Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t the only president to touch the lives of Denison’s early day citizens. Being born here was not something Eisenhower chose to do, but 100 Denison men signed up to serve in Troop L of the First Regiment of the Texas Cavalry Volunteers eight years after Ike was born to serve with Teddy Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders."

Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t the only president to touch the lives of Denison’s early day citizens. Being born here was not something Eisenhower chose to do, but 100 Denison men signed up to serve in Troop L of the First Regiment of the Texas Cavalry Volunteers eight years after Ike was born to serve with Teddy Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders."


Roosevelt’s touch may have been brief, but when those 100 began signing up, they had no idea that they were to follow one of the roughest, toughest of men, who later was destined to become President of the United States, Just like Eisenhower would do many years later.


When Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders" from Troop K, made up of men from the First Volunteer Regiment became famous during the Spanish American War of 1898 by charging up San Juan Hill in Cuba, Denison’s volunteers played a not so magnificent part in the skirmish. Nevertheless Denison’s 100 heeded the call for volunteers and signed up under the command of Colonel L.R. Hare for a two year stint.


The company was organized by Captain Edwin A. Hammond at Denison. While most of the men signed up on April 25 and 26, a few joined as late as mid-July.


Congress declared war against Cuba on April 22 in an attempt to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule. The President was authorized to raise three regiments of volunteer cavalry, a total of 3,000 men. Denison men were among the first to heed the call and sign up.


One of Denison’s early deputy sheriff’s Lee (Red) Hall, who went on to become a famous Texas Ranger, offered to volunteer a group of Texas Rangers as a unit. Captain Leonard Wood, who was named to command the Army, and Teddy Roosevelt, who bulldozed Wood into obscurity, said "No, only individuals could volunteer."


Capt. Hammond was ordered by the governor on April 25, 1898, to enlist 100 men. On the 26th, the troops were ready to move, but received orders to wait until more tentage could be made available. On May 7 the order came to report to Camp Mabry at Austin, 374 miles away.


When orders were received, a special train was secured from the MK&T Railroad and left Denison at 7:30 at night.


An article in the Sunday Gazetteer on May 8, 1898, gave an account of the "Rifles" as they were called leaving town with a crowd of well-wishers creating "no such scene ever witnessed upon the streets of Denison." Thousands of people, frenzied with patriotic enthusiasm, escorted the soldiers to the depot. School children waved American flags at the fire department, public school children, Blue and Grey Association and the Stanley Rangers marched with the troops to the tune played by the Sixth Regiment Band on the way to the depot.


"They are no holiday soldiers, these Denison boys, and they will give a good account of themselves if they see actual service," the editor noted. "When the enthusiasm was at its best, the rain came down in torrents," the article continues, "but that did not dampen the patriotic ardor of the multitude.


Mrs. John Wineinger, who was a small child at the time, recalled that the troops staged a sham battle in the area of what now is Forest Park before boarding the train. She remembered that although she had been told the battle wasn’t real, she and other small children were frightened. Isaac Lane, second in command of the troops, was her cousin. Mrs. Wineinger said that he father made cross ties and helped to put down the first track for the first train coming into Denison.


Mrs. Wineinger said the presence of the children worked the multitude up into a great burst of enthusiasm and to put it mildly, the people went wild.


The Rifles left their armory on Fannin Avenue at 6 p.m. with the Sixth Regiment Band marking before them. The martial strains of music set the people on fire, according to the article. The scene at the depot was indescribable with the yards and platform a surging mass of humanity. Men shouted, women cried and laughed in turn. The Rifles were in fatigues, reading for the realities of campaign life. Thousands pressed forward to shake the hands of the Rifles after they were seated in the cars.


The troops arrived at Camp Mabry on Mat 8, where they were assigned to Troop L, First Texas Cavalry, U.S. Volunteers and the men were mustered into service on May 14. Camp Mabry was home until June 8 when the rest of the regiment was moved to Fort Sam Houston at San Antonio. On Aug. 7, 1898, the troops marched from Fort Sam Houston to Camp Slayden and took part in 10 days of target practice.


Meanwhile Roosevelt left Fort Sam Houston on May 30 with 1,800 men and 1,200 horses for Tampa, Fla., then took San Juan Hill, Cuba on July 1. Teddy said goodbye to his regiment in Montauk, Long Island on Sept. 4, then the Rough Riders disbanded on Sept. 15.


On Nov. 1 Capt. Hammond was promoted to major and transferred. He was succeeded as troop commander by Lt. Isaac Lane, who has been second in command of the troops, was promoted to captain.


Capt. Layne’s relatives kept mementos of this volunteer regiment. This packet included the muster-out roll, Layne’s discharge papers as well as those for Charlie Ormsby’s dad, Charles Sr., who served with his brother. After Charlie’s death in 1969, his wife found the packet of papers among his belongings. Isaac Layne, his brother, Charles, and other Layne relatives are buried at Layne Cemetery and their graves are designated with military markers. Layne Cemetery and the school were named for Joseph Layne, father of Isaac’s and Charles’ dad, Joseph.


In certifying the muster-out roll, Capt. Layne noted that no member of the troop ever drew any clothing from the state. The troops, who signed up for two years, were only needed for seven months and on Nov. 12, 1898, were mustered out of service to return to Denison.


DONNA HUNT is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at d.hunt_903@yahoo.com.