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William McKinley


McKinley adds one of Theodore Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" to the list of soldiers cited for gallantry

William McKinley, Jr., 1843-1901.  25th President of the United States, 1897-1901.  Autograph Letter Signed, W McK, one page, 4½" x 7", with integral leaf attached, on stationery of the Executive Mansion, Washington, [D.C.], September 6, 1898.

This is a rare letter in which McKinley singles out a soldier in the famous “Rough Riders,” the cavalry unit that Theodore Roosevelt helped to organize for action in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.  Writing to Secretary of War Russell A. Alger, McKinley adds the soldier to the list of those to be honored for bravery.  He writes, in full:   "Secy of War.  /  In the list of soldiers which you will present to me for gallant service, add the name of Albert Campbell McMillan Troop B 1st U.S.C. (Rough Riders.)  /  McMillan was struck four times in battle & is now recovering."  McKinley signed with his initials and dated the letter “Sept 6 / 98." 

The Rough Riders made Roosevelt's career.  After the Civil War, the United States Army was weak and undermanned.  When war broke out in Cuba, McKinley called for 1,250 volunteers to aid the war effort.  Roosevelt and others help to organize volunteer units.  The Rough Riders, the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, was the only one of three volunteer units that actually engaged in military action in Cuba. 

The unit was first commanded by Colonel, later General, Leonard Wood.  When Wood took command of the 1st Cavalry Brigade, the Rough Riders fell to Roosevelt, the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy who was Wood's second in command. 

The Rough Riders gained fame in the Battle of San Juan Heights.  Roosevelt, on horseback, led the charge fearlessly in the face of danger, rallying his troops to take Kettle Hill and defend nearby San Juan Hill. 

Roosevelt returned to New York to run for, and be elected, Governor in 1898.  In 1900, he was nominated to run for Vice President with McKinley.  When McKinley died from an assassin's bullet on September 14, 1901, Roosevelt acceded to the presidency—at age 42, the youngest president in American history.

Unit rosters show McMillan, whom McKinley names in this letter, as “McMillen."  A private from New York City, he was one of 1,604 Americans wounded during American intervention in Cuba.  Some 379 American soldiers died in battle, and another 5,083 died from disease.

McKinley has penned and signed this letter in black fountain pen.  The letter has one horizontal mailing fold and shows only slight handling at the upper left.  There is a stain on the back of the integral leaf that affects nothing.  Overall the letter is in fine to very fine condition.  It is housed in a custom half-morocco leather folding case with red moiré boards and an engraving of McKinley. 




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