A Factor in the Spanish-American War

Enrique Dupuy de Lôme was the Spanish minister to Washington. The private correspondence labeled President McKinley as “a low politician” and a man who was weak and catered to the rabble.Many Americans probably shared those views, but were outraged when they were voiced by a foreign official. War fever began its spread throughout the country.De Lôme promptly submitted his resignation and informed the U.S. authorities that the letter represented his views, not those of his government.This public insult, coupled with looming congressional elections in the fall, pushed McKinley into reconsidering his view of the conflict in Cuba. That change was accelerated by the destruction of the Maine a few days later.

A Message to Garcia

A Message to Garcia is a widely distributed essay written by Elbert Hubbard in 1899, expressing the value of individual initiative and conscientiousness in work. As its primary example, the essay uses a dramatized version of a daring escapade performed by an American soldier, 1st Lt. Andrew S. Rowan, just prior to the Spanish–American War. The essay describes Rowan carrying a message from President William McKinley to "Gen. Calixto García, a leader of the Cuban insurgents somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba—no one knew where". The essay contrasts Rowan's self-driven effort against "the imbecility of the average man—the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it". [1] : 17–18

The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing- "Carry a message to Garcia!"

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Spain's attitude towards its colonies Edit

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 the low point of Spanish colonialism. [28] Liberal Spanish elites like Antonio Cánovas del Castillo and Emilio Castelar offered new interpretations of the concept of "empire" to dovetail with Spain's emerging nationalism. Cánovas made clear in an address to the University of Madrid in 1882 [29] [30] 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. [31]

American interest in the Caribbean Edit

In 1823, the fifth American President James Monroe (1758–1831, served 1817–25) enunciated the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the United States would not tolerate further efforts by European governments to retake or expand their colonial holdings in the Americas or to interfere with the newly independent states in the hemisphere. The U.S. would, however, respect the status of the existing European colonies. Before the American Civil War (1861–1865), Southern interests attempted to have the United States purchase Cuba and convert it into a new slave state. The pro-slavery element proposed the Ostend Manifesto proposal of 1854. Anti-slavery forces rejected it.

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. [32] Cuba's total exports to the U.S. were almost twelve times larger than the export to her mother country, Spain. [33] U.S. business interests indicated that while Spain still held political authority over Cuba, it was the US 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. [34] 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 US. 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. [35]

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. [36] Historians note that there was no popular demand in the United States for an overseas colonial empire. [37]

Cuban struggle for independence Edit

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. [38]

The plan called for one group from Santo Domingo 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 Baíre, 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. [38]

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the architect of Spain's Restoration constitution and the prime minister at the time, ordered General Arsenio Martínez-Campos, a distinguished veteran of the war against the previous uprising in Cuba, to quell the revolt. Campos's reluctance to accept his new assignment and his method of containing the revolt to the province of Oriente earned him criticism in the Spanish press. [39]

The mounting pressure forced Cánovas to replace General Campos with General Valeriano Weyler, a soldier who had experience in quelling rebellions in overseas provinces and the Spanish metropole. Weyler deprived the insurgency of weaponry, supplies, and assistance by ordering the residents of some Cuban districts to move to reconcentration areas near the military headquarters. [39] This strategy was effective in slowing the spread of rebellion. In the United States, this fueled the fire of anti-Spanish propaganda. [40] In a political speech President William McKinley used this to ram Spanish actions against armed rebels. He even said this "was not civilized warfare" but "extermination". [41] [42]

Spanish attitude Edit

The Spanish government regarded Cuba as a province of Spain rather than a colony. [ citation needed ] [ clarification needed ] Spain depended on Cuba for prestige and trade, and used it as a training ground for its army. Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo announced that "the Spanish nation is disposed to sacrifice to the last peseta of its treasure and to the last drop of blood of the last Spaniard before consenting that anyone snatch from it even one piece of its territory". [43] He had long dominated and stabilized Spanish politics. He was assassinated in 1897 by Italian anarchist Michele Angiolillo, [44] leaving a Spanish political system that was not stable and could not risk a blow to its prestige. [45]

US response Edit

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. Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal recognized the potential for great headlines and stories that would sell copies. Both papers denounced Spain but had little influence outside New York. American opinion generally saw Spain as a hopelessly backward power that was unable to deal fairly with Cuba. American Catholics were divided before the war began but supported it enthusiastically once it started. [46] [47]

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. [48] 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. [49] 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.

