Black Units take San Juan Hill: Eric Wittenberg posted a thorough overview of the Spanish-American War and emphasized the commissions of Civil War veterans. Let’s see, how do you secure overseas markets, distract the nation from growing labor unrest, and complete the reunion of North and South? Commission ex-Civil War officers and declare war! Today in my classes we talked about the background and immediate causes of the war. A few of the students suggested connections with the way we went to war with Iraq which led to an interesting discussion of the role of media in shaping popular perception. Our textbook mentioned that it was black units that actually seized San Juan Hill. While Teddy Roosevelt brought together an array of characters for his volunteer cavalry unit, the army was still segregated along racial lines. According to Eric Foner, “when the Rough Riders reached the top of San Juan Hill, they found that black units had preceded them–a fact Roosevelt omitted in his reports of the battle, which were widely reproduced in the popular press.” (pp. 665-66) I don’t know enough to confirm this, so if anyone has additional information I would appreciate a reference. Foner cites Louis Perez, The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (1998) in the reference section.
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