The following is from a series of newspaper articles on The Great War written by Theodore Roosevelt Jr. They're glued to an old family scrapbook, belonging to Richard Cashman, a Volunteer Guide at Sagamore Hill. We greatly appreciate his efforts to transcribe this fun insight into TR's life as told by his oldest son!
The series of 10 chapters is entitled,
"Average Americans In Olive Drab - The War As Seen By Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt."
From the time when we were very little boys we were always interested in miltary preparedness. My father belived very strongly in the necessity of each boy being able and willing not only to look out for himself but to look out for those near and dear to him. This gospel was preached to us all from the time we were very, very small. A story, told in the family of an incident which happeneded long before I can remember, illustrated this. Father told me one day always to be willing to fight anyone who insulted me. Shortly after this wails of grief arose from the nursery. Mother ran upstairs and found my little brother Kermit howling in a corner. When she demanded an explanation I told her that he had insulted me by taking away some of my blocks so I had hit him on the head with a mechanical rabbit.
We spent our summers at Oyster Bay. There in addition to our family, were three other families of little Roosevelts. We were all taught out-of-door life. We spent our days riding and shooting, wandering through the woods and playing out-of-door games. Underlying all this was father's dsire to have all of us children grow up manly and clean-minded with not only the desire but the ability to play our part at the country's need.
Father himself was our companion whenever he could get away from his work. Many times he camped out with us on Lloyds Neck, the only "grown-up" of the party. We always regarded him as a great asset at times like these. He could think up more delightful things to do than we could in a "month of Sundays." In the evening when the bacon that sizzled in the frying pan had been eaten we gathered round the fire. The wind soughed through the marsh grass, the waves rippled against the shore and father told us stories. Of the children who composed these picnics, two died in service in this war, two were wounded and all but one volunteered, regardless of age, at the outbreak of hostilities.
When we were all still little tadpoles father went to the war with Spain. We were too little, or course, to appreciate anything except the glamour. When he decided to go almost all his friends and advisers told him he was making a mistake. Indeed, I think my mother was the only one who felt he was doing right. In talking it over afterward when I had grown much older father explained to me that in preaching self-defense and willingness to fight for a proper cause he could not be effective if he refused to go when the opportunity came and urged that "it was different" in his case. He often said, "Ted I would much rather explain why I went to the war than why I did not."
Father and mother believed in robust righteousness. In the stories and poems that they read us they always bore this in mind. "Pilgram's Progress" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" we knew when we were very young. When father was dressing for dinner he used to teach us poetry. I can remember memorizing all the most stirring parts of Longfellow's "Saga of King Olaf," "Sheridan's Ride" and the "Sinking of the Cumberland." The gallant incidents in history were told us in such a way that we never forgot them. In Washington when father was civil service commissioner I often walked to the office with him. On the way down he would talk history to me - not the dry history of dates and charters, but the history where you yourself in your imagination could assume the role of the principal actors, as every well-contructed boy wishes to do when interested. During every battle we would stop and father would draw out the full plan in the dust in the gutter with the tip of his umbrella.
Long before the European war had broken over the world father would discuss with us military training and the neceessity for every man being able to take his part.
More from the newspaper article
"Average Americans In Olive Drab," by Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
At School and at college father encouraged us to take part in the games and sports. None of us was a really good athlete-father himself was not-but we all put into it all we had. He was just as much interested in hearing what we had done on the second football team or class crew as if we had been varsity stars.
He always preached to us one maxim in particular; Take all legitimate chances in your favor when going into combat. He used to enforce this by telling us of a man with whom he had once been hunting. The man was naturally a better walker than father. Father selected his shoes with great care. The man did not. After the first few days father was always able to outwalk and outhunt him just on this account. Father always went over his equipment with the greatest care before going on a trip and this sort of thoroughness was imbued in all his sons.
A MATTER OF LAW
"Ted every man should defend his country," I can remember him saying to me. "It should be a matter of law. Taxes are levied by law. They are not optional. It is not permitted for a man to say that it is against his religious beliefs to pay taxes or that he feels that it is an abrogation of his own personal freedom. The blood tax is more important than the dollar tax. It should not be therfore a voluntary contribution, but should be levied on all alike.
" Toward the winter of 1917 father talked ever increasingly to all of us concerning his chance of being permitted to take a division or unit of some sort to Europe. When war was declared he took this matter up directly with the President. What happened is now history. He took his disappointment as he took many other disappointments in his life. Often after he had worked with all that was in him for something, when all that could be done was done, he would say, "We have done all we can; the result is now on the knees of the gods."
Meanwhile he was constatnly interested in and constantly talked with all of us about what we were doing. At laast, two months after we severed diplomatic relations, training camps for officers were called into being with enormous waste of inefficiencey and we ambled slowly toward the training of an army and it's commanding personnel.
All of us except my brother Quentin left for Plattsburg. Quentin had telephoned from college to father to say he would go into the air service, where his real ability as a mechanician stood him in good stead.
Our last days in this country were spent with the family. Archie and I went with our wives to Oyster Bay, where father, mother and Quentin were. My wife even then announced her intention of going to Europe in some auxillary branch, but she promised me she would not start without my permission. The promise was evidently made in the Pickwickian sense, as when I cabled her from Europe not to come the answer that I got was the announcement of her arrival in Paris. There were six of our immediate family in the American Expeditionary Forces, my wife, one brother-in-law, Richard Derby, and we four brothers, Father, busy as he was, during the entire time we were abroad wrote to each of us weekly, and when he physically could in his own hand.
(more to come!)