Next to Theodore Roosevelt, Buckey O’Neill was the most famous Rough Rider.
Buckey O’Neill: Not-So-Rough Riding
No doubt about it, when Theodore Roosevelt assembled the voluntary cavalry corps nicknamed the Rough Riders, a wide assortment of men couldn’t wait to sign up. One of them, westerner William Owen O’Neill (1860-1898) had almost as varied a life-path as his soon-to-be pal TR.
He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a Union Civil War soldier seriously wounded at Fredericksburg. The family moved to Washington, DC, where Buckey (still called William) graduated from the National Law School. By nineteen, he had found his way to Tombstone, Arizona and became a gambler. He earned his nickname, “Buckey” from his habit of “bucking the tiger” or “bucking the odds” in faro and other gambling games. The nickname stuck.
O’Neill began his adult career as…
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