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. [50] 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. [51]

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. [52] 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. [52] The liberal Spanish government also recalled the Spanish Governor-General Valeriano Weyler from Cuba. This action alarmed many Cubans loyal to Spain. [53]

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. [53] This request lead to USS Maine being sent to Cuba. While Maine was docked in Havana, an explosion sank the ship. The sinking of Maine was blamed on the Spanish and made the possibility of a negotiated peace very slim. [54] Throughout the negotiation process, the major European powers, especially Britain, France, and Russia, generally supported the American position and urged Spain to give in. [55] Spain repeatedly promised specific reforms that would pacify Cuba but failed to deliver American patience ran out. [56]

USS Maine dispatch to Havana and loss Edit

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. [58]

At 9:40 P.M. on February 15, 1898, Maine sank in Havana Harbor after suffering a massive explosion. While McKinley urged patience and did not declare that Spain had caused the explosion, the deaths of 250 out of 355 [59] sailors on board focused American 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. [60] Germany urged a united European stand against the United States but took no action. [61]

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 US, making the war inevitable. [62] Spain's investigation came to the opposite conclusion: the explosion originated within the ship. Other investigations in later years came to various contradictory conclusions, but had no bearing on the coming of the war. In 1974, Admiral Hyman George Rickover had his staff look at the documents and decided there was an internal explosion. [63] A study commissioned by National Geographic magazine in 1999, using AME computer modeling, stated that a mine could have caused the explosion, but no definitive evidence was found. [63]

Declaring war Edit

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. [64] They both used sensationalistic and astonishing accounts of "atrocities" committed by the Spanish in Cuba by using headlines in their newspapers, such as "Spanish Murderers" and "Remember The Maine". Their press exaggerated what was happening and how the Spanish were treating the Cuban prisoners. [65] 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." [66]

However, this new "yellow journalism" was uncommon outside New York City, and historians no longer consider it the major force shaping the national mood. [67] 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. [18] 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 anti-war 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. [68] 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. [69]

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. [70] : 210 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. [71] [72] [73] 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. [20] 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. [21] On April 23, Spain reacted to the blockade by declaring war on the U.S. [74]

On April 25, the U.S. Congress responded in kind, declaring that a state of war between the U.S. and Spain had de facto existed since April 21, the day the blockade of Cuba had begun. [21]

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 25,000 men. The Army wanted 50,000 new men but received over 220,000 through volunteers and the mobilization of state National Guard units, [75] even gaining nearly 100,000 men on the first night after the explosion of USS Maine. [76]

Historiography Edit

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." [77] 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." [78] 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." [79] 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. [80]

In his War and Empire, [22] 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, [81] 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.

Philippines Edit

In the 333 years of Spanish rule, the Philippines developed from a small overseas colony governed from the Viceroyalty of New Spain to a land with modern elements in the cities. The Spanish-speaking middle classes of the 19th century were mostly educated in the liberal ideas coming from Europe. Among these Ilustrados was the Filipino national hero José Rizal, who demanded larger reforms from the Spanish authorities. This movement eventually led to the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule. The revolution had been in a state of truce since the signing of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato in 1897, with revolutionary leaders having accepted exile outside of the country.

Lt. William Warren Kimball, Staff Intelligence Officer with the Naval War College [82] prepared a plan for war with Spain including the Philippines on June 1, 1896 known as "the Kimball Plan". [83]

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. [e]

The first battle between American and Spanish forces was at Manila Bay where, on May 1, Commodore George Dewey, commanding the U.S. Navy's Asiatic Squadron aboard USS Olympia, in a matter of hours defeated a Spanish squadron under Admiral Patricio Montojo. [f] Dewey managed this with only nine wounded. [90] [91] With the German seizure of Tsingtao in 1897, Dewey's squadron had become the only naval force in the Far East without a local base of its own, and was beset with coal and ammunition problems. [92] Despite these problems, the Asiatic Squadron destroyed the Spanish fleet and captured Manila's harbor. [92]

Following Dewey's victory, Manila Bay became filled with the warships of other naval powers. [92] The German squadron of eight ships, ostensibly in Philippine waters to protect German interests, acted provocatively—cutting in front of American ships, refusing to salute the American flag (according to customs of naval courtesy), taking soundings of the harbor, and landing supplies for the besieged Spanish. [94]

With interests of their own, Germany was eager to take advantage of whatever opportunities the conflict in the islands might afford. [95] There was a fear at the time that the islands would become a German possession. [96] The Americans called Germany's bluff and threatened conflict if the aggression continued. The Germans backed down. [95] [97] 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. [98]

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. [99] 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. [100] On June 12, Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines. [101] [102]

On August 5, upon instruction from Spain, Governor-General Basilio Augustin turned over the command of the Philippines to his deputy, Fermin Jaudenes. [103] 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. [g] [99] [105] 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, [106] 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. [107] [108] That same day, the Schurman Commission recommended that the U.S. retain control of the Philippines, possibly granting independence in the future. [109] 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.

Guam Edit

On June 20, 1898, a U.S. fleet commanded by Captain Henry Glass, consisting of the protected cruiser USS Charleston and three transports carrying troops to the Philippines, entered Guam's Apra Harbor, Captain Glass having opened sealed orders instructing him to proceed to Guam and capture it. Charleston fired a few rounds at 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. [110]

The following day, Glass sent Lieutenant William Braunersruehter to meet the Spanish Governor to arrange the surrender of the island and the Spanish garrison there. Some 54 Spanish infantry were captured and transported to the Philippines as prisoners of war. No U.S. forces were left on Guam, but the only U.S. citizen on the island, Frank Portusach, told Captain Glass that he would look after things until U.S. forces returned. [110]

Cuba Edit

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". [111]

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.

Cuban sentiment Edit

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, due to 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. [112]

Land campaign Edit

From June 22 to 24, the Fifth Army Corps under General William R. Shafter landed at Daiquirí and Siboney, east of Santiago, and established an American base of operations. A contingent of Spanish troops, having fought a skirmish with the Americans near Siboney on June 23, had retired to their lightly entrenched positions at Las Guasimas. An advance guard of U.S. forces under former Confederate General Joseph Wheeler ignored Cuban scouting parties and orders to proceed with caution. They caught up with and engaged the Spanish rearguard of about 2,000 soldiers led by General Antero Rubín [113] who effectively ambushed them, in the Battle of Las Guasimas on June 24. The battle ended indecisively in favor of Spain and the Spanish left Las Guasimas on their planned retreat to Santiago.

The U.S. Army employed Civil War–era skirmishers at the head of the advancing columns. Three of four of the U.S. soldiers who had volunteered to act as skirmishers walking point at the head of the American column were killed, including Hamilton Fish II (grandson of Hamilton Fish, the Secretary of State under Ulysses S. Grant), and Captain Allyn K. Capron, Jr., whom Theodore Roosevelt would describe as one of the finest natural leaders and soldiers he ever met. Only Oklahoma Territory Pawnee Indian, Tom Isbell, wounded seven times, survived. [114]

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. [114]

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. [115] 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. [116] Supporting fire by Gatling guns was critical to the success of the assault. [117] [118] 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, [119] 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. [120] 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. [121] 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 Edit

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. [122] [123]

Naval operations Edit

The major port of Santiago de Cuba was the main target of naval operations during the war. The U.S. fleet attacking Santiago needed shelter from the summer hurricane season Guantánamo Bay, with its excellent harbor, was chosen. The 1898 invasion of Guantánamo Bay happened between June 6 and 10, with the first U.S. naval attack and subsequent successful landing of U.S. Marines with naval support.

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. [124]

The Battle of Santiago de Cuba on July 3, was the largest naval engagement of the Spanish–American War and resulted in the destruction of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron. 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.

When the Spanish squadron finally attempted to leave the harbor on July 3, the American forces destroyed or grounded five of the six ships. Only one Spanish vessel, the new armored cruiser Cristóbal Colón, survived, but her captain hauled down her flag and scuttled her when the Americans finally caught up with her. The 1,612 Spanish sailors who were captured, including Admiral Cervera, were sent to Seavey's Island at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, where they were confined at Camp Long as prisoners of war from July 11 until mid-September.

During the stand-off, U.S. Assistant Naval Constructor, Lieutenant Richmond Pearson Hobson had been ordered by Rear Admiral William T. Sampson to sink the collier USS Merrimac in the harbor to bottle up the Spanish fleet. The mission was a failure, and Hobson and his crew were captured. They were exchanged on July 6, and Hobson became a national hero he received the Medal of Honor in 1933, retired as a Rear Admiral and became a Congressman.

US withdrawal Edit

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. [125]

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. [125]

Puerto Rico Edit

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". [126]

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 archipelago's capital, San Juan. Though the damage inflicted on the city was minimal, the Americans established a blockade in the city's harbor, San Juan Bay. On June 22, the cruiser Isabel II and the destroyer Terror delivered a 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 Nelson A. Miles disembarked off the coast of Guánica. The first organized armed opposition occurred in Yauco in what became known as the Battle of Yauco. [127]

This encounter was followed by the Battle of Fajardo. The United States seized control of Fajardo on August 1, but were forced to withdraw on August 5 after a group of 200 Puerto Rican-Spanish soldiers led by Pedro del Pino gained control of the city, while most civilian inhabitants fled to a nearby lighthouse. The Americans encountered larger opposition during the Battle of Guayama and as they advanced towards the main island's interior. They engaged in crossfire at Guamaní River Bridge, Coamo and Silva Heights and finally at the Battle of Asomante. [127] [128] The battles were inconclusive as the allied soldiers retreated.

A battle in San Germán concluded in a similar fashion with the Spanish retreating to Lares. On August 9, 1898, American troops that were pursuing units retreating from Coamo encountered heavy resistance 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. [128]

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. [129] 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. [130] 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 United States East Coast—preferably Charleston, South Carolina—and then head for the Caribbean to make port at San Juan, Havana, or Santiago de Cuba, [131] 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. [132] Pelayo and Emperado 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. [132]

On 15 June, Cámara finally received orders to depart immediately for the Philippines. His squadron, made up of Pelayo (his flagship), Emperador Carlos V, two auxiliary cruisers, three destroyers, and four colliers, was to depart Cádiz escorting four transports. After detaching two of the transports to steam independently to the Caribbean, his squadron was to proceed to the Philippines, escorting the other two transports, which carried 4,000 Spanish Army troops to reinforce Spanish forces there. He then was to destroy Dewey's squadron. [133] [131] [134] Accordingly, he sortied from Cádiz on 16 June [135] and, after detaching two of the transports for their voyages to the Caribbean, passed Gibraltar on 17 June [133] and arrived at Port Said, at the northern end of the Suez Canal, on 26 June. [136] There he found that U.S. operatives had purchased all the coal available at the other end of the canal in Suez to prevent his ships from coaling with it [137] and received word on 29 June from the 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. [136] [131]

Ordered to continue, [138] Cámara's squadron passed through the Suez Canal on 5–6 July. By that time, 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" [138] and word also 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. 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. [139] Cámara ' s squadron returned to Spain, arriving at Cartagena on 23 July. Cámara and Spain's two most powerful warships thus never saw combat during the war. [131]

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. [140] [141] [142]

Hostilities were halted on August 12, 1898, with the signing in Washington of a Protocol of Peace between the United States and Spain. [143] After over two months of difficult negotiations, the formal peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris, was signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, [144] 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. [144] 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. [145] [146] [147]

The war lasted 16 weeks. [148] John Hay (the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom), writing from London to his friend Theodore Roosevelt, declared that it had been "a splendid little war". [149] [150] The press showed Northerners and Southerners, blacks and whites fighting against a common foe, helping to ease the scars left from the American Civil War. [151] Exemplary of this was the fact that four former Confederate States Army generals had served in the war, now in the U.S. Army and all of them again carrying similar ranks. These officers included Matthew Butler, Fitzhugh Lee, Thomas L. Rosser and Joseph Wheeler, though only the latter had seen action. Still, in an exciting moment during the Battle of Las Guasimas, Wheeler apparently forgot for a moment which war he was fighting, having supposedly called out "Let's go, boys! We've got the damn Yankees on the run again!" [152]

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. [153]

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. [154]

The idea of American imperialism changed in the public's mind after the short and successful Spanish–American War. Due to the United States' powerful influence diplomatically and militarily, Cuba's status after the war relied heavily upon American actions. Two major developments emerged from the Spanish–American War: one, it firmly established the United States' vision of itself as a "defender of democracy" and as a major world power, and two, it had severe implications for 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". [155]

Aftermath in Spain Edit

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. The loss of Cuba caused a national trauma because of the affinity of peninsular Spaniards with Cuba, which was seen as another province of Spain rather than as a colony. Spain retained only a handful of overseas holdings: Spanish West Africa (Spanish Sahara), Spanish Guinea, 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 [156] in the German-Spanish Treaty (1899).

The Spanish soldier Julio Cervera Baviera, who served in the 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." [157] He was challenged to a duel by a group of young Puerto Ricans for writing this pamphlet. [158]

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. [159] 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.

Teller and Platt Amendments Edit

The Teller Amendment was passed in the Senate on April 19, 1898, with a vote of 42 for versus 35 against. Subsequently, the House of Representatives passed the amendment with a vote of 311 for versus 6 against allowing President William McKinley to sign the resolution. [160] The Teller Amendment, which was enacted on April 20, 1898, was a promise from the United States to the Cuban people that it was not declaring war to annex Cuba, but to help it gain its independence from Spain. The Platt Amendment was a move by the United States' government to shape Cuban affairs without violating the Teller Amendment. [161]

The U.S. Congress had passed the Teller Amendment before the war, promising Cuban independence. However, the Senate passed the Platt Amendment as a rider to an Army appropriations bill, forcing a peace treaty on Cuba which prohibited it from signing treaties with other nations or contracting a public debt. The Platt Amendment was 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). The amendment granted the United States the right to stabilize Cuba militarily as needed. [162] In addition, the Platt Amendment permitted the United States to deploy Marines to Cuba if its freedom and independence was ever threatened or jeopardized by an external or internal force. [162] The Platt Amendment also provided for a permanent American naval base in Cuba. [162] 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 Edit

The U.S. annexed the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. [162] The notion of the United States as an imperial power, with colonies, was hotly debated domestically with President McKinley and the Pro-Imperialists winning their way over vocal opposition led by Democrat William Jennings Bryan, [162] who had supported the war. The American public largely supported the possession of colonies, but there were many outspoken critics such as Mark Twain, who wrote The War Prayer in protest. Roosevelt returned to the United States a war hero, [162] and he was soon elected governor of New York and then became the vice president. At the age of 42 he became the youngest person to become president after the assassination of President McKinley.

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. [163]

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." [164]

Veterans Associations Edit

In 1904, the United Spanish War Veterans was created from smaller groups of the veterans of the Spanish–American War. Today, that organization is defunct, but it left an heir in the Sons of Spanish–American War Veterans, created in 1937 at the 39th National Encampment of the United Spanish War Veterans. According to data from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 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. [165] 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 excise tax on long-distance phone service. [166] At the time, it affected only wealthy Americans who owned telephones. However, the Congress neglected to repeal the tax after the war ended four months later, and the tax remained in place for over 100 years until, on August 1, 2006, it was announced that the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS would no longer collect the tax. [167]

Postwar American investment in Puerto Rico Edit

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. [ citation needed ] 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. [168] 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. [169] 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. [170] 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. [ citation needed ]

The Spanish–American War was the first U.S. war in which the motion picture camera played a role. [171] The Library of Congress archives contain many films and film clips from the war. [172] In addition, a few feature films have been made about the war. These include

  • The Rough Riders, a 1927 silent film
  • A Message to Garcia, 1936 , a 1997 television miniseries directed by John Milius, and featuring Tom Berenger (Theodore Roosevelt), Gary Busey (Joseph Wheeler), Sam Elliott (Buckey O'Neill), Dale Dye (Leonard Wood), Brian Keith (William McKinley), George Hamilton (William Randolph Hearst), and R. Lee Ermey (John Hay)
  • Crucible of Empire: The Spanish-American War, a 1999 television documentary from PBS
  • The Spanish–American War: First Intervention, a 2007 docudrama from The History Channel
  • Baler, a 2008 film about the Siege of Baler
  • Los últimos de Filipinas ("The Last Ones of the Philippines"), a 1945 Spanish biographical film directed by Antonio Román
  • Amigo, 2010
  • 1898, Our Last Men in the Philippines, a well-acclaimed 2016 film about the Siege of Baler

United States Edit

The United States awards and decorations of the Spanish–American War were as follows:

Wartime service and honors Edit

Postwar occupation service Edit

Spain Edit

  • Army Cross of Military Merit/Cruces del Mérito Militar—Spain issued two Crosses of Military Merit including one for fighters with a red badge and a red ribbon with a white stripe, and one for non-fighters with a white badge and a white ribbon with a red stripe. An example of the Silver Cross of Military Merit with the red emblem for fighters was issued on July 18 of 1898 for good behavior on the 11th of May in defense of the fortress of El Faro and the Pueblo de Jagua on May 11 in the Battle of Cienfuegos. [173]
  • Army Operations Medal/Medalla Para Ejercito de Operaciones, Cuba [174]
  • Medal for Volunteers/Medalla Para Los Volunatrios, Cuban Campaign, 1895–1898 [174]
  • Army Operations Medal for Vaolr, Discipline and Loyalty, Philippines, 1896–1898 [174]
  • Army Medal for Volunteers/Medalla Para Los Voluntarios, Philippines, Luzon Campaign, 1896–1897 [174]

Other countries Edit

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.

Footnotes Edit

  1. ^ ab Unrecognized by the primary belligerents.
  2. ^ The US declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898, but dated the beginning of the war retroactively to April 21
  3. ^ Number is the total for all Cuban rebels active from 1895 to 1898. [2]
  4. ^ Some historians prefer alternative titles, e.g.:
    • Louis A. Pérez (1998), The war of 1898: the United States and Cuba in history and historiography, UNC Press Books, ISBN978-0807847428 , archived from the original on April 24, 2016 , retrieved October 31, 2015
    • Benjamin R. Beede (1994), The War of 1898, and US interventions, 1898–1934: an encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis, ISBN978-0824056247 , archived from the original on May 27, 2016 , retrieved October 31, 2015
    • Thomas David Schoonover Walter LaFeber (2005), Uncle Sam's War of 1898 and the Origins of Globalization, University Press of Kentucky, ISBN978-0813191225 , archived from the original on May 7, 2016 , retrieved October 31, 2015
    • Virginia Marie Bouvier (2001), Whose America?: the war of 1898 and the battles to define the nation, Praeger, ISBN978-0275967949 , archived from the original on May 14, 2016 , retrieved October 31, 2015
  5. ^

1. This is the English language text of the document as published by the supporting source cited, possibly as translated from the original Spanish or Tagalog. In 1898, Spanish, Tagalog, and English were official languages in the Spanish colonial Philippines. [84] 2. In the Spanish colonial Philippiines, the term Filipino was reserved for full-blooded Spaniards born in the Philippines (insulares). Full-blooded Spaniards born in the Spanish peninsula were termed peninsulares. The Filipinos that we know today were then termed indios. [85] [86]

The text of the document as published in the cited source was as follows:


Fellow Spaniards,

Hostilities between Spain and the United States have broken out.

The moment has come for us to show the world that we are more than courageous to triumph over those, who, feigning to be loyal friends, took advantage of our misfortunes and capitalized on our nobility by making use of the means civilized nations consider as condemnable and contemptible.

The Americans, gratified with their social progress, have drained off our patience and have instigated the war through wicked tactics, treacherous acts, and violations of human rights and internal agreements.

Fighting will be short and decisive. God of victories will render this victory glorious and complete as demanded by reason and justice to our cause.

Spain, counting on the sympathies of all nations, will come out in triumph from this new test, by shattering and silencing the adventurers of those countries which, without cohesiveness and post, offer to humanity shameful traditions and the ungrateful spectacle of some embassies within which jointly dwell intrigues and defamation, cowardice and cynicism.

A US squadron, manned by strangers, by ignorant undisciplined men, is coming into the Archipelago for the purpose of grabbing from us what we consider to be our life, honor freedom. It tries to inspire (motivate) American sailors by saying that we are weak, they are encouraged to keep on with an undertaking that can be accomplished namely of substituting the Catholic religion with Protestantism, they consider you as a people who impedes growth they will seize your wealth as if you do not know your rights to property they will snatch away from you those they consider as useful to man their ships, to be exploited as workers in their fields and factories.

