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The Spanish–American War
The 19th century represented a clear decline for the Spanish Empire, while the United States went from becoming a newly founded country to being a medium regional power. In the Spanish case, the descent, which already came from previous centuries, accelerated first with the Napoleonic invasion, which in turn would cause the independence of a large part of the American colonies, and later political instability (pronouncements, revolutions, civil wars) bled the country socially and economically. The U.S., on the other hand, expanded economically throughout that century by purchasing territories such as Louisiana and Alaska, militarily by actions such as the Mexican–American War, and by receiving large numbers of immigrants. That process was interrupted only for a few years by the American Civil War and Reconstruction era.
The main issue was Cuban independence. Revolts had been occurring for some years in Cuba against
The business community had just recovered from a deep depression and feared that a war would reverse the gains. Accordingly, most business interests lobbied vigorously against going to war. President William McKinley ignored the exaggerated news reporting and sought a peaceful settlement. Though not seeking a war, McKinley made preparations for readiness against one. He unsuccessfully sought accommodation with Spain on the issue of independence for Cuba. However, after the United States Navy armored cruiser Maine mysteriously exploded and sank in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, political pressures pushed McKinley into a war that he had wished to avoid.
As far as Spain was concerned, there was a nationalist agitation, in which the written press had a key influence, causing the Spanish government to not give in and abandon Cuba as it had abandoned Spanish Florida when faced with a troublesome colonial situation there, transferring it to the U.S. in 1821 in exchange for payment of Spanish debts. If the Spanish government had transferred Cuba it would have been seen as a betrayal by a part of Spanish society and there would probably have been a new revolution. So the government preferred to wage a lost war beforehand, rather than risk a revolution, opting for a "controlled demolition" to preserve the Restoration Regime.
On April 20, 1898, McKinley signed a joint Congressional resolution demanding Spanish withdrawal and authorizing the President to use military force to help Cuba gain independence. In response, Spain severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21. On the same day, the United States Navy began a blockade of Cuba. Both sides declared war; neither had allies.
The 10-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. As United States agitators for war well knew,
The war ended with the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the United States. The treaty ceded ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine islands from Spain to the United States and granted the United States temporary control of Cuba. The cession of the Philippines involved payment of $20 million ($650 million today) to Spain by the U.S. to cover infrastructure owned by Spain.
The Spanish–American War brought an end to almost four centuries of Spanish presence in the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. The defeat and loss of the Spanish Empire's last remnants was a profound shock to Spain's national psyche and provoked a thorough philosophical and artistic reevaluation of Spanish society known as the Generation of '98. The United States meanwhile not only became a major power, but also gained several island possessions spanning the globe, which provoked rancorous debate over the wisdom of expansionism.
Spain's attitude towards its colonies
The combined problems arising from the Peninsular War (1807–1814), the loss of most of its colonies in the Americas in the early 19th-century Spanish American wars of independence, and three Carlist Wars (1832–1876) marked a low point for Spanish colonialism. Liberal Spanish elites like Antonio Cánovas del Castillo and Emilio Castelar offered new interpretations of the concept of "empire" to dovetail with the emerging Spanish nationalism. Cánovas made clear in an address to the University of Madrid in 1882 his view of the Spanish nation as based on shared cultural and linguistic elements—on both sides of the Atlantic—that tied Spain's territories together.
Cánovas saw Spanish colonialism as more "benevolent" than that of other European colonial powers. The prevalent opinion in Spain before the war regarded the spreading of "civilization" and Christianity as Spain's main objective and contribution to the New World. The concept of cultural unity bestowed special significance on Cuba, which had been Spanish for almost four hundred years, and was viewed as an integral part of the Spanish nation. The focus on preserving the empire would have negative consequences for Spain's national pride in the aftermath of the Spanish–American War.
American interest in the Caribbean
In 1823, the fifth American President
After the American Civil War and Cuba's Ten Years' War, U.S. businessmen began monopolizing the devalued sugar markets in Cuba. In 1894, 90% of Cuba's total exports went to the United States, which also provided 40% of Cuba's imports. Cuba's total exports to the U.S. were almost twelve times larger than the export to Spain. U.S. business interests indicated that while Spain still held political authority over Cuba, it was the U.S. that held economic power over Cuba.
The U.S. became interested in a trans-isthmus canal in either Nicaragua or Panama and realized the need for naval protection. Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan was an exceptionally influential theorist; his ideas were much admired by future 26th President Theodore Roosevelt, as the U.S. rapidly built a powerful naval fleet of steel warships in the 1880s and 1890s. Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897–1898 and was an aggressive supporter of an American war with Spain over Cuban interests.
Meanwhile, the "Cuba Libre" movement, led by Cuban intellectual José Martí until he died in 1895, had established offices in Florida. The face of the Cuban revolution in the U.S. was the "Cuban Junta", under the leadership of Tomás Estrada Palma, who in 1902 became Cuba's first president. The Junta dealt with leading newspapers and Washington officials and held fund-raising events across the U.S. It funded and smuggled weapons. It mounted an extensive propaganda campaign that generated enormous popular support in the U.S. in favor of the Cubans. Protestant churches and most Democrats were supportive, but business interests called on Washington to negotiate a settlement and avoid war.
Cuba attracted enormous American attention, but almost no discussion involved the other Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, also in the Caribbean, or of the Philippines or Guam. Historians note that there was no popular demand in the United States for an overseas colonial empire.
Path to war
Cuban struggle for independence
The first serious bid for Cuban independence, the Ten Years' War, erupted in 1868 and was subdued by the authorities a decade later. Neither the fighting nor the reforms in the Pact of Zanjón (February 1878) quelled the desire of some revolutionaries for wider autonomy and, ultimately, independence. One such revolutionary, José Martí, continued to promote Cuban financial and political freedom in exile. In early 1895, after years of organizing, Martí launched a three-pronged invasion of the island.
