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WOOD, LEONARD - Written during the American occupation of Cuba
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WOOD, LEONARD - Written during the American occupation of Cuba

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WOOD, LEONARD. (1860-1927). American army officer; military governor of Cuba and governor general of the Philippine Islands. DS. (“Leonard Wood”). 1p. 4to. Manzanillo, Cuba, December 1, 1898. A partially-printed document for the Military District of Manzanillo appointing Ramon Hernandez Rios inspector of customs for the District of Manzanillo. Countersigned by Colonel JAMES S. PETIT (1856-1906, “Jas. S. Petit”), military and civil governor of Manzanillo.


At the end of the 19th century, as Spain grappled to hold on to its few remaining colonies, accounts of its fight against rebel forces in the Philippines and Cuba and its heavy handed, often-violent control were exaggerated in the competing newspapers of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. Popular opinion swung in favor of U.S. intervention in Cuba and, when the battleship USS Maine mysteriously exploded and sank in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, the blame was placed on Spain. Congress demanded Spanish withdrawal from Cuba and Spain responded by breaking off diplomatic relations; war was declared by the end of April.


In May, Theodore Roosevelt resigned as assistant secretary of the navy in order to lead the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry which he organized with Leonard Wood, who became commander of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry,dubbed Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Still depleted by the Civil War, the U.S. Army sought volunteers in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. “Composed of men from every part of the country, [the regiment’s] all-American character caught the public imagination,” (TR Champion of the Strenuous Life, Johnston). Roosevelt emphasized the democratic nature of the troops, composed of volunteers from Harvard and Columbia Universities, as well as cowboys, prospectors, native Americans, sharpshooters from Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, and Texas Rangers. Unlike many other volunteer companies, the Rough Riders saw action because of their outstanding preparedness.


In June and July 1898, the Cuban port of Manzanillo was the site of three naval battles. The Americans were unsuccessful in their first two attempts to clear the port of Spanish ships and blockade runners. However, a third bombardment by American gunboats on July 18, 1898, the third largest naval engagement of the war, resulted in a Spanish defeat.


Although a ceasefire was not signed until August, Santiago surrendered on July 13 and Wood became Cuba’s military governor, serving from 1899-1902, during which time he implemented numerous social and political reforms. Widely regarded as Roosevelt’s political heir, Wood campaigned for the presidency in 1920, but lost to Warren G. Harding. He served as governor general of the Philippines from 1920-1927. Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri is named in his honor.


Petit was an 1878 graduate of West Point whose early military service was mostly on the American frontier. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, he taught philosophy at West Point and military tactics at Yale. During the Spanish-American War he led the 4th U.S. Volunteer Infantry and, from October 1898 to April 1899, served as military and civil governor of Manzanilla, Cuba. In 1899, he was transferred to the Philippines, where he worked in a variety of administrative posts, including inspector general and collector of customs. 


Rare; the first U.S. document written from Cuba during the occupation that we have seen in nearly forty years of business. Uneven age toning and ghosting of the ink, probably due to moisture. With several closed file holes in the left margin. Darkly written and in very good condition.



Item #19201


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