tv Clay Risen The Crowded Hour CSPAN August 14, 2019 4:58am-5:55am EDT
good evening, and welcome to green lights bookstore. we are honored [inaudible] theodore roosevelt the roughriders dawn of the american century. before i turn things over these turnoffs or silence your cell phones or other devices. books are available for sale. if you want to see what is happening the rest of the summer and in case you haven't noticed tonight's event is being recorded by booktv. our interviewer this evening is the author of the award-winning best-sellers a little bonfire in
the forthcoming the world made by women a history of women from the apple to the pill. her work includes the bbc netflix a series. her next project is the exhibition for the summer opening of buckingham palace. she will be speaking with the feature author deput the deputyd editor of "the new york times" and the author of historical works in a shed on fire, america in the wake of the assassinati assassination, the belle of the centurbill of thecentury the bal rights act as well as a guide to scotland and best-selling bourbon and try. he's also our neighbor that has appeared on the stage many times to talk about history and whiskey so we are glad to have him here with us again. his new book dives deep into the
life of theodore roosevelt's roughriders bringing his hugely influential moment in history and contemporary life on america's standing in the world are after. by fellow authors and historians including jon meacham and douglas brinkley he says it showcases theodore roosevelt and all of the glory. it brings it back to life in the vibrant pages and the patriotism and political genius are captured in this site you are in for something special tonight. he will be reading from the buck and then amanda will join in the conversation and you will have a chance to ask your questions after that. please join me in welcoming to
the stage clay risen. [applause] i didn't come prepared. [laughter] i want to think gree thank greer hosting me. it is a pleasure to have a bookstore like this right down the street and know that from the very beginning of moving into this neighborhood this wasn't just a bookstore but a place to talk about networks so to have so many friends, neighbors, coworkers.
hopefully we will have a little fun tonight. i will read a little bit from the book. it should be evident it is about theodore roosevelt and, sorry about that, this is where i'm really not prepared. i didn't even have my microphone on. so, this is the 32nd version america declared war on spain premier league over cuba and this was our first humanitarian intervention. america had by all a mandated cap of 28,000 officers and soldiers, so right away there was a need for people to go and
fight the war. so, roosevelt who at the time was working the navy department proposed the idea of getting together not just volunteers but people who could quickly go into the war because they have certain skills to describe it like that movie where he has certain skills like a dirty dozen. rachel laughed. [laughter] so recruited a thousand college athletes, people from all walks of life. in short order they went to train and then to cuba.
the section i will read tonight is a small bit of what proves to be the battle but not the end of the war and certainly not the end of the roughriders story but this is the most famous thing people think about 4 a.m. on july 117000 men who comprised the fifth corps crawls from under their blanket and out of their tent. surgeons went shaking them away more than 10,000 soldiers were in camp. the rest were already a few miles north. for the assault on another town.
if they claim the slopes and this is a little too looking out over santiago it's hard enough they can see the glow 7 miles away where they had a small fire for coffee or bacon. few have any illusion about what the day has in store for them. that night, the night before, the word passed down that morning they were going to take the height. on paper the battle had been unfolded the major engagement for the civil war but also the sites that had receded from the common memory into was nothing like the weeklong battle that followed in the 20th century like bellow was. it was an assault on the capital
in the caribbean with a few hundred deaths on both sides. they were formidable but haven't compared the union the soldiers scaled are the army rangers climbed on d-day and get the battle remains among the most important celebrated in the contest of engagement in history. numbers and typography tell us little about that morning to the volunteers with extraordinary significance. for many it was to be their first experience of combat and for most, their last. they have a right to be a trade. by the end of the day, one out of every six of them would be dead or wounded, but there was something else, something collected and energizing and in a way much more daunting than the prospect of being shot by a
spanish bullet. they would declare to the world of the united states army to the european number to the power and not just any army that the enlisted regulars a force most would dismiss. if you pause to think of the soldiers against them that had been weakened and emotionally demoralized like the years of counterinsurgency warfare area to the men in the invasions considered the numbers were in their favor since they were far away from the americans resulting in the ratio in their favor along the eastern lines. nor for that matter to the rank-and-file of how many they made and how those mistakes that come close to erasing whatever
advantage thadvantage they helde outset. no one understood what would come next or how they would recover if they lost. outside the inner circle it is unlikely anyone realized in either instance there was no plan for victory or defeat. one thing was sure dozens of correspondents were watching and the news of the flight would spread around the world in a near instant thanks to the progress and the presence of william randolph hearst in prison watching the battle unfold from a nearby hill. that morning around the campfire there was only this, this valley got us to this fight. [applause]