The plan called for one group from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic led by Máximo Gómez, one group from Costa Rica led by Antonio Maceo Grajales, and another from the United States (preemptively thwarted by U.S. officials in Florida) to land in different places on the island and provoke an uprising. While their call for revolution, the grito de Baire, was successful, the result was not the grand show of force Martí had expected. With a quick victory effectively lost, the revolutionaries settled in to fight a protracted guerrilla campaign.
Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the architect of Spain's Restoration constitution and the prime minister at the time, ordered General
Spain depended on Cuba for prestige and trade, and used it as a training ground for its army.
The eruption of the Cuban revolt, Weyler's measures, and the popular fury these events whipped up proved to be a boon to the newspaper industry in New York City.
The U.S. had important economic interests that were being harmed by the prolonged conflict and deepening uncertainty about Cuba's future. Shipping firms that had relied heavily on trade with Cuba now suffered losses as the conflict continued unresolved. These firms pressed Congress and McKinley to seek an end to the revolt. Other American business concerns, specifically those who had invested in Cuban sugar, looked to the Spanish to restore order. Stability, not war, was the goal of both interests. How stability would be achieved would depend largely on the ability of Spain and the U.S. to work out their issues diplomatically.
Lieutenant Commander Charles Train, in 1894, in his preparatory notes in an outlook of an armed conflict between Spain and the United States, wrote that Cuba was solely dependent on the trade activities that Spain was carrying out and that it would mean Spain would use their "entire forces" to defend it.
While tension increased among the Cubans and Spanish Government, popular support of intervention began to spring up in the United States. Many Americans likened the Cuban revolt to the American Revolution, and they viewed the Spanish Government as a tyrannical oppressor. Historian Louis Pérez notes that "The proposition of war in behalf of Cuban independence took hold immediately and held on thereafter. Such was the sense of the public mood." Many poems and songs were written in the United States to express support of the "Cuba Libre" movement. At the same time, many African Americans, facing growing racial discrimination and increasing retardation of their civil rights, wanted to take part in the war. They saw it as a way to advance the cause of equality, service to country hopefully helping to gain political and public respect amongst the wider population.
President McKinley, well aware of the political complexity surrounding the conflict, wanted to end the revolt peacefully. He began to negotiate with the Spanish government, hoping that the talks would dampen yellow journalism in the United States and soften support for war with Spain. An attempt was made to negotiate a peace before McKinley took office. However, the Spanish refused to take part in the negotiations. In 1897 McKinley appointed Stewart L. Woodford as the new minister to Spain, who again offered to negotiate a peace. In October 1897, the Spanish government refused the United States' offer to negotiate between the Spanish and the Cubans, but promised the U.S. it would give the Cubans more autonomy. However, with the election of a more liberal Spanish government in November, Spain began to change its policies in Cuba. First, the new Spanish government told the United States that it was willing to offer a change in the Reconcentration policies if the Cuban rebels agreed to a cessation of hostilities. This time the rebels refused the terms in hopes that continued conflict would lead to U.S. intervention and the creation of an independent Cuba. The liberal Spanish government also recalled the Spanish Governor-General Valeriano Weyler from Cuba. This action alarmed many Cubans loyal to Spain.
The Cubans loyal to Weyler began planning large demonstrations to take place when the next Governor General, Ramón Blanco, arrived in Cuba. U.S. consul Fitzhugh Lee learned of these plans and sent a request to the U.S. State Department to send a U.S. warship to Cuba. This request led to the USS Maine being sent to Cuba. While Maine was docked in Havana harbor, a spontaneous explosion sank the ship. The sinking of Maine was blamed on the Spanish and made the possibility of a negotiated peace very slim. Throughout the negotiation process, the major European powers, especially Britain, France, and Russia, generally supported the American position and urged Spain to give in. Spain repeatedly promised specific reforms that would pacify Cuba but failed to deliver; American patience ran out.
USS Maine dispatch to Havana and loss
McKinley sent USS Maine to Havana to ensure the safety of American citizens and interests, and to underscore the urgent need for reform. Naval forces were moved in position to attack simultaneously on several fronts if the war was not avoided. As Maine left Florida, a large part of the North Atlantic Squadron was moved to Key West and the Gulf of Mexico. Others were also moved just off the shore of Lisbon, and others were moved to Hong Kong too.
At 9:40 P.M. on February 15, 1898, Maine sank in Havana Harbor after suffering a massive explosion. More than 3/4 of the ship's crew of 355 sailors, officers and marines died as a result of the explosion. Of the 94 survivors only 16 were uninjured. In total, 260 servicemen were killed in the initial explosion, six more died shortly thereafter from injuries, marking the greatest loss of life for the American military in a single day since the defeat at Little Bighorn twenty years prior.: 244
While McKinley urged patience and did not declare that Spain had caused the explosion, the deaths of hundreds of American sailors held the public's attention. McKinley asked Congress to appropriate $50 million for defense, and Congress unanimously obliged. Most American leaders believed that the cause of the explosion was unknown. Still, public attention was now riveted on the situation and Spain could not find a diplomatic solution to avoid war. Spain appealed to the European powers, most of whom advised it to accept U.S. conditions for Cuba in order to avoid war. Germany urged a united European stand against the United States but took no action.
The U.S. Navy's investigation, made public on March 28, concluded that the ship's powder magazines were ignited when an external explosion was set off under the ship's hull. This report poured fuel on popular indignation in the U.S., making war virtually inevitable.
