One of the new items we added to the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library last week was a letter from a woman named Lillian Capron, president of the Rough Riders National Monument Society, written to President Roosevelt in 1906. She and her associates were raising awareness of, and money for, a 12’ tall monument to commemorate the Rough Riders. While the final cost is unknown, the construction cost was estimated to be $2,375.
In digging further, it turns out that Lillian’s husband was Captain Allyn Kissam Capron, who was the first American soldier to lose his life in the Spanish American War at Las Guasimas. Capron began his Army service in 1890 and quickly moved up in the ranks, eventually enlisting other men from Oklahoma to join him as a Rough Rider.
Captain Allyn Kissam Capron
Roosevelt wrote of Capron:
"I think he was the ideal of what an American regular army officer should be. He was the fifth in descent from father to son who had served in the army of the United States, and in body and mind alike he was fitted to play his part to perfection. Tall and lithe ... a first-class rider and shot. ... He looked what he was, the archetype of the fighting man. [His] mastery of his art was so thorough and his performance of his own duty so rigid that he won at once not merely their admiration, but that soldierly affection ..."
As Roosevelt noted, Capron came from a family of notable military men. His father, Captain Allyn Capron Sr., served in the Souix Wars and later the Spanish American War, where he died shortly after his son of typhoid fever. His grandfather, Captain Erastus Capron, died in the Battle of Churubusco during the Mexican American War.
His father, Captain Allyn Capron Sr.
Lillian Capron’s Rough Riders Monument dream came to fruition in 1907, and the monument still stands in Arlington National Cemetery (see below). She spent the majority of years following her husband’s death volunteering for a number of causes related to veterans. Working with the Red Cross, she served in the trenches during WWI and returned to the U.S. to run a mobile Red Cross kitchen, which made national news. Both Allyn Kissam Capron and his father were awarded Silver Stars posthumously in 1925.
Rough Riders Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.