Once ashore in Cuba, Roosevelt led his unit in a desperate charge up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill, securing the summit and putting the defending Spanish and Cuban troops into a full retreat. Upon reaching the final trench-line, Lt. Col. Roosevelt, Colt revolver in hand fought shoulder-to-shoulder with his troopers. The daring charge, an event that many historians consider Lt. Col. Roosevelt’s finest hour, vaulted him to national prominence.
Upon his return to the US, Roosevelt was soon elected Governor of New York and secured the Vice Presidential spot on the McKinley ticket in 1900. Roosevelt assumed the mantle of the Presidency in 1901 after the death of McKinley in Buffalo, New York, from an assassin’s bullet.
Roosevelt was elected as President in his own right in 1904, and served for a full four-year term. His tenure as President was marked numerous campaigns against graft and corruption in politics, big business and finance, the expansion of federal control over the purity of food and drugs, brokering a peace treaty between Japan and Russia, and the start of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was also instrumental in developing a national program to promote military and civilian rifle marksmanship and he soon became a life member of the National Rifle Association.
Handing off the reins of executive power in 1909 to William Howard Taft, his handpicked successor, Roosevelt soon departed with his son Kermit on a yearlong safari to Africa under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution and the American Museum of Natural History.