it is a so rare to read these history books. would've made it so special is that it's a genuine page turner and that doesn't happen very often but it's been such a pleasure to meet you and with lots of questions one of course has to be why this topic. the easy answer is when i was a kid my boy scout troop was the roughriders and no one would claim that if it wasn't true. [laughter]
that story always stuck with me the outlines of a new but what actually happened is i have been going through obituaries. it's not a hobby but it's a great source for material if you come across obituaries from say the 1930s, the obituaries that are pretty robust and well reported. it's a great way to find stories about people who at one point for thought insignificant and today the may be faded from memy but also don't have a story to find and other people it might make a good magazine article but i came across a member of this
regimen and it wasn't somebody famous or a significant someone who went on to do something else and this was a trivial point. this is what made them famous their claim to fame so it struck me that they had always been an interesting story in roosevelt's biography, but then to read this persons biography and to say there is a significance here to the group that the totality was important in the american mind because of roosevelt but also separate survey struck me that i could dig into that and tell a full story other than just at this moment but also to try to capture the significance at the
time what was it about this war that made them significant in the american mentality what was it they captured at this moment, and can i put that into book form. >> when you say what is it about this more, my first question then would be can you separate for us the difference between a the filibusters from earlier what makes them different? >> these are individual private citizens who went to cuba often against the direction of the government to help revolutionaries and there had been two different phases there is a ten year war and then the truths and in 1895 that's what
the u.s. is responding to. you have those that are energized by this story even when they said we wouldn't be involved in this. i think what that story illustrates is the strong urgency in the population to do something. maybe not always in the majority of the public but certainly there were people that have a desire for adventure, this is something they wanted to risk their lives to do, and i think it's important to what ends up happening with the spanish-american war because so much of the story that we get is
for essentially tricked into the more. william and those essentially created the false premise for us to go to war and it's true there were people who really wanted us to go to war and they had their reason tha but i think that it excuses the fact so many americans over the years have been working at towards this point of moral certainty that we had to do something and whether it is they themselves were to pressure the government to do something about it, something was going to happen. >> a great deal of history seems to be the moral certainty the war of 1812 and onwards there is
the certainty driving these conflicts much more so than in europe. they began to have this need that goes with it. how much do you think that that tradition was driving the public sentiment? >> 100%. it comes at the end of the civil war generation as a body of leaders, so mckinley was the last president to serve in the civil war and any president before him had served in leadership positions both in government and business are marked by this experience.
looking at your up and saying they have a huge army and we are not going to be that country. yet at the same time the american economy is growing, the population is growing, technology and th in the same we talked about it was bringing us closer together. there was a sense that our time was running out as far as being able to isolate ourselves. so what wasn't america has to reconceive of its role we have to embrace the idea of what it means to be of power because whether we like it or not held we do it in a way that isn't what europe does and to me it offered an answer to do that because if you say it have a
moral purpose to it, then that allows people who maybe don't want a european-style military or foreign policy at least in the stereotype to embrace something else. we have a big military budgets to help the world it's not for two to three and this propaganda is what everybody wanted to believe. at the same time people who were very aggressively promoting an expansionist foreign policy who wanted to see the u.s. go out into the world sometimes for these reasons sold us as a great way to win over the census so you could say we need to go occupy cuba or build stations around the pacific but we need to do this for good reason. what was so striking when i was researching this is how many
articles in the north american review and harvard and it took longer for the journals that were very popular at the time the arguments were being put forth for intervening in having a larger military with the same thing that you heard in the run-up to world war ii in the early stages of vietnam and the bombs before the iraq war. the same rhetoric and justifications for going out into the world into starting a war for the same thing and it was to the point it's kind of generic to hear today was sort of cliché but at the time it was new. >> one side of the coin is what you are talking about in this exceptionalism that the other side is fundamental set.
