism. But he said “I’d be happy to come” and so he stood on this day and watched the workers go past with signs denouncing him and calling him the worst police commissioner in U.S. history and all he did was grin and wave his hat.
William McKinley was elected president in 1896 and Roosevelt pushed him to give him a new role as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. When McKinley asked Roosevelt’s friend his opinion, he said he would be delighted to see Roosevelt return to Washington, and so Roosevelt was given the position. It’s thought he wanted the position to ready the Navy for the 20th century.
When Cuban revolutionaries raised up an army against their Spanish rulers in 1895, Roosevelt wanted the United States to intervene immediately on their behalf. In 1898 a U.S battleship blew up in Havana harbour in Cuba. 266 Americans were killed and Roosevelt blamed the Spanish and called for vengeance. When Roosevelt’s boss took the weekend off, he seized the opportunity to advise squadron leaders around the world to be on high alert and told the Navy to prepare to attack the Spanish fleet in the Philippines when the time came. When McKinley asked congress for a deceleration of war, the U.S. Navy went into Manila harbour and destroyed the entire Spanish fleet that where anchored there, without losing a single American sailor. But Spain still had Cuba.
Although Roosevelt was 39 years old, a father of 6 and held an important position in Washington, he was still determined to get to the front line. Roosevelt left the Navy, had a uniform designed and went into the war as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 1st Volunteer Cavalry and although the outfit was not commanded by him, they all soon came to be known as “Teddy’s Terrors”, “Teddy’s Cowboy Contingent”, and finally “Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.” They also had their own theme song, “There will be a hot time in the old town tonight”
The regiment consisted of 1,000 eager horsemen, mostly from the west. Buffalo hunters, sheriffs, marshals and Texas rangers. When the time came to sail for Cuba from Florida, Roosevelt was told he and his men would have to wait until the second wave of transport. Roosevelt refused to wait, disobeyed orders, commandeered a ship and ordered his men aboard.
Roosevelt and the Rough Riders were in the lead to their target 19 miles away when they were ambushed on a jungle path. Roosevelt wrote in a journal…
Yesterday we struck the Spaniards and had a brisk fight for 2 1/2 hours before we drove them out of their position. We lost a dozen men, killed or mortally wounded and 60 severely or slightly wounded. One man was killed as he stood beside me another bullet went through a tree behind which i stood and filled my eyes with bark. The last charge i led on the left using a rifle i took from a wounded man; and i kept 3 of the empty cartridges for the children.
They weren’t sure where the Spanish were firing from, but Roosevelt stood his ground and eventually ended in victory. As the assault on Kettle Hill began, Roosevelt and the Rough Riders awaited the order to attack. When the order did not come, Roosevelt led the men forward through the Milling Men. The summit of Kettle Hill gave him a clear view of the battle for San Juan heights. He decided to rush towards the fighting and gave an order for his men to follow. Only 5 men did. 3 were killed. Roosevelt retreated back and rallied his men and joined the assault from another side. That finally drove the enemy from its fortifications. After the war ended he went on to write a book about it, titled “Rough Riders”.
Roosevelt returned to the United States a hero and wasted no time in throwing his hat back into the political ring. He ran for Governor of New York and would have a bugle call sound before every speech. He speeches were nothing special, but his presence was everything. As he gave his speech standing on the back of a train, crowds of men and women would chase after it as it pulled away. Roosevelt won the election and became the Governor of New York.
In less than 6 months he secured passage of bills that taxed corporations, limited working hours for women and children, improved sweatshop conditions, created and protected forest preserves in the Catskills and the Adirondacks and progressive reformers all across the country took notice.