After Maine was destroyed, New York City newspaper publishers Hearst and Pulitzer decided that the Spanish were to blame, and they publicized this theory as fact in their papers. Even prior to the explosion, both had published sensationalistic accounts of "atrocities" committed by the Spanish in Cuba; headlines such as "Spanish Murderers" were commonplace in their newspapers. Following the explosion, this tone escalated with the headline "Remember The Maine, To Hell with Spain!", quickly appearing.  Their press exaggerated what was happening and how the Spanish were treating the Cuban prisoners. The stories were based on factual accounts, but most of the time, the articles that were published were embellished and written with incendiary language causing emotional and often heated responses among readers. A common myth falsely states that when illustrator Frederic Remington said there was no war brewing in Cuba, Hearst responded: "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."
However, this new "yellow journalism" was uncommon outside New York City, and historians no longer consider it the major force shaping the national mood. Public opinion nationwide did demand immediate action, overwhelming the efforts of President McKinley, Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed, and the business community to find a negotiated solution. Wall Street, big business, high finance and Main Street businesses across the country were vocally opposed to war and demanded peace. After years of severe depression, the economic outlook for the domestic economy was suddenly bright again in 1897. However, the uncertainties of warfare posed a serious threat to full economic recovery. "War would impede the march of prosperity and put the country back many years," warned the New Jersey Trade Review. The leading railroad magazine editorialized, "From a commercial and mercenary standpoint it seems peculiarly bitter that this war should come when the country had already suffered so much and so needed rest and peace." McKinley paid close attention to the strong antiwar consensus of the business community, and strengthened his resolve to use diplomacy and negotiation rather than brute force to end the Spanish tyranny in Cuba. Historian Nick Kapur argues that McKinley's actions as he moved toward war were rooted not in various pressure groups but in his deeply held "Victorian" values, especially arbitration, pacifism, humanitarianism, and manly self-restraint.
A speech delivered by Republican Senator Redfield Proctor of Vermont on March 17, 1898, thoroughly analyzed the situation and greatly strengthened the pro-war cause. Proctor concluded that war was the only answer. Many in the business and religious communities which had until then opposed war, switched sides, leaving McKinley and Speaker Reed almost alone in their resistance to a war. On April 11, McKinley ended his resistance and asked Congress for authority to send American troops to Cuba to end the civil war there, knowing that Congress would force a war.
On April 19, while Congress was considering joint resolutions supporting Cuban independence, Republican Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado proposed the Teller Amendment to ensure that the U.S. would not establish permanent control over Cuba after the war. The amendment, disclaiming any intention to annex Cuba, passed the Senate 42 to 35; the House concurred the same day, 311 to 6. The amended resolution demanded Spanish withdrawal and authorized the President to use as much military force as he thought necessary to help Cuba gain independence from Spain. President McKinley signed the joint resolution on April 20, 1898, and the ultimatum was sent to Spain. In response, Spain severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21. On the same day, the U.S. Navy began a blockade of Cuba. On April 23, Spain reacted to the blockade by declaring war on the U.S.
The Navy was ready, but the Army was not well-prepared for the war and made radical changes in plans and quickly purchased supplies. In the spring of 1898, the strength of the U.S. Regular Army was just 24,593 soldiers. The Army wanted 50,000 new men but received over 220,000 through volunteers and the mobilization of state National Guard units, even gaining nearly 100,000 men on the first night after the explosion of USS Maine.
The overwhelming consensus of observers in the 1890s, and historians ever since, is that an upsurge of humanitarian concern with the plight of the Cubans was the main motivating force that caused the war with Spain in 1898. McKinley put it succinctly in late 1897 that if Spain failed to resolve its crisis, the United States would see "a duty imposed by our obligations to ourselves, to civilization and humanity to intervene with force." Intervention in terms of negotiating a settlement proved impossible—neither Spain nor the insurgents would agree. Louis Perez states, "Certainly the moralistic determinants of war in 1898 has been accorded preponderant explanatory weight in the historiography." By the 1950s, however, American political scientists began attacking the war as a mistake based on idealism, arguing that a better policy would be realism. They discredited the idealism by suggesting the people were deliberately misled by propaganda and sensationalist yellow journalism. Political scientist Robert Osgood, writing in 1953, led the attack on the American decision process as a confused mix of "self-righteousness and genuine moral fervor," in the form of a "crusade" and a combination of "knight-errantry and national self- assertiveness." Osgood argued:
- A war to free Cuba from Spanish despotism, corruption, and cruelty, from the filth and disease and barbarity of General 'Butcher' Weyler's reconcentration camps, from the devastation of haciendas, the extermination of families, and the outraging of women; that would be a blow for humanity and democracy.... No one could doubt it if he believed—and skepticism was not popular—the exaggerations of the Cuban Junta's propaganda and the lurid distortions and imaginative lies pervade by the "yellow sheets" of Hearst and Pulitzer at the combined rate of 2 million [newspaper copies] a day.
In his War and Empire, Prof. Paul Atwood of the University of Massachusetts (Boston) writes:
The Spanish–American War was fomented on outright lies and trumped up accusations against the intended enemy. ... War fever in the general population never reached a critical temperature until the accidental sinking of the USS Maine was deliberately, and falsely, attributed to Spanish villainy. ... In a cryptic message ... Senator Lodge wrote that 'There may be an explosion any day in Cuba which would settle a great many things. We have got a battleship in the harbor of Havana, and our fleet, which overmatches anything the Spanish have, is masked at the Dry Tortugas.
In his autobiography, Theodore Roosevelt gave his views of the origins of the war:
Our own direct interests were great, because of the Cuban tobacco and sugar, and especially because of Cuba's relation to the projected Isthmian [Panama] Canal. But even greater were our interests from the standpoint of humanity. ... It was our duty, even more from the standpoint of National honor than from the standpoint of National interest, to stop the devastation and destruction. Because of these considerations I favored war.
