Richmond Pearson Hobson


The fervor didn’t last long. Public attention drifted to a colonel of the Rough Riders, and Hobson, for his pains, was awarded a minor advance in the Construction Corps. On duty in Hong Kong, his eyesight became impaired, and in 1903 he asked to be retired. The Board of Surgeons refused with the generous ruling that, while he probably would go blind if he stayed with his duties, he could see well enough for the time being. Hobson resigned.

For the remainder of his life he restlessly embraced various causes, among them American naval supremacy—to him, “the will of God”—Prohibition, and halting the growth of Japanese sea power in the Pacific. He wrote a novel called Buck Jones at Annapolis and served four terms in Congress, where he fought—vigorously, but only sporadically—for his goals. At last, in 1933, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and shortly afterward he was made a rear admiral with $4,500 a year retirement pay.

But nothing could ever again give him a measure of the desperate satisfaction he had felt on the riven decks of the Merrimac . Not long before his death in 1937 he wrote, “One of the basic evils of hero worship is its effect on a private career.”