"We were dealing with a government of irresponsible bandits," Roosevelt stormed. "I was prepared to . . . at once occupy the Isthmus anyhow, and proceed to dig the canal. But I deemed it likely that there would be a revolution in Panama soon."
Teddy was right. The chief engineer of the New Panama Canal Company organized a local revolt. Roosevelt immediately sent the battleship Nashville and a detachment of marines to Panama to support the new government. The rebels gladly accepted Roosevelt's $10 million offer, and they gave the United States complete control of a ten-mile wide canal zone.
Biographical info about
Osmund Osmundsen, a
Norwegian immigrant who worked as a ship rigger during the building of the canal. Includes historical photos
Roosevelt ordered army engineers to start digging. Thousands of workers sweated in the malarial heat. They tore up jungles and cut down mountains. Insects thrived in muddy, stagnant pools. "Mosquitoes get so thick you get a mouthful with every breath," a worker complained. The mosquitoes also carried yellow fever, and many fell victim to the deadly disease before Dr. William Gorgas found a way to stop it.
Steam shovels digging the Panama Canal
Some Americans did not approve of Roosevelt's behavior. "There was much accusation about my having acted in an 'unconstitutional' manner," Teddy shrugged. "I took the isthmus, started the canal, and then left