In the 333 years of Spanish rule, the Philippines developed from a small overseas colony governed from the Mexico-based
Lt. William Warren Kimball, Staff Intelligence Officer with the Naval War College prepared a plan for war with Spain including the Philippines on June 1, 1896 known as "the Kimball Plan".
On April 23, 1898, a document from Governor General Basilio Augustín appeared in the Manila Gazette newspaper warning of the impending war and calling for Filipinos to participate on the side of Spain.[g] Theodore Roosevelt, who was at that time Assistant Secretary of the Navy, ordered Commodore George Dewey, commanding the Asiatic Squadron of the United States Navy: "Order the squadron ...to Hong Kong. Keep full of coal. In the event of declaration of war with Spain, your duty will be to see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic coast, and then offensive operations in Philippine Islands." Dewey's squadron departed on April 27 for the Philippines, reaching Manila Bay on the evening of April 30.
The first battle between American and Spanish forces was at
Following Dewey's victory, Manila Bay became filled with the warships of other naval powers.
With interests of their own, Germany was eager to take advantage of whatever opportunities the conflict in the islands might afford. There was a fear at the time that the islands would become a German possession. The Americans called Germany's bluff and threatened conflict if the aggression continued. The Germans backed down. At the time, the Germans expected the confrontation in the Philippines to end in an American defeat, with the revolutionaries capturing Manila and leaving the Philippines ripe for German picking.
Commodore Dewey transported Emilio Aguinaldo, a Filipino leader who led rebellion against Spanish rule in the Philippines in 1896, from exile in Hong Kong to the Philippines to rally more Filipinos against the Spanish colonial government. By June 9, Aguinaldo's forces controlled the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Mindoro, and had laid siege to Manila. On June 12, Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines.
On August 5, upon instruction from Spain, Governor-General Basilio Augustin turned over the command of the Philippines to his deputy, Fermin Jaudenes. On August 13, with American commanders unaware that a peace protocol had been signed between Spain and the U.S. on the previous day in Washington D.C., American forces captured the city of Manila from the Spanish in the Battle of Manila.[i] This battle marked the end of Filipino–American collaboration, as the American action of preventing Filipino forces from entering the captured city of Manila was deeply resented by the Filipinos. This later led to the Philippine–American War, which would prove to be more deadly and costly than the Spanish–American War.
The U.S. had sent a force of some 11,000 ground troops to the Philippines. On August 14, 1898, Spanish Captain-General Jaudenes formally capitulated and U.S. General Merritt formally accepted the surrender and declared the establishment of a U.S. military government in occupation. The capitulation document declared, "The surrender of the Philippine Archipelago." and set forth a mechanism for its physical accomplishment. That same day, the Schurman Commission recommended that the U.S. retain control of the Philippines, possibly granting independence in the future. On December 10, 1898, the Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. Armed conflict broke out between U.S. forces and the Filipinos when U.S. troops began to take the place of the Spanish in control of the country after the end of the war, quickly escalating into the Philippine–American War.
On June 20, 1898, the protected cruiser USS Charleston commanded by Captain Henry Glass, and three transports carrying troops to the Philippines, entered Guam's Apia Harbor. Captain Glass had opened sealed orders instructing him to proceed to Guam and capture it while enroute to the Philippines. Charleston fired a few rounds at the abandoned Fort Santa Cruz without receiving return fire. Two local officials, not knowing that war had been declared and believing the firing had been a salute, came out to Charleston to apologize for their inability to return the salute as they were out of gunpowder. Glass informed them that the U.S. and Spain were at war. No Spanish warships had visited the island in a year and a half.
The following day, Glass sent Lieutenant William Braunersreuther to meet the Spanish Governor to arrange the surrender of the island and the Spanish garrison there. Two officers, 54 Spanish infantrymen as well as the governor-general and his staff were taken prisoner[
Theodore Roosevelt advocated intervention in Cuba, both for the Cuban people and to promote the Monroe Doctrine. While Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he placed the Navy on a war-time footing and prepared Dewey's Asiatic Squadron for battle. He also worked with Leonard Wood in convincing the Army to raise an all-volunteer regiment, the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. Wood was given command of the regiment that quickly became known as the "Rough Riders".
The Americans planned to destroy Spain's army forces in Cuba, capture the port city of Santiago de Cuba, and destroy the Spanish Caribbean Squadron (also known as the Flota de Ultramar). To reach Santiago they had to pass through concentrated Spanish defenses in the San Juan Hills and a small town in El Caney. The American forces were aided in Cuba by the pro-independence rebels led by General Calixto García.
For quite some time the Cuban public believed the United States government to possibly hold the key to its independence, and even annexation was considered for a time, which historian Louis Pérez explored in his book Cuba and the United States: Ties of Singular Intimacy. The Cubans harbored a great deal of discontent towards the Spanish government, a result of years of manipulation on the part of the Spanish. The prospect of getting the United States involved in the fight was considered by many Cubans as a step in the right direction. While the Cubans were wary of the United States' intentions, the overwhelming support from the American public provided the Cubans with some peace of mind, because they believed that the United States was committed to helping them achieve their independence. However, with the imposition of the Platt Amendment of 1903 after the war, as well as economic and military manipulation on the part of the United States, Cuban sentiment towards the United States became polarized, with many Cubans disappointed with continuing American interference.
