"Defeat at San Juan Hill" by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present the seventh story from Jeff
Provine's excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
July 1st 1897,
on this day American forces suffered a sharp defeat at San Juan Hill,
losing many of the Rough-riders including the Bear Moose, Colonel Theodore
A great loss that could have ended the Spanish-American War earlier came
at San Juan Hill. American General William Rufus Shafter's plan to take
Santiago de Cuba depended upon securing the San Juan Heights overlooking
the city. Also seeing the importance of the heights, Spanish General
Arsenio Linares held only a small number of men in reserve in Santiago,
placing nearly 10,000 troops to defend the heights.
The American direct attack on Kettle Hill with two divisions was pushed
back at great cost of American life. A second assault successfully took
Kettle Hill thanks to heavy fighting by buffalo soldiers of the 10th
Cavalry, but nearby San Juan Hill would not be taken, despite the assault
lasting late into the evening. Eventually the Americans would fall back,
regroup with Lawton's 2nd Division (which had been dispatched to take the
stronghold at El Caney) on July 2, and take the lesser-defended Santiago
despite its precarious position. The threat of assault from San Juan would
keep the American defenders pinned, and the war in Cuba would stagger on
through many more months.
During the fighting, an amiable and excitable New Yorker named Theodore
Roosevelt led a group of volunteer cavalry, the Rough Riders, collected
from cowboys and Ivy League polo players. The men were held in reserve
until the second assault, when Col. Roosevelt led the charge up the hill
himself (arguably misinterpreting orders to reinforce as orders to
advance). Roosevelt was killed in a counterattack on his north flank along
with many of his comrades, a story that was much reproduced in the
American newspapers, furthering the growing dissatisfaction with the war.
With the war not yet over in 1900, angry and dispassionate voters turned
many of the Republicans out of office in the elections, instead favoring
the Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan. President Bryan would be
credited with ending the war, though the Spanish had already begun to show
desires of peace under McKinley's administration. Tragedy struck the
nation in September of 1901 when anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinated
Bryan at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. Vice-President Adlai
Stevenson succeeded the president, taking up his policies of giving
independence to the Philippines and busting up many of the nation's
corrupt monopolies and trusts.
The American public's distaste with the Spanish-American War furthered its
sense of isolationism. In the next decade, the United States would not
participate in Europe's Great War (1914-1920), except in increasing
American Naval power after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. Instead, the
US focused on domestic affairs such as Women's Suffrage and the
Prohibition Movement. The 1920s brought strong, but not unparalleled,
economic growth to the US as Europe rebuilt, only to fall into the Second
Great War in 1939. Meanwhile, the US enjoyed two decades of domestic
peace, with newspapers desperate for any interesting event, even the short
1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in which Clarence Darrow successfully defended
the teaching of evolution on grounds of Free Speech.
Although giving aid to Allied Powers, the United States would remain out
of the war until 1942, despite public outcry over 1941's British Landing
where German troops devastated southern England before finally being
rebuffed in a reversal of Dunkirk. Japan, which had conquered nearly
unchecked in the Pacific through the 1930s (such as its speedy defeat of
the Philippines), would draw in America with its Invasion of Hawaii on
June 2, despite continuing guerrilla combat in British Australia.
Eventually, Hitler's 1943 Operation Barbarossa would bring the USSR onto
the side of the Allies, and GWII would be won with combined atomic
arsenals of the United States and Soviet Union in 1945.
says in reality, General Arsenio Linares did not reinforce San Juan
Hill, meaning only 760 Spanish troops held the heights against nearly 15,000
Americans and 4,000 Cubans. The Americans won the decisive battle handily,
giving a great deal of positive press for the war as well as young Colonel
Roosevelt, who would eventually be given the Medal of Honor. With TR's
gusto, skill, and fame, the Republican party would add him as vice-president
to the 1900 ticket with McKinley.
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Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit
differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items
explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist
superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy
Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting