4 True Stories That Prove Teddy Roosevelt Was the Toughest Person Ever

Teddy Roosevelt Was the Toughest Person Ever

Two-term pres­i­dent, vic­to­ri­ous mil­i­tary com­man­der, devot­ed con­ser­va­tion­ist. These are just a few of the hats that Theodore ‘Ted­dy’ Roo­sevelt wore dur­ing his life­time. For the record, he was also a supreme badass who stared death in the face on many occa­sions and bel­ly-laughed every time (lit­er­al­ly, in one instance). Here are four of his most remark­able, death-defy­ing adven­tures.

He took down an armed cow­boy with his bare hands dur­ing a bar fight
By 1883, Ted­dy was already weary about pol­i­tics; he had recent­ly lost a bid to become the nom­i­nee for Minor­i­ty Speak­er of the House, so he decid­ed to head West for a lit­tle R&R. He con­struct­ed a log cab­in near Medo­ra, N.D., which was designed as a fron­tier retreat from his New York City res­i­dence ― and what’s a fron­tier retreat with­out some fron­tier shenani­gans?

One evening, Ted­dy was enter­ing a saloon in the near­by town of Min­gasville when a drunk­en patron fired sev­er­al shots at him. The cow­boy then point­ed his firearm at Roo­sevelt’s face, mocked him with the term “four eyes,” and ordered him to buy a round for every­one in the estab­lish­ment. Ted­dy respond­ed by laugh­ing in the man’s face, then charg­ing him and beat­ing him sense­less. The cow­boy fired one more shot at “four eyes”, which missed com­plete­ly; Ted­dy then pound­ed the man’s head into the wood­en bar until he was uncon­scious.

Once the fra­cas was over, Ted­dy hauled his would-be assailant to a shed and locked him up until morn­ing, but not before he pre­sum­ably uttered some macho line like, “Bar’s closed”, or, “I think he’s had enough.”

He nav­i­gat­ed a frozen riv­er to chase some boat thieves
Ted­dy spent the ear­ly months of 1886 at the Elkhorn Ranch, a North Dako­ta estab­lish­ment locat­ed on the banks of the Lit­tle Mis­souri Riv­er. Roo­sevelt and his two hunt­ing com­pan­ions, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dew, pur­chased a “clink­er-built boat” to fer­ry them across the frozen riv­er. After a par­tic­u­lar­ly unfruit­ful hunt­ing expe­di­tion one morn­ing, the men returned to the riv­er to find their ves­sel had been cut from its rope and tak­en to parts unknown. A nor­mal man might have lament­ed the loss of the boat, but Ted­dy did­n’t take kind­ly to theft.

So he, Sewall, and Dew spent the next three days build­ing a boat from scratch. Once the makeshift boat proved nav­i­ga­ble, the trio set off in search of the stolen clink­er. Roo­sevelt’s account in his 1888 mem­oir, Ranch Life and the Hunt­ing Trail, details a mis­er­able pur­suit:

“For three days, the three men nav­i­gat­ed the icy, wind­ing riv­er among the col­or­ful clay buttes hop­ing to take the thieves cap­tive with­out a fight. A shootout was a con­cern, for Roo­sevelt not­ed that “the extra­or­di­nary for­ma­tion of the Bad Lands, with the ground cut up into cul­lies, ser­ried walls, and bat­tle­ment­ed hill­tops, makes it the coun­try of all oth­ers for hid­ing-places and ambus­cades.” How­ev­er, Roo­sevelt was cer­tain that the thieves would not sus­pect that he was in pur­suit, for they had stolen vir­tu­al­ly the only boat on the riv­er. Roo­sevelt, Sewall, and Dow bat­tled against the ele­ments, too, endur­ing tem­per­a­tures down to zero degrees Fahren­heit”.

They final­ly reached the trio of thieves, who were led by a man named Finni­gan ― “a hard case” who “had been chief actor in a num­ber of shoot­ing scrapes”. Roo­sevelt and his men had lit­tle trou­ble over­pow­er­ing the thieves and tying them up. But upon return­ing to the ranch with their quar­ry, they encoun­tered an “impass­able ice dam” that took them eight days to final­ly cross. Roo­sevelt enter­tained his freez­ing men and their boot­less cap­tives by read­ing from a copy of Anna Karen­i­na that he brought aboard; by many accounts, he watched the men for more than 40 hours with­out sleep. When the par­ty reached land, Roo­sevelt per­formed his duties as deputy sher­iff and arrest­ed the three men, rather than order­ing them to be hanged ― a pro­gres­sive legal deci­sion, in those days.

