Cuba In Wartime
The Death of Rodriquez
“The Death of Rodrequez” is a firsthand account of an execution in Cuba during the Spanish American War by Richard Harding Davis (1864-1916), a journalist, playwright, and best-selling author.
Davis’s writing is fiercely acerbic, buoyed by conviction, and his bravery during war reportage earned respect of his peers, though he was sometimes accused of romanticizing and sensationalism. His account of an execution in the first Cuban revolution remains poignant journalism.
Davis worked for the New York Herald when the Spanish-American war broke out in 1898, and he quickly was assigned to travel to Havana. He stopped over in Tampa, where American troops were being assembled, and he brought Theodore Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders” to the front page of his newspaper. There was also speculation at the time that Davis was involved with William Randolph Hearst’s plotting to start the war in order to boost newspapers sales.
Davis was a prolific author. He wrote one of his most notable accounts in 1914, when at the start of World War I, he was in Brussels and witnessed the Germany Army’s advance. While there he had a number of close calls, was accused of being a spy, and made several escapes.
“All through the night, like the tumult of a river when it races between the cliffs of a canyon, in my sleep I could hear the steady roar of the passing army…. This was a machine, endless, tireless, with the delicate organization of a watch and the brute power of a steam-roller. And for three days and three nights through Brussels it roared and rumbled, a cataract of molten lead…. the column of gray, with fifty thousand bayonets and fifty thousand lances, with gray transport wagons, gray ammunition-carts, gray ambulances, gray cannon, like a river of steel cut Brussels in two.”
Richard Harding Davis died of a heart attack on 11 April, 1916, at the age of 51. He was eulogized by Theodore Roosevelt, who said: “He was as good an American as ever lived, and his heart flamed against cruelty and injustice. His writings form a text-book of Americanism which all our people would do well to read at the present time.”