Action at Cienfuegos
The first combat between American and Spanish forces in the Caribbean occurred on May 11, 1898, in the harbor near the city of Cienfuegos. The city was the southern terminus for undersea communication cables that connected Cuba to Spain and other Spanish holdings in the Caribbean. American Naval officers needed to destroy these cables to cut communications into and out of Cuba, in preparation for later operations against the major city of Santiago. The USS Marblehead and the USS Nashville were dispatched to cut these cables early on the morning of May 11. To cut the cables, two steam cutters, with a crew of eight sailors and six Marines each, and two sailing launches, with a crew of fourteen sailors each, maneuvered into harbor and within 200 feet from shore. While the boats moved towards shore, the Marblehead and Nashville shelled Spanish trenches dug to protect the cables from sabotage attempts. They succeeded in destroying support buildings for the cables and drove the Spanish force back away from the beach. The boats' crews pulled one cable up and began trying to cut through its metal jacket while Spanish soldiers started firing from cover. Marine sharpshooters returned fire from the boats and the Marblehead and Nashville began firing shrapnel shells in an attempt to force the Spanish completely out of the area. The sailors finished cutting one cable and pulled up a second one to begin severing it too. Spanish fire began to take a toll on the Marines and sailors with multiple casualties in the small boats, but the Americans were still able to cut a second wire. They began working on the final wire and succeeded in partially cutting it until the still heavy Spanish fire and mounting casualties forced the Navy officer in command, Lieutenant E. A. Anderson, to order the boats to return to the cover of the larger vessels. In the almost three hours of combat, two men were killed, two mortally wounded, and four more seriously wounded and they succeeded in severing two of the three cables running out of Cienfuegos. This relatively brief fight significantly disrupted communications between Cuba, Santiago, and Spain and contributed to the overall American goal of isolating Cuba from outside support. It also provided a major boost to American morale because it was the first combat American servicemen had seen close to home. For their brave actions, all the Marines and sailors in the four small boats received the Medal of Honor.
The first American landings in Cuba occurred on June 10 with the landing of the First Marine Battalion at Fisherman's Point in
The U.S. Army employed Civil War–era
Regular Spanish troops were mostly armed with modern charger-loaded, 7mm 1893 Spanish Mauser rifles and using smokeless powder. The high-speed 7×57mm Mauser round was termed the "Spanish Hornet" by the Americans because of the supersonic crack as it passed overhead. Other irregular troops were armed with Remington Rolling Block rifles in .43 Spanish using smokeless powder and brass-jacketed bullets. U.S. regular infantry were armed with the .30–40 Krag–Jørgensen, a bolt-action rifle with a complex magazine. Both the U.S. regular cavalry and the volunteer cavalry used smokeless ammunition. In later battles, state volunteers used the .45–70 Springfield, a single-shot black powder rifle.
On July 1, a combined force of about 15,000 American troops in regular infantry and cavalry regiments, including all four of the army's "Colored" Buffalo Soldier regiments, and volunteer regiments, among them Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders", the 71st New York, the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, and 1st North Carolina, and rebel Cuban forces attacked 1,270 entrenched Spaniards in dangerous Civil War-style frontal assaults at the Battle of El Caney and Battle of San Juan Hill outside of Santiago. More than 200 U.S. soldiers were killed and close to 1,200 wounded in the fighting, thanks to the high rate of fire the Spanish put down range at the Americans. Supporting fire by Gatling guns was critical to the success of the assault. Cervera decided to escape Santiago two days later. First Lieutenant John J. Pershing, nicknamed "Black Jack", oversaw the 10th Cavalry Unit during the war. Pershing and his unit fought in the Battle of San Juan Hill. Pershing was cited for his gallantry during the battle.
The Spanish forces at Guantánamo were so isolated by Marines and Cuban forces that they did not know that Santiago was under siege, and their forces in the northern part of the province could not break through Cuban lines. This was not true of the Escario relief column from Manzanillo, which fought its way past determined Cuban resistance but arrived too late to participate in the siege.
After the battles of San Juan Hill and El Caney, the American advance halted. Spanish troops successfully defended Fort Canosa, allowing them to stabilize their line and bar the entry to Santiago. The Americans and Cubans forcibly began a bloody, strangling siege of the city. During the nights, Cuban troops dug successive series of "trenches" (raised parapets), toward the Spanish positions. Once completed, these parapets were occupied by U.S. soldiers and a new set of excavations went forward. American troops, while suffering daily losses from Spanish fire, suffered far more casualties from heat exhaustion and mosquito-borne disease. At the western approaches to the city, Cuban general Calixto Garcia began to encroach on the city, causing much panic and fear of reprisals among the Spanish forces.
Battle of Tayacoba
Lieutenant Carter P. Johnson of the Buffalo Soldiers' 10th Cavalry, with experience in special operations roles as head of the 10th Cavalry's attached Apache scouts in the Apache Wars, chose 50 soldiers from the regiment to lead a deployment mission with at least 375 Cuban soldiers under Cuban Brigadier General Emilio Nunez and other supplies to the mouth of the San Juan River east of Cienfuegos. On June 29, 1898, a reconnaissance team in landing boats from the transports Florida and Fanita attempted to land on the beach, but were repelled by Spanish fire. A second attempt was made on June 30, 1898, but a team of reconnaissance soldiers was trapped on the beach near the mouth of the Tallabacoa River. A team of four soldiers saved this group and were awarded Medals of Honor. The USS Peoria and the recently arrived USS Helena then shelled the beach to distract the Spanish while the Cuban deployment landed 40 miles east at Palo Alto, where they linked up with Cuban General Gomez.
The major port of
On April 23, a council of senior admirals of the Spanish Navy had decided to order Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete's squadron of four armored cruisers and three torpedo boat destroyers to proceed from their present location in Cape Verde (having left from Cádiz, Spain) to the West Indies.
