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Ralph Waldo Taylor Was 105 : Last of Rough Riders Dies

May 19, 1987|From Times Wire Services

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — The last of the 27,000 soldiers who stormed up San Juan Hill with Col. Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders was buried Monday with full military honors.

Ralph Waldo Taylor was 105 when he died of a stroke Friday at North Broward Medical Center in Pompano Beach.

Taylor lied about his age when he was 16 and enlisted in the New York National Guard in 1898 to "get out and do something." He served in Company K of the 71st Infantry Regiment, which joined Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in Cuba in the Spanish-American War.

He said the Rough Riders actually did more walking than riding.

"Most people think Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders rode up San Juan Hill on horses. The truth was all the horses were left back in Tampa," Taylor said in a 1985 interview. "The only man who had a horse in Cuba was our general, who weighed 300 pounds, and that poor animal's belly dragged on the ground."

Taylor recalled using a Civil War-issue single-shot rifle and dodging sniper fire during the 10-mile march to San Juan Hill.

Charged in Waves

"They charged up the hill in waves, trying to knock out the Spaniards in a blockhouse at the top," said his widow, a former Army nurse. "Ralph was in the second or third wave, and he used to tell how some members of his company were killed as they ran up the hill beside him."

Don Smith, a Veterans Administration spokesman in Washington, said Monday that 392,000 men were classified as Spanish-American War veterans. Of the five remaining survivors, the oldest is Jasper Garrison, 107, of Illinois.

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