In 1896, the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature authorized the formation of the 1st Oklahoma Infantry Regiment, the real beginning of the Oklahoma National Guard. Pawnee raised one company for the regiment. As a unit, the 1st Oklahoma did not participate in the Spanish American War, but many individuals from the unit served with distinction.
The Spanish American War began on April 25, 1898, and President McKinley immediately called for volunteers. The 1st Regiment, United States Volunteer Cavalry, the "Rough Riders" was recruited from volunteers in the territories including Oklahoma, Indian, New Mexico, and Arizona. Under the command of Colonel Leonard Wood, a Regular Army officer, and Lieutenant Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, the deputy commander, the volunteers met at San Antonio, Texas for training. The volunteers from Pawnee all were members of Troop D under the command of Captain R.B. Huston. Pawnee residents included:
Corporal Calvin Hill
Farrier Arthur A. Luther (discharged 1 June 1896)
Trooper Ed Norris
Trooper Joseph H. Proctor
Trooper William Pollock
Trooper Clare H. Stewart
Trooper Clyde H. Stewart
Trooper William O. Wright
The Rough Riders left San Antonio for Florida on May 29,1898, and sailed for Cuba on June 14th. Troop D saw its first action on June 24th. Along with the rest of the regiment, they attacked some 2,500 Spanish troops deployed along a ridge that had to be taken to open the road to Santiago. After an attack that was both long and bloody, the regiment secured the ridge by that evening. The very next day, the troops began once more moving in the direction of Santiago through heat, insects, and rough terrain. They reached El Poso Hill on June 30th. On the morning of July 1st, the regiment, now under the command of Teddy Roosevelt, was ordered to attack two heavily fortified hills protecting Santiago - Kettle Hill on the left, and San Juan Hill on the right. The Rough Riders moved out under the fire of cannon, and though the heat of the day climbed the hills against withering fire. William Pollock, the only Pawnee Indian in the Rough Riders, carried the regimental flag into the teeth of the enemy. At days end, the hills were secured, and the regiment went into defensive positions where they defeated every attempt by the Spanish to regain the position. Finally, on July 17th, the garrison commander of the Spanish forces in Santiago surrendered.
The war ended in August, and the Rough Riders sailed for New York. They were mustered out of service on September 15, 1898. All of the Pawnee Rough Riders returned safely from the combat in Cuba, and Teddy Roosevelt went on to become the President of the Untied States.
In the event that Joel Orcutt cannot be reached, please e-mail Robert Fender