it was marked by this tension between what i call the hamiltonian zinda jacksonian belief that america was a country of minutemen. we are the country of older for volunteers, farmers, citizen soldiers, volunteers who in the event of a war would gather and go off and fight. you would see this time after time. i would go out as a volunteer state because so many went off to start opened her to go fight in mexico, sending and 61 which isn't a common phrase that in the warit was an idea we were a
peaceful country and now we are at war with each other. the idea was that happens when we needed otherwise we go back to being a peaceful country. they have a different idea. the hambletonian idea was that soonesooneror later this isn't o work. it always results in huge casualties even when we win, hundreds of thousands of untrained men get killed when the civil war breaks out and we are having a quick fight in a four and a half year blood fast part of that can be or would be explained they didn't know what they were doing so they were going off just slaughtering each other. eventually, we are going to have a war with another country that is well prepared and we are
going to get destroyed. we need an army that is at least at its core ready to fight so those are still strengths we hear today. we have this idea of americans in the citizen soldiers who are not a garrison state. we don't have a universal draft. we have a volunteer army and all kinds of national guard and reserve into people who are willing to fight with her feisty work in their regular lives and i think they brought together the tension to resolve them. we've long had the system with a tiny military and its precursor for the national guard but it was just a state-level militia. most of these guys didn't fight.
they didn't even really trained to pick uthey got together occay absent we are in a state militia and those that were in units like that in cuba are just decimated. yet you have a group like the roughriders with the idea, the concept is these are people ready to fight, trained to some extent, they have a background and they are integrated into the army they are not just troops brought in at the last minute. they are ready to go. it presented a new idea where you could have a synthesis of a core army in a larger group you could call on and that is essentially what we have today.
they grew up in pennsylvania and a literary family, went to college, decided he wanted to be a journalist along the way. he worked for a college newspaper and decided he loved journalism and it proved to be a really great journalist and a very modern way, he adopted a lot of reporting technique is. but at the time, the idea. hit would give different points of view as he wrote in one article. this ended up in new york, first a newspaper reporter and then just kind of a freelancer making enormous sums of money.
he was a very handsome man for the time. [laughter] what i mean is that he defined what it meant to be a good-looking person. unlike other than his age and older, he was clean-shaven and so often portrayed by caricatures hi this portrait ofe articles and a woman is the kind of victorian american, this is
purposes they were paid enormous amounts of money to go for a month and there was no problem going to cuba. they could have just got on a boat but instead they wanted to hire someone to drop them off in the territory in the middle of the night and there was this whole romantic vision that they couldn'but theycouldn't find ano it. great of a famous american skier to document us didn't want to er
adventure. the there is nothing going on showing them what they wanted and what they wanted to see so they telegraphed back to reading tim said he didn't say that. davis, however, ended up going over and breaking away into the rebel territory ended up going behind and got a picture of how terrible things were. and it really was terrible. at least 100,000 had been massacred were killed.
they were set up to control the population and davis came back after a month and was flailing stories and telling the world about what he saw and he wrote a book about what he saw that came out a few months later and he became very hawkish and basically became almost a missionary with his zeal he made a very strong humanitarian case. one more detail about status if you go back and read his stuff today it's pretty good. some of his novels are better than others. his reporting is really good. he ended up becoming attached
and filed reports that read very well today. they are biased and pro- roosevelt but it is with great detail and in a way they were very similar where they were ahead of their time is quickly became eclipsed by the moment that follows the. they were both, davis was so of the moment and understood with professional journalism was you could make stuff up and he was really committed to truth finding but also fundamentally a romantic believed he could do all of that. that. >> one of the things you
documented so well can you just enlarge on that? >> of these were men who never fought in the war. a few of the older officers that by and large hat on top of it to you that they were going to go and save a difference. it's an interesting story because in some ways, they did without the idea of what they would go through but in the
details, but they went through was a terrible experience. relatively few americans died in this battle. on the floor died of disease, malnutrition area of th the army waarmywas the incredibly ill prd for fighting in a tropical environment in the middle of the summer you would think there are special things we need to do for that and instead they were given the same kind of things that they would wear a. a. there was so much bacon in the book in fact one of the chapters is a quote from people at the times had one is the monotony of continuous bacon. [laughter]
there's a lot of, why not. but that would give malnutrition and then it there were all sorts of terrible things. and the experiences after the fact many of them suffered long-term consequences for being in the war in this experience, and i think also coming back and being celebrated i as the most famous man and when they came back there was a quarantine there are still some sites around are name that are named e roughriders had roosevelt so there is still a connection and at the time they were able to come into the city where
everything was given to them. they knew it and walked around with their uniforms but also it hurt them in a way because they would be handled we only know the romantic versions of that is what you have to play out. when they came back they were both successful, multiple u.s. open winners and both of them died young and very tragically.
there were many stories like that at the time it was not understood that way. what was so amazing about the story is that it was a complex story. all this happens withi of this a spread of months. none of them had any idea they were going to go to war and by the summer they had been trained, they are walking through the jungle getting shot at by spaniards and they go through this horrible siege their friends are role-playing then they get on boats and come back and it is as if everything were a picnic and to imagine that is terrifying.
