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Charging Up San Juan Hill

Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of Imperial America

John R. Van Atta

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How Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders exemplified "manhood" and civic virtue.

Below a Cuban sun so hot it stung their eyes, American troops hunkered low at the base of Kettle Hill. Spanish bullets zipped overhead, while enemy artillery shells landed all around them. Driving Spanish forces from the high ground would mean gaining control of Santiago, Cuba, and, soon enough, American victory in the Spanish-American War. No one doubted that enemy fire would claim a heavy toll, but these unusual citizen-soldiers and their unlikely commander—39-year-old Colonel Theodore Roosevelt—had…

How Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders exemplified "manhood" and civic virtue.

Below a Cuban sun so hot it stung their eyes, American troops hunkered low at the base of Kettle Hill. Spanish bullets zipped overhead, while enemy artillery shells landed all around them. Driving Spanish forces from the high ground would mean gaining control of Santiago, Cuba, and, soon enough, American victory in the Spanish-American War. No one doubted that enemy fire would claim a heavy toll, but these unusual citizen-soldiers and their unlikely commander—39-year-old Colonel Theodore Roosevelt—had volunteered for exactly this kind of mission.

In Charging Up San Juan Hill, John R. Van Atta recounts that fateful day in 1898. Describing the battle’s background and its ramifications for Roosevelt, both personal and political, Van Atta explains how Roosevelt’s wartime experience prompted him to champion American involvement in world affairs. Tracking Roosevelt’s rise to the presidency, this book argues that the global expansion of American influence—indeed, the building of an empire outward from a strengthened core of shared values at home—connected to the broader question of cultural sustainability as much as it did to the increasing of trade, political power, and military might.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt personified American confidence. A New York City native and recovered asthmatic who spent his twenties in the wilds of the Dakota Territory, Roosevelt leapt into the war with Spain with gusto. He organized a band of cavalry volunteers he called the Rough Riders and, on July 1, 1898, took part in their charge up a Cuban hill the newspapers called San Juan, launching him to national prominence. Without San Juan, Van Atta argues, Roosevelt—whom the papers credited for the victory and lauded as a paragon of manhood—would never have reached a position to become president.

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Charging Up San Juan Hill

John R. Van Atta

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Reviews

Reviews

The strength of Van Atta's work is its brisk and engrossing narrative of the causes of the Spanish-American War; of the formation, actions, and meaning of the Rough Riders; and of the political benefits that Colonel Roosevelt reaped from serving... This approachable work will be well received in an undergraduate course as an engaging introduction to the cultural factors of the Spanish-American War and how masculine regeneration and American imperialism intersected.

Van Atta’s study of the ideological currents and contests of the Gilded Age sheds new light on the history of Theodore Roosevelt and the legendary exploits of his illustrious ‘cowboy’ regiment—the Rough Riders—who endured intense heat and privation in the Cuban wilderness to prove America’s mettle and manhood.

John Van Atta’s exciting narrative highlights the singular event that created the modern United States. Teddy Roosevelt’s heroic charge revived Manifest Destiny, put the United States on the world stage, and laid the groundwork for Roosevelt to become an imperialist president.

Charging Up San Juan Hill is not the militarily-focused account one might expect. Van Atta's book provides a fuller treatment of US involvement in the Spanish-American War, pondering the wider conceptual debates of the 1890s to provide valuable context for the conflict and those who played a role in it.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
224
ISBN
9781421425870
Illustration Description
10 b&w illus., 1 map
Table of Contents

Prologue: Old Values, New Challenges
1 Legacies
2 Jingo Doctrines
3 Teddy’s Terrors
4 Crowded Hour
5 New Empire
Epilogue: Eclipse of Old Heroes
Acknowledgments
Notes
Essay on Sources
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

John R. Van Atta

John R. Van Atta teaches history and constitutional law at the Brunswick School in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is author of The Wolf by the Ears: The Missouri Crisis, 1819–1821, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins.