William Riter & Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders

This blog post is about my maternal great grandfather, William Sherman RITER. William was married to Laura Ann BULLOCK. I’ve written about William in the following blog posts, in case you’re interested in catching up before you read this post:

Times for Remembering (includes a much better photo of William)

Lost and Found (the first of a two-part series about William’s life after the war)

Lost and Found, Part 2 (the second of a two-part series about William’s life after the war)

Week 4- Weekend Wrap-Up (includes a short paragraph about William)

For one week every summer I have all my grandsons over to my house for Cousin Camp. One of the activities I was planning for this coming summer was a family history related activity so they can begin to learn about their ancestors and the stories that belong to those ancestors. The activity involves some cute little magnets I created on Shutterfly. Here’s William RITER’s:

I tried to get a better picture of it, but you get the general idea. So if this magnet were chosen, I would tell the boys the story about my maternal great-grandfather, William Sherman RITER, and how he was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. In the process of planning this I thought it would be fun to get a picture book about Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders to read to the boys so they could learn more. I was unable to find a picture book that I felt was appropriate for my grandsons so the thought entered my mind that I could write one and self-publish. I began doing some research in preparation to write a short picture book story. In the process of gathering information I have begun to doubt whether William RITER was really a Rough Rider. But let’s back up to the beginning so I can show you how the whole Rough Rider story came to be.

Rough Rider in Town!

The above article was taken from Newspapers.com. It’s a copy of a news item from The Sedalia Democrat, Page 1, 30 March 1899. William had just been mustered out at Augusta, Georgia on 27 March 1899. He had served in the Spanish-American War with Company E, 15th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry out of St. Paul, Minnesota. The 15th Minnesota had an outstanding reputation and, at least according to newspaper articles of the time, the people of Georgia were sad to see them leave. What I found interesting when looking through newspapers was that you could follow his train trip home by watching newspapers along the route he took. Every time a group of the 15th Minnesota arrived in town, the newspapers were covering it. So, between March 27th and March 30th I could follow his progress from Georgia to Oklahoma. (By the way, when he enlisted for this war he lived in Wheaton, Illinois but at some point he acquired land in Oklahoma and that’s where he went after the war.) As I continued researching, I learned that the Spanish-American War was a war that Americans very much supported (thanks to false and misleading stories pushed by the media- sound familiar???) and the servicemen were loved and welcomed back home (unlike the shameful situation with Vietnam and the servicemen returning from that war).

In researching William’s service online, I found such conflict in the records that I don’t know what to believe anymore. In addition to the question of whether or not he’s a Rough Rider, there is the issue of whether he went abroad during his service. According to newspapers, the 15th Minnesota was going to go to Camp Allyn Capron in Puerto Principe, Cuba on 27 November 1898. The plan was for them to serve a short stint and come back home in 1899. Wikipedia supports the statement that on 27 November 1898 the 15th Minnesota sailed from Savannah, Georgia to Nuevitas, Cuba for “occupation duty”. However, Theodore Roosevelt’s own book about the Rough Riders says nothing about William RITER or the 15th Minnesota. (You can find his book online at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Index:Theodore_Roosevelt_Rough_Riders.djvu.) Then there is this website that shows the 15th was in Cuba between December, 1898 and December, 1899 as well as the above article referencing William as a “Rough Rider”. In any case, by late November 1898 the war was over. According to newspaper articles, the 15th Minnesota was mustered out and sent home from Augusta, Georgia on 27 March 1899 without having gone abroad to serve.

But what about the Rough Rider claim? Well…if William was a Rough Rider, I haven’t been able to prove it through records. The only positive indications I have are the story that Granny BATES always told and the newspaper article at the top of this blog post that referenced him as a Rough Rider.

Below are William’s pension cards:

I have been unable to obtain his service records from the National Archives although I know someone in the family does have them because once I saw one paper out of his service file. The National Archives told me the records were “lost”. I have a hunch they were being filmed and if I requested them again I might actually get them- as long as I paid them another fee, of course!

So, once again I’m leaving you with a mystery. My quest to write a little story for my grandsons hasn’t gone so well this week. I have no idea what story I will tell them in place of the Rough Rider story but I’m sure I’ll come up with something that will interest them. In the meantime, I want to leave you with a few more photographs that I found interesting.

This is Company H of the 15th Minnesota Infantry. I include it because I would imagine an image of Company E would look much the same. This photo was found at the US Genweb website.
The 15th Minnesota Spanish American war drum. This photo was found at the Minnesota Historical Society’s website.
The 15th Minnesota Regimental battle flag. This photo was found at the Minnesota Historical Society’s website.

Stay warm and dry this week, friends!

Until next time,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog

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