We are still here and probably will be. It is a merry war, if there were only some girls here the place would be perfect. I don't know what's the matter with the American girl--here am I--and Stenie and Willie Chanler and Frederick Remington and all the boy officers of the army and not one solitary, ugly, plain, pretty, or beautiful girl. I bought a fine pony to-day, her name was Ellaline but I thought that was too much glory for Ellaline so I diffused it over the whole company by re-christening her Gaiety Girl, because she is so quiet, all the Gaiety Girls I know are quiet.
She never does what I tell her anyway, so it doesn't matter what I call her. But when this cruel war is over ($6 a day with bath room adjoining) I am going to have an oil painting of her labelled "Gaiety Girl the Kentucky Mare that carried the news of the fall of Havana to Matanzas, fifty miles under fire and Richard Harding Davis." To-morrow I am going to buy a saddle and a servant. War is a cruel thing especially to army officers. They have to wear uniforms and are not allowed to take off their trousers to keep cool-- They take off everything else except their hats and sit in the dining room without their coats or collars-- That's because it is war time. They are terrible brave--you can see it by the way they wear bouquets on their tunics and cigarette badges and Cuban flags and by not saluting their officers. One General counted today and forty enlisted men passed him without saluting. The army will have to do a lot of fighting to make itself solid with me. They are mounted police. We have a sentry here, he sits in a rocking chair. Imagine one of Sampson's or Dewey's bluejackets sitting down even on a gun carriage. Wait till I write my book. I wouldn't say a word now but when I write that book I'll give them large space rates. I am writing it now, the first batch comes out in Scribner's in July.
During the early days of the war, Richard received the appointment of a captaincy, but on the advice of his friends that his services were more valuable as a correspondent, he refused the commission. The following letter shows that at least at the time my brother regretted the decision, but as events turned out he succeeded in rendering splendid service not only as a correspondent but in the field.
TAMPA--May 14, 1898. DEAR CHAS.
On reflection I am greatly troubled that I declined the captaincy. It is unfortunate that I had not time to consider it. We shall not have another war and I can always be a war correspondent in other countries but never again have a chance to serve in my own. The people here think it was the right thing to do but the outside people won't. Not that I care about that, but I think I was weak not to chance it. I don't know exactly what I ought to do. When I see all these kid militia men enlisted it makes me feel like the devil. I've no doubt many of them look upon it as a sort of a holiday and an outing and like it for the excitement, but it would bore me to death. The whole thing would bore me if I thought I had to keep at it for a year or more. That is the fault of my having had too much excitement and freedom. It spoils me to make sacrifices that other men can make. Whichever way it comes out I shall be sorry and feel I did not do the right thing. Lying around this hotel is enough to demoralize anybody. We are much more out of it than you are, and one gets cynical and loses interest. On the other hand I would be miserable to go back and have done nothing. It is a question of character entirely and I don't feel I've played the part at all. It's all very well to say you are doing more by writing, but are you? It's an easy game to look on and pat the other chaps on the back with a few paragraphs, that is cheap patriotism. They're taking chances and you're not and when the war's over they'll be happy and I won't. The man that enlists or volunteers even if he doesn't get further than Chickamauga or Gretna Green and the man who doesn't enlist at all but minds his own business is much better off than I will be writing about what other men do and not doing it myself, especially as I had a chance of a life time, and declined it. I'll always feel I lost in character by not sticking to it whether I had to go to Arizona or Governor's Island. I was unfortunate in having Lee and Remington to advise me. We talked for two hours in Fred's bedroom and they were both dead against it and Lee composed my telegram to the president. Now, I feel sure I did wrong. Shafter did not care and the other officers were delighted and said it was very honorable and manly giving me credit for motives I didn't have. I just didn't think it was good enough although I wanted it too and I missed something I can never get again. I am very sad about it. I know all the arguments for not taking it but as a matter of fact I should have done so. I would have made a good aide, and had I got a chance I certainly would have won out and been promoted. That there are fools appointed with me is no answer. I wouldn't have stayed in their class long.
TAMPA, May 29, 1898. DEAR CHAS.:
The cigars came; they are O. K. and a great treat after Tampa products. Captain Lee and I went out to the volunteer camps today: Florida, Alabama, Ohio and Michigan, General Lee's push, and it has depressed me very much. I have been so right about so many things these last five years, and was laughed at for making much of them. Now all I urged is proved to be correct; nothing our men wear is right. The shoes, the hats, the coats, all are dangerous to health and comfort; one-third of the men cannot wear the regulation shoe because it cuts the instep, and buy their own, and the volunteers are like the Cuban army in appearance. The Greek army, at which I made such sport, is a fine organization in comparison as far as outfit goes; of course, there is no comparison in the spirit of the men. One colonel of the Florida regiment told us that one-third of his men had never fired a gun. They live on the ground; there are no rain trenches around the tents, or gutters along the company streets; the latrines are dug to windward of the camp, and all the refuse is burned to WINDWARD.
Half of the men have no uniforms nor shoes. I pointed out some of the unnecessary discomforts the men were undergoing through ignorance, and one colonel, a Michigan politician, said, "Oh, well, they'll learn. It will be a good lesson for them." Instead of telling them, or telling their captains, he thinks it best that they should find things out by suffering. I cannot decide whether to write anything about it or not. I cannot see where it could do any good, for it is the system that is wrong--the whole volunteer system, I mean. Captain Lee happened to be in Washington when the first Manila outfit was starting from San Francisco, and it was on his representations that they gave the men hammocks, and took a store of Mexican dollars. They did not know that Mexican dollars are the only currency of the East, and were expecting to pay the men in drafts on New York.