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He sur­vived the hell­ish death trap known as San Juan Hill
One of Ted­dy’s most notable pre-pres­i­den­tial achieve­ments came as com­man­der of the Rough Rid­ers, arguably the most famous U.S. reg­i­ment to see action dur­ing the Span­ish-Amer­i­can War of 1898. The Rid­ers’ leg­endary charge up Cuba’s San Juan Heights in Cuba (on foot, no less), led by a stal­wart Lieu­tenant Colonel Roo­sevelt on horse­back, was a piv­otal vic­to­ry for Amer­i­can troops.

All that stood between U.S. troops and the Span­ish held-city of San­ti­a­go were two hills, San Juan and Ket­tle, which col­lec­tive­ly formed the San Juan Heights. On the morn­ing of July 1, the Rough Rid­ers were ordered to attack the 760 Span­ish troops who defend­ed the two hills. Approx­i­mate­ly 8,000 U.S. sol­diers took part in the ini­tial charge, but hun­dreds of men were killed by the time U.S. forces reached the base of the heights. Lt. Col. Roo­sevelt led the Rough Rid­ers up Ket­tle Hill, aid­ed by Gatling guns manned by his fel­low Amer­i­cans; they were joined by Cap­tain Per­sh­ing’s 10th Cav­al­ry, a black reg­i­ment who lat­er became known as the ‘Buf­fa­lo Sol­diers’. Under heavy Span­ish artillery fire, the Rough Rid­ers reached the crest of Ket­tle Hill and engaged in hand-to-hand fight­ing with the oppos­ing army; the Amer­i­cans secured their posi­tion on Ket­tle Hill when the Span­ish began to retreat.

The men were sun­burned and exhaust­ed. But when Ted­dy saw Span­ish troops fir­ing upon the forces that had tak­en the adja­cent San Juan Hill, he request­ed per­mis­sion to assist them. Once Gen­er­al Sum­n­er gave his approval, Lt. Col. Roo­sevelt led 500 men in a charge down the steep ravine that sep­a­rat­ed both hills. After wad­ing through waist-deep trench­es, the Rid­ers suc­cess­ful­ly ascend­ed the hill, drove away the lin­ger­ing Span­ish forces, and end­ed the day in firm con­trol of the San Juan Heights. Sur­pris­ing­ly, it was not until 2001 that Ted­dy was posthu­mous­ly hon­ored for his actions in bat­tle that fate­ful day.

Teddy was a popular president throughout his two terms in office,
He gave a stir­ring cam­paign speech… after being shot moments ear­li­er
Ted­dy was a pop­u­lar pres­i­dent through­out his two terms in office, which last­ed from 1901 to 1909. But that’s not to say every­one loved him.

He decid­ed to run as a can­di­date for the Pro­gres­sive Par­ty in the 1912 elec­tion against incum­bent William Howard Taft (who had once served as Roo­sevelt’s Sec­re­tary of War) and Demo­c­rat Woodrow Wil­son. On Octo­ber 14, 1912, he was sched­uled to deliv­er a rous­ing speech to a crowd in Mil­wau­kee. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he encoun­tered some trou­ble as he was greet­ing his sup­port­ers on his way to the podi­um. A saloon keep­er named John Schrank approached Ted­dy, drew a pis­tol, and shot the for­mer pres­i­dent in the chest. This would have sure­ly been a fatal wound, were it not for Ted­dy’s crum­pled, hand­writ­ten speech tucked in the breast pock­et of his shirt; the doc­u­ment imped­ed the bul­let, and Ted­dy only suf­fered a flesh wound.

Then, with the bul­let frag­ments still lodged in his tor­so, Ted­dy took to the stage and deliv­ered the speech as promised. When he pro­duced the blood-stained paper from his shirt, he declared, “You see, it takes more than one bul­let to kill a Bull Moose”, refer­ring to his for­mer polit­i­cal par­ty. The address last­ed for near­ly an hour; after he stepped down from the stage, a woozy Ted­dy was rushed to a near­by hos­pi­tal and treat­ed for his gun­shot wound. Wil­son went on to win the elec­tion, but the Mil­wau­kee inci­dent cement­ed Ted­dy’s place in the Bad Ass Hall of Fame.