In May, the fleet of Spanish Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete had been spotted in Santiago harbor by American forces, where they had taken shelter for protection from sea attack. A two-month stand-off between Spanish and American naval forces followed.
U.S. Assistant Naval Constructor, Lieutenant
prisoners of war from July 11 until mid-September. The Americans treated Spain's officers, soldiers, and sailors with great respect. Ultimately, Spanish prisoners were returned to Spain with their "honors of war" on American ships. Admiral Cervera received different treatment from the sailors taken to Portsmouth. For a time, he was held at Annapolis, Maryland, where he was received with great enthusiasm by the people of that city.
Yellow fever had quickly spread among the American occupation force, crippling it. A group of concerned officers of the American army chose Theodore Roosevelt to draft a request to Washington that it withdraw the Army, a request that paralleled a similar one from General Shafter, who described his force as an "army of convalescents". By the time of his letter, 75% of the force in Cuba was unfit for service.
On August 7, the American invasion force started to leave Cuba. The evacuation was not total. The U.S. Army kept the black Ninth U.S. Cavalry Regiment in Cuba to support the occupation. The logic was that their race and the fact that many black volunteers came from southern states would protect them from disease; this logic led to these soldiers being nicknamed "Immunes". Still, when the Ninth left, 73 of its 984 soldiers had contracted the disease.
On May 24, 1898, in a letter to Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge wrote, "Porto Rico is not forgotten and we mean to have it".
In the same month, Lt. Henry H. Whitney of the United States Fourth Artillery was sent to Puerto Rico on a reconnaissance mission, sponsored by the Army's Bureau of Military Intelligence. He provided maps and information on the Spanish military forces to the U.S. government before the invasion.
The American offensive began on May 12, 1898, when a squadron of 12 U.S. ships commanded by Rear Adm. William T. Sampson of the United States Navy attacked the
Spanish counterattack, but were unable to break the blockade and Terror was damaged.
The land offensive began on July 25, when 1,300 infantry soldiers led by
Battle of Yauco.
This encounter was followed by the
Battle of Asomante.The battles were inconclusive as the allied soldiers retreated.
A battle in
Aibonito in a mountain known as Cerro Gervasio del Asomante and retreated after six of their soldiers were injured. They returned three days later, reinforced with artillery units and attempted a surprise attack. In the subsequent crossfire, confused soldiers reported seeing Spanish reinforcements nearby and five American officers were gravely injured, which prompted a retreat order. All military actions in Puerto Rico were suspended on August 13, after U.S. President William McKinley and French Ambassador Jules Cambon, acting on behalf of the Spanish Government, signed an armistice whereby Spain relinquished its sovereignty over Puerto Rico.
Shortly after the war began in April, the Spanish Navy ordered major units of its fleet to concentrate at Cádiz to form the 2nd Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Manuel de la Cámara y Livermoore. Two of Spain's most powerful warships, the battleship Pelayo and the brand-new armored cruiser Emperador Carlos V, were not available when the war began—the former undergoing reconstruction in a French shipyard and the latter not yet delivered from her builders—but both were rushed into service and assigned to Cámara's squadron. The squadron was ordered to guard the Spanish coast against raids by the U.S. Navy. No such raids materialized, and while Cámara's squadron lay idle at Cádiz, U.S. Navy forces destroyed Montojo's squadron at Manila Bay on 1 May and bottled up Cervera's squadron at Santiago de Cuba on 27 May.
During May, the Spanish Ministry of Marine considered options for employing Cámara's squadron. Spanish Minister of Marine Ramón Auñón y Villalón made plans for Cámara to take a portion of his squadron across the Atlantic Ocean and bombard a city on the East Coast of the United States, preferably Charleston, South Carolina, and then head for the Caribbean to make port at San Juan, Havana, or Santiago de Cuba, but in the end this idea was dropped. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence reported rumors as early as 15 May that Spain also was considering sending Cámara's squadron to the Philippines to destroy Dewey's squadron and reinforce the Spanish forces there with fresh troops. Pelayo and Emperador Carlos V each were more powerful than any of Dewey's ships, and the possibility of their arrival in the Philippines was of great concern to the United States, which hastily arranged to dispatch 10,000 additional U.S. Army troops to the Philippines and send two U.S. Navy monitors to reinforce Dewey.
On 15 June, Cámara finally received orders to depart immediately for the Philippines. His squadron, made up of Pelayo (his
British government, which controlled Egypt at the time, that his squadron was not permitted to coal in Egyptian waters because to do so would violate Egyptian and British neutrality.
Ordered to continue, Cámara's squadron passed through the Suez Canal on 5–6 July. By that time, word had reached Spain of the annihilation of Cervera's squadron off Santiago de Cuba on 3 July, freeing up the U.S. Navy's heavy forces from the blockade there, and the United States Department of the Navy had announced that a U.S. Navy "armored squadron with cruisers" would assemble and "proceed at once to the Spanish coast." Fearing for the safety of the Spanish coast, the Spanish Ministry of Marine recalled Cámara's squadron, which by then had reached the Red Sea, on 7 July 1898. Cámara's squadron returned to Spain, arriving at Cartagena on 23 July. No U.S. Navy forces subsequently threatened the coast of Spain, and Cámara and Spain's two most powerful warships thus never saw combat during the war.
With defeats in Cuba and the Philippines, and its fleets in both places destroyed, Spain
sued for peace and negotiations were opened between the two parties. After the sickness and death of British consul Edward Henry Rawson-Walker, American admiral George Dewey requested the Belgian consul to Manila, Édouard André, to take Rawson-Walker's place as intermediary with the Spanish government.
Hostilities were halted on August 12, 1898, with the signing in Washington of a Protocol of Peace between the United States and Spain. After over two months of difficult negotiations, the formal peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris, was signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, and was ratified by the United States Senate on February 6, 1899.