>> it is time for one more questions for me and then we will go to the audience. did your opinion change should? >> when i started, in a weird way i think i've come around to where i started. i still believe that but with a little more evidence to say it. this is somebody who on the one hand had opinions that the time were difficult to swallow particularly before the war what america's role was an what amera should look like a.
it was a very racist view in all honesty although he himself often went out of his way to he integrated the white house by having booker t. washington over for dinner so dismantled complicated views and through the course of the writing i went back and forth a lot because there were moments where you can't not admire him. it is poorly written and kind of gross. henry james moved to make fun of him and hated roosevelt so much. there are some great reviews.
but at the end of the day, he was a look awas older than thats hard to swallow that. when the war came along he went fundamentally because he felt he had an obligation having a supported the war to actually go himself. i think that there's some adventurism going on a. he had an obligation to go do this thing and was very moralistic in good ways and bad but he was someone committed to honesty in the sense that he looked down on people who didn't live up to his code so you go through these things and find
these episodes. that's awesome he's such a great guy that you turn to the next one. he's kind of a jerk. >> they are a complicated peop people. he is all of those things. >> you have a very nuanced argument in the asp about the nature and the role as the self-appointed policemen into the origins of that. so, on that note we have time for a few questions you discuss
the place the book has as far as going against a particular argument about how they filled with isolationism. is there any history that suggests conventional wisdom and you are arguing against a. >> it's not that that's wrong but what i wanted to do is complicate that a little bit and show how self aware they were. there isn't much scholarship
around but as much as the story is told. it's a crazy bunch of guys that go to the war and one thing i try to pull out is how self aware that they were in difference of going to war but also where their plac face was n that order and what it meant going ahead, one of the characters i follow through the book, a young student who's grown up and was the son of the inventor of the combine harvesters seeking from monday in ohio and was like a small student in new york. his father didn't want him to go
into there were letters back and forth saying my country is going to war. he understood that he said within this bigger picture. they said i know you've already missed the coals but i think i can get you into the roughriders and this whole story of how he ended up catching up with them. i won't give away the rest. but it was difficult where a lot of them were. they were not just doing this for that they were human characters, but they had an idea of where that would fit in. i think my book adds to it in
murdoch's there in the battlefield. i'm just wondering as a historian who did you deal with the pressure of roosevelt as a well chronicled figure. >> i think one of the reasons i bit down on the story is that in some ways they've been told before he was a good memoir. it is a great but the passover this moment a lot don't know what to do with this and it's an important moment for roosevelt.
he always insisted people calling colonel roosevelt. what i want to do is capture of wawhat was it so important to hm and it was the first moment in the. he's done a lot but he's never been a leader and we think of roosevelt fundamentally as a leader, presidential figure, leader of the country. i don't think we got ove all oft from his battlefield experience but looking at this writing before and after change and we are looking at what can they do
he didn't have residency status, a resident of dc for tax reasons so she finagled things and got proof. the point is mckinley and roosevelt felt in room paper from the argument and essentially took the lesson of the spanish-american war. there were a lot of kind of residual structures in the civil war a secretary of war and commanding general. he changed that to make the secretary of army secretary of war and it really streamlines the system.
it was larger and more robust and prepare prepared but also cd expand very rapidly so that's what i meant behind that compromise but that intersects with more victims of the spanish-american war so we should have more of it. of course if american power is good then anything we do is good particularly after world war ii we should always have a large army and be involved in other countries issues, be willing to intervene because would have been is a good thing.
well we appear where we are moving away from that? i don't think we can discount the. it's also been a global place on the world. everyone is saying we are sort of at the end of the american century. is that going to end up meaning a good thing, i don't know. >> on this fascinating note, thank you very much. plus thetells the story of the y