Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century

Leonard Wood I have "developed a playmate in the shape of Dr. Wood of the Army, an Apache campaigner and graduate of Harvard, two years later than my class," Roosevelt wrote from Washington in 1897. "Last Sunday he fairly walked me down in the course of a scramble home from Cabin John Bridge down the other side of the Potomac over the cliffs." Theodore Roosevelt and Leonard Wood liked each other from their first meeting that spring. Both were robust and athletic, and both, from the vantage points of their respective jobs—Roosevelt as assistant secretary of the navy, and Wood as an army officer (and the physician of President and Mrs. William McKinley)—took a belligerent attitude toward Spain with respect to Cuba. When Roosevelt was offered the chance to raise a regiment of volunteer cavalry, he in turn recruited the more experienced Wood to be the regiment's colonel and commander. After the war in Cuba, Wood remained as military governor of Santiago, and shortly thereafter was appointed to administer to the affairs of the entire island.

John Singer Sargent painted this portrait of Wood in 1903, when he went to Washington to do the official portrait of President Roosevelt. Sargent recalled then that the two veteran Rough Riders enjoyed competing against each other with fencing foils.

Leonard Wood (1860–1927)
John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
oil on canvas, 1903
National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


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