Useless plans! Ridiculous boastings!

Your indomitable courage suffices to hold off those who dare to bring it to reality. We know you will not allow them to mock the faith you are professing, their feet to step on the temple of the true God, incredulity to demolish the sacred images you honor you will not allow the invaders to desecrate the tombs of your forefathers to satisfy their immodest passions at the expense of your wives and daughters' honor you will not allow them to seize all the properties you have put up through honest work in order to assure your future you will not allow them to commit any of those crimes inspired by their wickedness and greed, because your bravery and patriotism suffice in scaring them away and knocking down the people who, calling themselves civilized and cultured, resort to the extermination of the natives of North America instead of trying to attract them to live a civilized life and of progress.

Filipinos! Prepare yourself for the battle and united together under the glorious Spanish flag, always covered with laurels, let us fight, convinced that victory will crown our efforts and let us reply the intimations of our enemies with a decision befitting a Christian and patriot, with a cry of "Long live Spain!"

Manila, April 23, 1898

Your general


The mock battle that ended the Spanish-American War

George Dewey was promoted to the rank of rear admiral after the Battle of Manila Bay. Dewey was celebrated in American culture with songs, paintings, and public sculptures.

The Spanish-American War ended with a fantastic performance. It starred an American hero, a veteran commander taking control of a crew of both fresh-faced and veteran sailors in a corner of the Pacific few back home had heard about. His opponent: a Spaniard at the helm of his empire’s last stand in a far-flung colony. Both were aided by an efficient Belgian consul who brokered a plan to save Spanish honor, guarantee a bloodless victory, and, most important, keep a revolutionary Filipino general in the dark about the entire operation. But before we get to the main attraction, the fanfare.

An explosion aboard the USS Maine, which had been anchored in Havana harbor, ignited the Spanish-American War. An investigation argued that the ship’s ammunition stocks had caught fire but was not the result of Spanish sabotage.

On April 25, 1898, Congress declared war against Spain, and the U.S. Navy secretary cabled Commodore George Dewey, commanding the Asiatic Squadron, with orders to engage the enemy, not in the Caribbean but across the globe in the Philippines, where military commanders knew the empire was weakest, with a flotilla described as antiquated and decrepit.

By 1898, Spain had lost control of its once global reach, with the last of its colonies in the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba seized by the United States.

Often referred to as decisive, the United States’ battle for control of Manila involved Dewey’s squadron facing off with a Spanish flotilla described as a "grab-bag collection of mostly obsolete vessels" which was in "poor repair." Even so, this event has become the kind that has inspired the creation of songs like "Brave Dewey and His Men (Down at Manila Bay)" and public sculptures like the Dewey Monument in San Francisco’s Union Square. While Dewey controlled the bay with a blockade, Filipino General Emilio Aguinaldo and his army had cornered the Spanish on land. By late May, Aguinaldo’s troops had captured 5,000 Spaniards and surrounded the walled city section of Intramuros in an attempt to starve the colonizing army.

On June 12, Filipino revolutionary forces proclaimed the Philippine Declaration of Independence. The United States refused recognition. The result was a standstill: the U.S. Navy blockaded the bay, Filipino troops controlled the city, and Spanish troops found themselves cut off from support. Over the next two months, reinforcements for Dewey arrived from the United States, including 7,000 landing hundreds of kilometers north of Manila, with another 20,000 troops followed by two battleships.

With the help of Belgian Consul Édouard André, Dewey began secret negotiations with his Spanish opposite, Governor-General Basilio Augustín. The Spanish commander, whose family had been taken prisoner by Filipino troops, sent a telegram to his superiors describing the harsh conditions the Spaniards faced in the city: starvation, sickness, weak and swollen legs from exposure while defending trenches, and low morale among the troops. For telling the truth and proposing surrender, Augustín was dismissed and ordered to transfer command to General Fermín Jáudenes, whose job it was to hold the city for Spain.

This handwritten note, written in English, was directed to U.S. forces occupying the Philippines, offering them cash for surrending themselves and their weapons.

The Spanish, who had control over the Philippines since at least 1565, were not about to surrender to their colonial charges. The Americans, on the other hand, were new to the Philippines. The U.S. military’s treatment of native Filipinos echoed the longer histories of Americans’ attitudes toward African Americans and Native Americans back home.

During negotiations between Dewey’s camp and Jáudenes, U.S. Army General Wesley Merritt, commander of the San Francisco–based VIII Corps, shared his views of Filipinos. In an 1899 interview, Merrit told a journalist from the New York Sun that he had come "with orders not to treat with the Indians [sic] not to recognize them, and not to promise anything," adding, General "Aguinaldo is just the same to me as a boy in the street." The Spanish commander held a similar attitude he was "willing to surrender to white people," but never to Filipinos.

The players had agreed on the terms for the performance. Only André, Dewey, Merritt, and Jáudenes knew of the complete plans. The success of the performance hinged on keeping Filipino troops out of the city while U.S. and Spanish troops exchanged places.

