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TR (Continued from previous page) Montauk during 1898. Roosevelt was the great American hero for the U.S. Army in the SpanishAmerican War, and on his return from Cuba he was an officer posted to Third House. It was from here that he began the political campaign that propelled him to the Presidency of the United States just two years later. Teddy Roosevelt was at the railing of one of the first troopships to glide into the dock at Fort Pond Bay in Montauk on August 14, 1898. A reporter on the shore from The New York Herald wanted to hear what he had to say. “I am feeling disgracefully well…I feel positively ashamed of my appearance when I see how badly off some of my brave fellows are—Oh, but we had a bully fight.” More troopships arrived, about 100 of them all together, all of them bearing some American soldiers who were healthy enough, but others bearing soldiers near to death with the tropical fevers they had encountered in the hills of Cuba. A reporter from The New York World described what he saw when the first victorious soldier came off a troopship called the Mobile. “The first man brought off the ship was unconscious. His form was so thin that the bones seemed to be sticking through the skin of his arms. His parched lips were drawn back from his teeth and his eyes were partly closed…Four of the regulars carried him to an ambulance and put him in. ‘He’s dead, isn’t he?’ asked a young man…’No, not dead,’ replied an army surgeon, ‘but he is in a bad way, indeed.’”

From these 100 or so troop ships, nearly 30,000 victorious soldiers, many in wretched physical condition, disembarked. They were leaving their troop ships to arrive in Montauk to be quarantined. The President was told if he did not do so and they were mustered out and returned directly to their homes, their arrival would surely cause a tropical disease epidemic across the land. In Montauk during these five weeks, 263 would die, many buried in this place. It was only on September 14 that the troops would be allowed to go home. Hospital tents had been set up to be ready before the troops arrived in Montauk. Nurses and doctors were present. This was long before modern medicine, though. There was not much that anybody could do. Teddy Roosevelt, the war hero, spent his first four days living in the Dickinson House, a farmhouse in Montauk that took in boarders down by Ditch Plains. The rest of the army was bivwacked in more than 5,000 tents scattered all about the nearly entirely uninhabited rolling hills of Montauk between Ditch Plains and the railroad station. According to pencil sketched maps made at the time, the unit known as the Rough Riders was camped not far from the Dickinson House. Photographs show that Roosevelt spent much of his time with the Rough Riders. But he is also seen talking with President William McKinley who came on September 3 to visit the troops in their hospital tents as they recovered. Montauk is 16 miles long and about four miles

wide. The distance between Ditch Plains and Third House is about two miles as the crow flies. The landscape at Montauk at that time was treeless. It was just rolling hills. It is likely you could see from Ditch Plains to Third House. Third House was where the Generals and other officers were quartered. On August 18, just four days after Colonel Roosevelt’s arrival, “(he) received approval to be quartered at Third House” with the rest of the officers according to a new history book by Henry Osmers called American Gibraltar. Osmers then quotes numerous accounts of occasions when Colonel Roosevelt was at Third House. “Theodore Conklin, the proprietor of Third House, and Colonel Roosevelt developed a friendly relationship with each other,” Osmers writes, quoting from the book Montauk by Jeanette Rattray. “One day, Roosevelt’s son Teddy was caught sliding down a haystack, totally destroying it. After repeatedly warning him not to do this, the younger Roosevelt kept on. Conklin grabbed the boy and proceeded to thrash him. While this was going on, up came Colonel Roosevelt, who shouted ‘that’s right! Give it to him Captain Conklin!’ “Another incident involving the Colonel took place at Third House one night around midnight when a frightened servant girl woke Mrs. Conklin and said, ‘Young Captain H. is in the dining room, swearing something awful! I’ve brought out everything in the pantry, cold meat and cake and milk, (Continued on page 58)

Dan's Papers July 27, 2012  

Dan's Papers July 27, 2012 Issue