The Stick-fighting president

So what did you do on Christmas day Theodore? ‘Well… I went on a three hour horse ride and then General Wood and I beat the #$%& out of each other with sticks on the White House lawn’.

theodore-roosevelt.JPG

From a letter written by Theodore Roosevelt to James A. Garfield, dated Dec. 26, 1902

…then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings. Afterwards we got dressed and took breakfast, and then all went into the library, where each child had a table set for his bigger presents. Quentin had a perfectly delightful electric railroad, which had been rigged up for him by one of his friends, the White House electrician, who has been very good to all the children. Then Ted and I, with General Wood and Mr. Bob Ferguson, who was a lieutenant in my regiment, went for a three hours’ ride; and all of us, including all the children, took lunch at the house with the children’s aunt, Mrs. Captain Cowles—Archie and Quentin having their lunch at a little table with their cousin Sheffield. Late in the afternoon I played at single stick with General Wood and Mr. Ferguson. I am going to get your father to come on and try it soon. We have to try to hit as light as possible, but sometimes we hit hard, and to-day I have a bump over one eye and a swollen wrist. Then all our family and kinsfolk and Senator and Mrs. Lodge’s family and kinsfolk had our Christmas dinner at the White House, and afterwards danced in the East Room, closing up with the Virginia Reel

[Jo] This sounds like my sort of Christmas day!

I used to be an avid stick fighter. These days… between work and the toddler (excuses, excuses), I can barely keep my marksmanship current, never mind finding an hour to beat someone I like with a cudgel. Who has time for recreational violence anymore?

Joey in white. Knife and stick bout.

“He seemingly takes as much joy in receiving blows as in giving them. When he used to play at single-sticks with General Wood, the latter, remembering that his opponent was President, refrained from hitting him at first, but at last, warming up to the work, would crack him without mercy, for Wood is the President’s superior in this exercise. As soon as the blows began to rain upon his body, Mr. Roosevelt would leap about, I am credibly informed, “fairly shrieking with delight…A good crack with a single-stick hurts, but it is probable that the President gets so much sheer physical joy out of a contest of this kind that he is unconscious of the pain” 

– Attributed to Theodore’s fencing or single-stick instructor

Article-on-Roosevelt-and-Woods-560x917.png

Today the only stick any president touches is a golf club, while thoroughly ensconced in a mesh of secret service agents.

Its so much less interesting…

Back to HISTORY