The United States gained Spain's colonies of the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico in the treaty, and Cuba became a U.S. protectorate. The treaty came into force in Cuba April 11, 1899, with Cubans participating only as observers. Having been occupied since July 17, 1898, and thus under the jurisdiction of the United States Military Government (USMG), Cuba formed its own civil government and gained independence on May 20, 1902, with the announced end of USMG jurisdiction over the island. However, the U.S. imposed various restrictions on the new government, including prohibiting alliances with other countries, and reserved the right to intervene. The U.S. also established a de facto perpetual lease of Guantánamo Bay.
The war lasted 16 weeks.
The war marked American entry into world affairs. Since then, the U.S. has had a significant hand in various conflicts around the world, and entered many treaties and agreements. The Panic of 1893 was over by this point, and the U.S. entered a long and prosperous period of economic and population growth, and technological innovation that lasted through the 1920s.
The war redefined national identity, served as a solution of sorts to the social divisions plaguing the American mind, and provided a model for all future news reporting.
The idea of
Cuban–American relations in the future. As historian Louis Pérez argued in his book Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos, the Spanish–American War of 1898 "fixed permanently how Americans came to think of themselves: a righteous people given to the service of righteous purpose".
Aftermath in Spain
A similar point of view that is shared by Carlos Dardé:
As the head of the Spanish delegation to the Paris peace negotiations, the liberal Eugenio Montero Ríos, said: "Everything has been lost, except the Monarchy". Or as the U.S. ambassador in Madrid said: the politicians of the dynastic parties preferred "the odds of a war, with the certainty of losing Cuba, to the dethronement of the monarchy". There were Spanish officers in Cuba who expressed "the conviction that the government of Madrid had the deliberate intention that the squadron be destroyed as soon as possible, in order to quickly reach peace".
Although there was nothing exceptional about the defeat in the
Generation of 98), because the majority of the population was illiterate and lived under the regime of caciquismo.
The war greatly reduced the Spanish Empire. Spain had been declining as an imperial power since the early 19th century as a result of Napoleon's invasion. Spain retained only a handful of overseas holdings:
Spanish Morocco and the Canary Islands. With the loss of the Philippines, Spain's remaining Pacific possessions in the Caroline Islands and Mariana Islands became untenable and were sold to Germany in the German–Spanish Treaty (1899).
The Spanish soldier
Puerto Rican Campaign, published a pamphlet in which he blamed the natives of that colony for its occupation by the Americans, saying, "I have never seen such a servile, ungrateful country [i.e., Puerto Rico] ... In twenty-four hours, the people of Puerto Rico went from being fervently Spanish to enthusiastically American.... They humiliated themselves, giving in to the invader as the slave bows to the powerful lord." He was challenged to a duel by a group of young Puerto Ricans for writing this pamphlet.
Culturally, a new wave called the Generation of '98 originated as a response to this trauma, marking a renaissance in Spanish culture. Economically, the war benefited Spain, because after the war large sums of capital held by Spaniards in Cuba and the United States were returned to the peninsula and invested in Spain. This massive flow of capital (equivalent to 25% of the gross domestic product of one year) helped to develop the large modern firms in Spain in the steel, chemical, financial, mechanical, textile, shipyard, and electrical power industries. However, the political consequences were serious. The defeat in the war began the weakening of the fragile political stability that had been established earlier by the rule of Alfonso XII.
Spain would begin to rehabilitate internationally after the
First World War.
Teller and Platt Amendments
The Teller Amendment was passed in the Senate on April 19, 1898, with a vote of 42 for versus 35 against. On April 20, it was passed by the House of Representatives with a vote of 311 for versus 6 against and signed into law by President William McKinley Effectively, it was a promise from the United States to the Cuban people that it was not declaring war to annex Cuba, but would help in gaining its independence from Spain. The Platt Amendment (pushed by imperialists who wanted to project U.S. power abroad, in contrast to the Teller Amendment which was pushed by anti-imperialists who called for a restraint on U.S. rule) was a move by the United States' government to shape Cuban affairs without violating the Teller Amendment.
The Platt Amendment granted the United States the right to stabilize Cuba militarily as needed. In addition, it permitted the United States to deploy Marines to Cuba if Cuban freedom and independence were ever threatened or jeopardized by an external or internal force. Passed as a rider to an Army appropriations bill which was signed into law on March 2, it effectively prohibited Cuba from signing treaties with other nations or contracting a public debt. It also provided for a permanent American naval base in Cuba. Guantánamo Bay was established after the signing of the Cuban–American Treaty of Relations in 1903. Thus, despite that Cuba technically gained its independence after the war ended, the United States government ensured that it had some form of power and control over Cuban affairs.
Aftermath in the United States
The U.S. annexed the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.
The war served to further repair relations between the American North and South. The war gave both sides a common enemy for the first time since the end of the Civil War in 1865, and many friendships were formed between soldiers of northern and southern states during their tours of duty. This was an important development, since many soldiers in this war were the children of Civil War veterans on both sides.
The African American community strongly supported the rebels in Cuba, supported entry into the war, and gained prestige from their wartime performance in the Army. Spokesmen noted that 33 African American seamen had died in the Maine explosion. The most influential Black leader, Booker T. Washington, argued that his race was ready to fight. War offered them a chance "to render service to our country that no other race can", because, unlike Whites, they were "accustomed" to the "peculiar and dangerous climate" of Cuba. One of the Black units that served in the war was the 9th Cavalry Regiment. In March 1898, Washington promised the Secretary of the Navy that war would be answered by "at least ten thousand loyal, brave, strong black men in the south who crave an opportunity to show their loyalty to our land, and would gladly take this method of showing their gratitude for the lives laid down, and the sacrifices made, that Blacks might have their freedom and rights."
