Rough Riders Pecan R.I.P.

Historical Period: Frontier Texas (1865-1900)
Historical Topic: Border Wars, Pecan-Our State Tree
Species: Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
County: Bexar
Public Access: No longer applicable; tree is dead

Rough, tough, we're the stuff
We want to fight, and
We can't get enough!

This cry of the Rough Riders expressed well the spirit of the twelve companies of mounted cavalry which were organized and trained in San Antonio during May, 1898. This was about three months after the mysterious explosion blew up the battleship Maine in Havana harbor and less than a month after the declaration of war against Spain.

In the vicinity of this pecan tree, the Rough Riders were drilled into one of our country's finest fighting units. Commanding the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, was Colonel Leonard Wood, a noted army surgeon and Medal of Honor winner, with experience in campaigns against the Apache Indians. Serving under him as a Lieutenant Colonel was Theodore Roosevelt, formerly Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

While in Washington, Roosevelt had mustered in Troop K. Among the men in Troop K were fifteen students from Harvard and Yale and seven “swells” from the Knickerbocker and Somerset Clubs of New York and Boston. All were enlisted as regular troopers, which entitled them to the fabulous pay of about fifty cents a day.

Life in San Antonio was not easy for either Easterners or Westerners. Few were used to the close confinement, the high humidity and heat, and the choking dust kicked up by the hundreds of horses during daily drills. However, relatively little trouble arose during those trying days, and the Rough Riders were trained for combat in record time.

Twenty-three days after Colonel Wood arrived in San Antonio, the Rough Riders were on their way to Tampa, Florida. On June 8, 1898, all but four of the twelve troops of Rough Riders formed a part of the first military expedition against the Spanish in Cuba. This force consisted of 30 officers and 580 men.

On July 1, 1898, Colonel Wood received a field promotion to the rank of Brigadier General and Roosevelt was made a full Colonel and given command of the Rough Riders. That same day Colonel Roosevelt led his men up San Juan Hill and on to victory.

On September 15, 1898, just four months after they were organized, the First U. S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment was mustered out of service.

The tree died after road construction in the 1990s, but another equally impressive pecan remains on the site.

The Rough Riders Pecan was located 2 blocks north of the San Antonio River, near the east edge of US Hwy. 281. The spot was marked by the Alamo Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 1935.