Disease and Disorder in Cuba: the Battle of San Juan Hill
During the Spanish-American War, the men of the 71st were present at the pivotal Battle of Santiago (also known as the Battle of San Juan Hill), and many of them suffered horribly from malaria and overexposure to heat. However, owing to the regiment's vulnerable position before the Spanish troops, and a lack of clear orders from the senior officers of the regiment, the 71st never actually participated in the attack. Nevertheless, upon their return to New York on August 22, the regiment could only muster 350 of its initial 1,000 men. Just eighty had been killed in the fighting around San Juan Hill, and the majority of the men were either at home convalescing, or still hospitalized.
In the aftermath of the war, an official inquiry into the chaos at Santiago found fault with several of the officers in charge of the 71st Infantry, citing a failure to act decisively to either join the attack or to remove the men from harm's way. Several senior officers were reprimanded, and two resigned their commissions. But Theodore Roosevelt, then Governor of New York State, reviewed the board of inquiry's findings himself, and praised the common soldiers of the regiment:
"The greater part of the Seventy-First of their own free will took part in the storming of San Juan Hill, and showed that no matter how cowardly their officers might be, they were willing to obey their country's call."
Many individual soldiers of the 71st were recognized for their courage. Two men in particular made notable contributions to society after the war. Frank Keck, a Major, went on to become a prominent New York City socialite and businessman. Another solider by the name of Charles Johnson Post made a name for himself as a painter and cartoonist, and produced many watercolor paintings depicting the 71st New York Infantry and their wartime experiences in Cuba.