On the morning of August 13, the mock battle for Manila began. The band on board the British armored cruiser HMS Immortalité serenaded the Americans with "patriotic aires." At 9 a.m., the "attack" commenced with Dewey’s flagship, the protected cruiser Olympia, lobbing a few shells into the old fort at Malate while the Spanish guns on the coast provided no response. Recently arrived land-based U.S. forces held back Filipinos outside the central city. The historian Teodoro Agoncillo understood the theatrical nature of the event when he wrote: "The few casualties on both sides in the phony attack were due to some ‘actors’ bungling their ‘lines,’ or possibly to the fact that very few officers were let in on the charade."

To confront thousands of U.S. occupying forces, Filipino combatants, low on ammunition and weaponry from revolting against the Spanish in 1896, resorted to guerrilla warfare and improvised military tactics, including making their own arms.

According to plan, Dewey’s staff transmitted the code for surrender to Jáudenes, and the Spanish obliged by raising the white flag at 11:20 a.m., just in time for lunch. To bring the morning’s shock and awe to a close, the crew of the British armored cruiser HMS Immortalité fired a twenty-one-gun salute in honor of the U.S. flag that was hoisted atop Manila’s Fort Santiago, prompting Dewey to say, "I hope it floats there forever."

The mock battle offered Spanish forces in the Philippines an opportunity to save face by surrendering not to their Filipino charges of more than 300 years, but to militarily superior Americans. The Americans played the well-crafted role of savior. But Philippine freedom fighters were not convinced by either of the performances.

The mock battle that ended the Spanish-American War reinforced the Filipinos’ debt to their new American masters for the gift of regime change. That military engagement proved only to be the prelude to the United States’ war with the Philippines from 1899 to 1902, which took the lives of 4,200 American and at least 20,000 Filipino combatants. The U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Historian estimates that 200,000 civilians died.

The most popular writer of his time, Mark Twain, had much to say about the U.S. mission in the Philippines: "It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land."

Adapted from The Day the Dancers Stayed: Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora by Theodore S. Gonzalves. Copyright © 2009 by Temple University Press. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Theodore S. Gonzalves is Curator of Asian Pacific American History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The Black “Immune” Regiments in the Spanish-American War

(Library of Congress)

In April 1898 Congress declared war on Spain, and patriotic Americans of all colors rallied to the flag. The rampant discrimination that characterized race relations in this country during the Gilded Age caused some black citizens to question America’s crusade to end Spanish oppression of dark-skinned Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos, when they were facing similar conditions of injustice in the United States. Many other African Americans, however, hoped that they could gradually expand opportunities for racial equality by supporting the “splendid little war.”

The soldiers of the Regular Army’s four black regiments–the 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry–performed their duty without question. They deployed to Cuba and made significant contributions to the speedy victory, earning five Medals of Honor and twenty-nine Certificates of Merit for their gallantry under fire. Thousands of other African Americans also served in the 200,000-man Volunteer Army that was specially raised to augment the regulars. President William McKinley asked each of the states, territories, and the District of Columbia to provide a quota of units based upon their respective populations, and eight governors–from Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia–included segregated black units in their contributions to that force. Ohio’s Governor Asa S. Bushnell offered command of his state’s black battalion to 1LT Charles Young, the Regular Army’s only black line officer, and Young’s acceptance earned him a temporary promotion to major in the Volunteer Army.

Concerned about the health risks that tropical diseases would pose for American troops when they deployed to the Caribbean theater of operations, the War Department almost immediately began to consider organizing specialized units. In late April, the New York Times reported that Secretary of War Russell Alger wanted to recruit “at least half a dozen special regiments of yellow fever immunes for service in Cuba.” Alger asked Senator Donelson Caffery (D-LA) whether 6,000 immunes could be recruited in the Gulf states, and Caffery optimistically responded that “he could raise 20,000 such volunteers in New Orleans alone, as practically all the natives had had the fever, and all would volunteer.”

Congress settled for half the number of men offered by Senator Caffery, and in early May it empowered President McKinley to authorize Secretary Alger to organize “an additional volunteer force of not exceeding ten thousand enlisted men possessing immunity from diseases incident to tropical climates.” The resulting ten infantry regiments were popularly known as the “Immunes,” and they soon attracted volunteers–primarily from the South–who had been unwilling or unable to enlist in Regular Army or state units. The Washington Post ridiculed the concept, saying: “Among all the fallacies and crack-brained nonsense bred by the war, we know of none so extravagant as the ‘immune regiment.’” The New York Times pointed out, however, that efforts would be made to secure recruits who, if they had not passed through yellow fever epidemics, at least would be “thoroughly acclimated to a hot climate and…accustomed to outdoor life. When so made up[,] it is considered that these regiments will be far superior for rough and ready campaigning in Cuba to the ordinary volunteers.”

