“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” (scenes 1-9,Siboney, Cuba June 1898)

“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” (scenes 1-9,Siboney, Cuba June 1898)



USS Maine Tablet (1912), old Rochester City Hall, Fitzhugh Street USS Maine Tablet (1912)

Scene 1: Havana, February 1898


from 1896 film, Boxing match or Glove Contest

Scene 2: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, February 1898


The Roosevelt Room in the White House

Scene 3: Washington, February 1898



Buffalo Soldiers in Montana, 1896

Scene 4: Montana, February 1898

Scene 5: New York, February 1898220px-StephenCraneandCora1899

Scene 6: The Cuban Countryside, February 1898


Scene 7: Havana, May 1898


1893 edition

Scene 8: Havana, May 1898


see On Spanish-American War Monuments and Rochester. And remembering the Buffalo Soldiers on Veteran’s Day

Scene 10 shafter on cart

Complete sreenplay 1 – 24

Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story”


Stephen Crane, Greco-Turkish War, Greece, 1897

Scene Nine: Siboney, Cuba June 1898

After the United States Congress declared war with Spain on April 25th, 1898, American forces gathered in training facilities in Florida in preparation for an invasion of Cuba, blockaded by the American Atlantic Fleet.

Roosevelt had raised his all volunteer regiment nicknamed the “Rough Riders,” also training in Florida.  Prior to the invasion, during the so-called “Rocking Chair” period, journalists including famed novelists the “real” Stephen Crane, Richard Harding Davis and Frank Norris gathered at the Tampa Bay Hotel.


from Frank Friedel’s Splendid Little War (1958)

On May 30th commanding General William Shafter received orders to take a force of 25,000 to Santiago and support the blockade. Transports could only be found for 17,000, but they went to make a clumsy landing on June 22, which the Spaniards could have cut to bits had they opposed it. Real landing craft were unknown, and horses were thrown into the water to swim for the beach. Many did not make it.

r velt

Roosevelt (left) as his ship is prepared for disembarkment in Tampa. All the paintings are by Charles Johnson Post, a young volunteer/newspaper artist who took his notebook to Cuba. In 1958, Post would publish the illustrations in The Little War of Private Post from American Heritage Illustrated

(June 22, 1898. Roosevelt and his Rough Riders have left Tampa Bay and are approaching Siboney Beach in Cuba. On board are Albert Smith and Jim Blackton of the Vitograph Company)


American Heritage Illustrated, painting by Charles Johnson Post

Roosevelt (looking through binoculars at Siboney Beach): Well, I’ll be damned. There’s no sight of a single Spanish soldier. No trenches, no breastworks. Nothing but palm trees.

Second officer: (taking binoculars): What does it mean?

Roosevelt: It means, well I’ll be damned, that Shafter was right. He asked Garcia [the leader of the Cuban rebel army] to pin down the Spaniards and take pressure off our landing. And it worked.

Scene 6: The Cuban Countryside, February 1898

Officer: Colonel, I do see one man on the beach. He’s waving something – looks like signal flags.

Roosevelt: Maybe it’s a bloody Spaniard surrendering. Tell him we’ll take Madrid and call it a game. What’s he signaling?

Officer: B – U – L – L – Y

Roosevelt: What the devil? But we’ll find out when we get there.

(Nearby on the ship are two men from the Vitograph Company holding a camera box.)

Scene 2: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, February 1898

Roosevelt: Good day, sirs. I see you are ready for action.

Vitographers: Thanks for letting us aboard.

Roosevelt:  We had space enough for all these horses. (On board the ship are all the Rough Riders horses.) Room for two more asses, I suppose.

(the men laugh)

crank 2

from Two Reels and a Crank, Albert. E. Smith, 1952

Anyway, what’s a war without a moving picture show! Is it true what I heard that you fellows sleep every night in bed with your camera?

Vitographers: Yes, Colonel, for safekeeping. “Film is our mistress.”

Roosevelt: When I was out west I saw lonely cowboys sleep with cattle but this is taking Rough Riding to a new extreme. Don’t develop whatever pictures you take!

(The ships land. The scene is at first chaotic.   The two horses chosen by Roosevelt for the invasion are brought up from below deck and hoisted ashore. The process is slow and dangerous. At one point, Roosevelt bellows, “Stop that goddamned animal torture!”  Eventually, order is restored on the beach.)

(Once order is restored on the beach, Roosevelt approaches the man who was signaling the ship. It is Crane. Now sitting in a beach chair holding a reporter’s pad and a beer.)

Roosevelt: What the devil! Crane, it’s you. Ah, I see now B-U-L-L-Y. [phrase often used by Roosevelt] What a great sport you are, Sir Steven!

[Crane and Roosevelt had become friends in New York when Roosevelt was Commissioner of Police.]

(Crane rises and bows)

Roosevelt: Still, what’s with wig-wagging? Are you writing a story for Pulitzer or Hearst?  [Used during the Cuban Campaign, wig-wagging was a method of sending signals by waving an arm, flag, light, or other object.]


Horses leaving the ships. Real landing craft were unknown, and horses were thrown into the water to swim for the beach. Many did not make it. Painting by Charles Johnson Post from American Heritage Illustrated

Crane: Teddy, you know how I work. First I write the story, then I live it. Like Red Badge. That’s why I came to Cuba. To see if I got war all right.

Scene 5: New York, February 1898

The story I just wrote is “Marines Signaling Under Fire at Guantanamo.” And now that I’ve taken up wig-wagging myself, I see I’ve gotten it all right.

(Crane picks up the signal flags and waves them, jerkily, back and forth)

Roosevelt: (laughing) Glad to see you but surprised. Everyone said after you rescued Margharita Quesadas from the Casa de Recogidas in Havana, you had taken her to a love nest in Bermuda.

Scene 7: Havana, May 1898

Crane: Colonel, I am a married man.

(Roosevelt smirks)

Crane: Anyway, Hearst is paying me top dollar to be here. Remember last year when he told Davis and Remington, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” He’s expecting vivid copy from Mr. Stephen Crane.

[SCENE FROM Citizen Kane when Kane (based on William Randolph Hearst) says the probably apocryphal line]

(more seriously)

Crane: Teddy, I am glad to see you in high spirits. Thought you were still mad at me after I testified in court against one of your police officers.  I wrote in the papers that the officer had harassed and falsely arrested a so-called  “lady of the evening.”

[In 1896, Crane had testified on behalf of Dora Clark who had pressed charges against Office Charles Becker for wrongful arrest on prostitution charges. Supposedly, at the scene of the arrest, Crane tried to save Clark by claiming she was his wife.  Roosevelt was noticeably absent at trial, excusing himself from presiding, ostensibly to stump for Republican presidential candidate, William McKinley.]

Roosevelt: It was a tad embarrassing. As the Commissioner of Police, officially I had to support my officer. But as a man, I admired your courage. I admire a man with the courage to tell the truth.

I always did wonder how that “lady of the evening” paid you for your services in court.

landin 2

from Frank Friedel’s Splendid Little War (1958)

Crane: (softly and to himself) She let me use her name, Maggie, in my book. . .41cgA7EuDyL__SL500_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

(Roosevelt’s glance catches the Vitograph men stumbling in the surf with their camera.)

Roosevelt: Speaking of damsels in distress . . .

(Roosevelt helps the men, picks up and carries the camera on his back, placing it safely on the beach.)

Crane (laughing): Teddy, the STEVEdor!

Roosevelt: Back to work, Crane. See you in camp after we get inland. Just don’t get shot in that thick head of yours. The fun is just beginning.


Painting: Charles Johnson Post from American Heritage Illustrated

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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