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The dramatic story of the most famous regiment in American history: the Rough Riders, a motley group of soldiers led by Theodore Roosevelt, whose daring exploits marked the beginning of American imperialism in the 20th century.
When America declared war on Spain in 1898, the US Army had just 26,000 men, spread around the country—hardly an army at all. In desperation, the Rough Riders were born. A unique group of volunteers, ranging from Ivy League athletes to Arizona cowboys and led by Theodore Roosevelt, they helped secure victory in Cuba in a series of gripping, bloody fights across the island. Roosevelt called their charge in the Battle of San Juan Hill his “crowded hour”—a turning point in his life, one that led directly to the White House. “The instant I received the order,” wrote Roosevelt, “I sprang on my horse and then my ‘crowded hour’ began.” As The Crowded Hour reveals, it was a turning point for America as well, uniting the country and ushering in a new era of global power.
Both a portrait of these men, few of whom were traditional soldiers, and of the Spanish-American War itself, The Crowded Hour dives deep into the daily lives and struggles of Roosevelt and his regiment. Using diaries, letters, and memoirs, Risen illuminates a disproportionately influential moment in American history: a war of only six months’ time that dramatically altered the United States’ standing in the world. In this brilliant, enlightening narrative, the Rough Riders—and a country on the brink of a new global dominance—are brought fully and gloriously to life.
About the Author
Clay Risen is the deputy op-ed editor at The New York Times and the award-nominated author of The Crowded Hour; Single Malt: A Guide to the Whiskies of Scotland; The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act; the best-selling American Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit; and A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.
“A lively exploration of how ‘intervene first, ask questions later’ became America's foreign policy…Drawing on letters, archival sources, and abundant newspaper articles—many from on-site journalists including Richard Harding Davis, Stephen Crane, and Frank Norris—Risen, deputy op-ed editor at the New York Times, offers a penetrating history of the ‘half-baked, poorly executed, unnecessary conflict from which the U.S., nevertheless, emerged victorious… A revelatory history of America's grasp for power.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred
“Risen’s lively and extensively researched social history illuminates a transformative moment in America’s past.”
"Clay Risen has given us an illuminating and elegant account of how Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders in many ways founded what would become, in Henry Luce's phrase, the American Century. Restless and brave, flawed and noble, TR and his compatriots embodied an emerging global nation—for better and for worse. It was indeed a crowded hour, not only for Roosevelt but for America."
—Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America
“Scrupulously researched and dramatically narrated, The Crowded Hour showcases Theodore Roosevelt in all of his Rough Rider glory. Clay Risen, a marvelous historian, brings the Spanish American War and the Gilded Age back to life in these vibrant pages. All of TR’s undaunted hubris, bedrock patriotism, derring-do, and political genius are captured in this fast-paced war epic.”
—Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University and author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
“Here, in cinematic fashion, Clay Risen captures the nearly inexhaustible energy and irrepressible charisma of Teddy Roosevelt at the moment of his meteoric rise into the national consciousness. Through careful sifting and resourceful reporting that runs both broad and deep, The Crowded Hour brings fresh insight and a modern sensibility to this classic episode of American history.”
—Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and On Desperate Ground