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Rough Riders (miniseries)

For a 1927 silent film about the same subject, see The Rough Riders (film).

Rough Riders
File:Rough Riders (film).jpg
Written by John Milius
Hugh Wilson
Directed by John Milius
Starring Tom Berenger
Sam Elliott
Gary Busey
Theme music composer Peter Bernstein
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
Budget $19 million

Rough Riders is a 1997 television miniseries directed and co-written by John Milius about future President Theodore Roosevelt and the regiment known as the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry; aka the Rough Riders. The series prominently shows the bravery of the volunteers at the Battle of San Juan Hill, part of the Spanish–American War of 1898. It was released on DVD in 2006. The series originally aired on TNT with a four-hour running time, including commercials.


The movie differs from actual history on the following counts: 1) Bucky O'Neil was buried in Arlington National cemetery and 2) he, along with the contingent of Arizona Rough Rider volunteers marched to the Prescott train station from the Yavapai County Courthouse where well-wishers cheered them.


In 1898 the US government decided to intervene on the side of the Cuban rebels in their struggle against Spanish rule. Assistant Navy Secretary Theodore Roosevelt decides to experience the war first hand by promoting and joining a volunteer cavalry regiment. The regiment, later known as the Rough Riders, brings together volunteers from all corners of the nation and all walks of life. When Roosevelt and his men finally land on Cuba, they face ambush, intense enemy fire, and a desperate, outnumbered charge up a defended hill.



A script had been written and was offered to John Milius to direct. He agreed provided he could rewrite the script.

It was filmed in Texas over 48 days on a budget of $19 million.[1]

Milius considers the film one of his best:

"They had a lot of controls on me, at Turner, and I just ran over them... They hated me, but I got the film made, didn't I?... That's what you have to do. You have to be true to the vision that you start out to do, otherwise what are you even there for?"[2]

Historical Errors

John Milius obviously used artistic license due to the various historical errors in the movie.

Buckey O'Neill commanded 'A' Troop of which Henry Nash was indeed a member, not 'G' Troop. Craig Wadsworth was a member of 'K' Troop and was not a member of O'Neill's troop.

Henry Nash was not a stagecoach robber he was a miner and a schoolteacher. Nash and Buckey O'Neil did not have an antagonistic relationship due to Bucky's "6th Sense" that Nash was a criminal. Bucky O'Neill and Henry Nash were actually friends. It has been speculated that Milius based Nash's character on William Sterin. In 1889, Sterin and three other men robbed a train in Arizona. O'Neill led the posse that captured Sterin & the three men who were subsequently sent to the Yuma Territorial Prison. In 1897, the men were pardoned and in 1898 Sterin joined the Rough Riders under an assumed name. It is believed that Sternin may have been killed in action during the "Battle of San Juan Hill."

Bucky O'Neill is not buried in the Arizona desert as portrayed in the final scene; instead he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

There would indeed be a statue dedicated to Buckey O'Neill as Nash stated there would be, however, Nash had nothing to do with it. The statue was created after Henry Nash died.

Major General Joseph Wheeler issued the order to attack San Juan Heights not to 1st Lieutenant John J. "Black Jack" Pershing of the 10th Cavalry, but to Brigadier General J. F. Kent, Commander of the 1st Division of the 5th Army Corps, who led his division in the main assault of San Juan Hill while the Rough Riders & the 10th Cavalry attacked Kettle Hill.


The final scene of the movie begins with the caption "22 Years Later." Since the previous scene took place at the conclusion of the 1898 Battle of San Juan Hill, then the final scene must have taken place in 1920. The final scene is where Henry Nash, played by Brad Johnson, is in the desert, presumably Arizona, and is talking to the headstones of Buckey O'Neill and George Neville. In his conversation with the tombstones, Nash mentions 1) He just saw Teddy Roosevelt at Roosevelt's New York home and that Teddy was "doing poorly," 2) that Roosevelt lost his son " the First World War," 3) that Nash was a millionaire, and 4) that Nash's son was at Harvard.

However, Nash could not have met Roosevelt in 1920 because Roosevelt died in 1919 and Nash died in 1902 in Manila, Philippines. In 1920, people called World War I "The Great War." No one could have possibly imagined in 1920 that there would be a Second World War a generation later. Nash was never a millionaire businessman; he was a schoolteacher and his last salary, in 1902 in Manila, was for $1,200 per year. Henry Nash never had a son who went to Harvard. In fact, he never married and never had any children.


Critical Response


  1. ^ 'In TNT's 'Rough Riders,' John Milius presents the Spanish–American War as a great way to build character.: For Teddy, War Was Heaven', By JAMES STERNGOLDLOS ANGELES. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 13 July 1997: H33
  2. ^ "An Interview with John Milius", IGN, 7 May 2003 accessed 5 January 2013

External links