In 1904, the
last surviving U.S. veteran of the conflict, Nathan E. Cook, died on September 10, 1992, at age 106. (If the data is to be believed, Cook, born October 10, 1885, would have been only 12 years old when he served in the war.)
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) was formed in 1914 from the merger of two veterans organizations which both arose in 1899: the American Veterans of Foreign Service and the National Society of the Army of the Philippines. The former was formed for veterans of the Spanish–American War, while the latter was formed for veterans of the Philippine–American War. Both organizations were formed in response to the general neglect veterans returning from the war experienced at the hands of the government.
To pay the costs of the war, Congress passed an
IRS would no longer collect it.
Impact on the Marine Corps
The U.S. Marine Corps during the 18th and 19th centuries was primarily a ship-borne force. Marines were assigned to naval vessels to protect the ship's crew during close quarters combat, man secondary batteries, and provide landing parties when the ship's captain needed them. During the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, the Marine Corps participated in some amphibious landings and had limited coordination with the Army and Navy in their operations. During the Spanish-American War though, the Marines conducted several successful combined operations with both the Army and the Navy. Marine forces helped in the Army-led assault on Santiago and Marines also supported the Navy's operations by securing the entrance to Guantanamo Bay so American vessels could clear the harbor of mines and use it as a refueling station without fear of Spanish harassment. Doctrinally, the Army and the Navy did not agree on much of anything and Navy officers were often frustrated by the lack of Army support. Having the Marine Corps alleviated some of this conflict because it gave Navy commanders a force "always under the direction of the senior naval officer" without any "conflict of authority" with the Army.
The combined Marine Corps-Navy operations during the war also signaled the future relationship between the two services. During the Banana Wars of the early 20th century, the island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific during World War II, and into modern conflicts America is involved in, the Marine Corps and Navy operate as a team to secure American interests. Thanks to the new territorial acquisitions of Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, America needed the capabilities the Marines could provide. The Spanish-American War was also the first time that the Marine Corps acted as America's "force in readiness" because they were the first American force to land on Cuba. Being a "body of troops which can be quickly mobilized and sent on board transports, fully equipped for service ashore and afloat" became the Marine Corps' mission throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st century.
The Spanish-American War also served as a coming of age for several influential Marines. Lieutenants Smedley D. Butler, John A. Lejeune, and Wendell C. Neville and Captain George F. Elliott all served with distinction with the First Battalion that fought in Cuba. Lieutenant Butler would go on to earn two Medals of Honor, in Veracruz and Haiti. Lieutenants Lejeune and Neville and Captain Elliott would all become Commandants of the Marine Corps, the highest rank in the service and the leader of the entire Corps.
Marines' actions during the Spanish-American War also provided significant positive press for the Corps. The men of the First Battalion were welcomed as heroes when they returned to the States and many stories were published by journalists attached to the unit about their bravery during the Battle of Guantanamo. The Marine Corps began to be regarded as America's premier fighting force thanks in large part to the actions of Marines during the Spanish-American War and to the reporters who covered their exploits. The success of the Marines also led to increased funding for the Corps from Congress during a time that many high-placed Navy officials were questioning the efficacy and necessity of the Marine Corps. This battle for Congressional funding and support would continue until the National Security Act of 1947, but Marine actions at Guantanamo and in the Philippines provided a major boost to the Corps' status.
Postwar American investment in Puerto Rico
The change in sovereignty of Puerto Rico, like the occupation of Cuba, brought about major changes in both the insular and U.S. economies. Before 1898 the sugar industry in Puerto Rico was in decline for nearly half a century. In the second half of the nineteenth century, technological advances increased the capital requirements to remain competitive in the sugar industry. Agriculture began to shift toward coffee production, which required less capital and land accumulation. However, these trends were reversed with U.S. hegemony. Early U.S. monetary and legal policies made it both harder for local farmers to continue operations and easier for American businesses to accumulate land. This, along with the large capital reserves of American businesses, led to a resurgence in the Puerto Rican nuts and sugar industry in the form of large American owned agro-industrial complexes.
At the same time, the inclusion of Puerto Rico into the U.S. tariff system as a customs area, effectively treating Puerto Rico as a state with respect to internal or external trade, increased the codependence of the insular and mainland economies and benefitted sugar exports with tariff protection. In 1897, the United States purchased 19.6 percent of Puerto Rico's exports while supplying 18.5 percent of its imports. By 1905, these figures jumped to 84 percent and 85 percent, respectively. However, coffee was not protected, as it was not a product of the mainland. At the same time, Cuba and Spain, traditionally the largest importers of Puerto Rican coffee, now subjected Puerto Rico to previously nonexistent import tariffs. These two effects led to a decline in the coffee industry. From 1897 to 1901, coffee went from 65.8 percent of exports to 19.6 percent while sugar went from 21.6 percent to 55 percent. The tariff system also provided a protected market-place for Puerto Rican tobacco exports. The tobacco industry went from nearly nonexistent in Puerto Rico to a major part of the country's agricultural sector.
In film and television
The Spanish–American War was the first U.S. war in which the motion picture camera played a role. The Library of Congress archives contain many films and film clips from the war. As good footage of fighting was difficult to capture, filmed reenactments using model ships and cigar smoke were shown on vaudeville screens.
In addition, a few feature films have been made about the war. These include:
The United States awards and decorations of the Spanish–American War were as follows:
Wartime service and honors
Postwar occupation service
The governments of Spain and Cuba issued a wide variety of military awards to honor Spanish, Cuban, and Philippine soldiers who had served in the conflict.