Many erroneously believed that African Americans were naturally immune to tropical diseases or at least were better suited for service in the tropics. Booker T. Washington wrote the Secretary of the Navy that Cuba’s climate was “peculiar and danger[o]us to the unaclimated [sic] white man. The Negro race in the South is accustomed to this climate.” Other black leaders lobbied in Washington to reserve all ten regiments for their race. Although they lacked the political clout to accomplish that lofty goal, President McKinley was well aware that most states had refused to accept black volunteers, and he wanted to recognize the martial spirit of the minority that staunchly supported his Republican party. On 26 May, the adjutant general’s office issued General Orders, No. 55, indicating that five of the Immune regiments would be composed of “persons of color.” Shortly thereafter, that number was reduced to four, and the 7th through the 10th U.S. Volunteer Infantry (USVI) were designated for black enlisted men and lieutenants. Company commanders and “field and staff” officers were to be white, a policy that angered most African Americans.

The issue of commissioning black officers was a sensitive one, because many Americans doubted that a people only one generation removed from slavery could produce effective military leaders. More than 100 black men had “worn shoulder straps” during the Civil War–one surgeon had even earned the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel–but they all had left the service during or shortly after the war concluded. Since that time, the Regular Army had commissioned eight African Americans–three line officers and five chaplains–but Charles Young and four chaplains were the only ones remaining on active duty. Governors from twenty-two states and the District of Columbia also had commissioned hundreds of black officers in the segregated units that served in their respective militias. Many of these units were still serving in 1898, and the African American community reasonably expected that they should be accepted into the Volunteer Army without leadership changes. John Mitchell Jr., the outspoken editor of the Richmond Planet, expressed this view as “No officers, no fight!”

All the officers in the Volunteer Army’s black state units were African Americans, except for those in the 3d Alabama and the commander and one assistant surgeon in the 6th Virginia. The War Department, however, decided that it would only authorize 100 black officer billets for the Immunes–twenty-four lieutenants and a chaplain in each black regiment. Officials hoped that this policy would not create problems, but many doubted the efficacy of commissioning so many African Americans. The New York Times reported that “Army experts” regarded black officers as “an experiment which may or may not turn out well,” and it also noted that “there is some doubt whether colored troops will follow one of their own race as well as they would a white officer.” Virginia’s Richmond Dispatch offered a blunter assessment that “the presence of shoulder-strapped Negroes in our army would be a constant source of embarrassment and weakness.”

To organize the Immune regiments, the War Department divided the South into recruiting regions. General Orders, No. 60, issued on 1 June 1898, designated the commanders for eight of the ten units–all but the 1st and 2d USVI–and assigned them geographic areas in which to recruit, as well as specific cities in which to locate their regimental headquarters. The states of Arkansas, Missouri, and western Tennessee were assigned to the 7th Immunes, and CPT Edward A. Godwin of the 8th Cavalry was selected as the regimental commander. The 8th Immunes would recruit in Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and West Virginia, and be commanded by MAJ Eli L. Huggins of the 6th Cavalry. The 9th Immunes would come from Louisiana and be commanded by CPT Charles J. Crane of the 24th Infantry. The 10th Immunes would recruit in Virginia and North Carolina. The regiment’s first commander would be MAJ Jesse M. Lee, of the 9th Infantry, but he would be replaced by CPT Thaddeus W. Jones, from the 10th Cavalry. The order failed to indicate which units would accept black volunteers, but Adjutant General (BG) Henry C. Corbin had already sent the new colonels a confidential letter informing them that their lieutenants and enlisted men were to be “persons of color.”

CPTs Godwin, Jones, and Crane were West Point graduates–Godwin having graduated in 1870, Jones in 1872, and Crane five years later. Godwin and Huggins had seen enlisted service during the Civil War, and in 1894 Huggins had received the Medal of Honor for his “great boldness” fighting Sioux Indians in Montana in 1880. Lee had served with black regiments for four years in the 1860s. Crane and Jones had each been assigned to black regiments for more than twenty years, and Jones accompanied the 10th Cavalry to Cuba and earned a Silver Star citation before joining the Immunes. All of the officers were seasoned professionals and well qualified to command volunteer regiments, but many Southern congressmen resented their selection, as well as the six colonels designated to command the white regiments. The politicians complained that while most enlisted Immunes came from their region, only one of the colonels–the 6th USVI’s Laurence D. Tyson, of Tennessee–could be “credited properly to the South.”

Promoted to colonel in the Volunteer Army, Edward Godwin proceeded from Fort Meade, South Dakota, to Memphis, Tennessee, the city designated as his regimental headquarters. In mid-June, however, he moved his headquarters 250 miles north to St. Louis, instructing his company commanders to gather at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, a picturesque army post overlooking the Mississippi River, a few miles south of the city. COL Godwin eventually accepted seven companies from Missouri, three from Arkansas, one from Tennessee, and one from Iowa. Some of these units had been raised by black men, who were forced to step aside and allow white captains to command them.

Each Immune company was authorized three officers and eighty-two enlisted men and was slightly smaller than state volunteer companies. Regiments had an additional “field and staff” (headquarters) of ten officers and eight enlisted men, for a total authorized strength of 46 officers and 992 enlisted men. Recruits between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were enlisted for two years of service (unless sooner discharged), and those whose leadership abilities impressed their company commanders were appointed as noncommissioned officers (NCOs)–a first sergeant, a quartermaster sergeant, four sergeants, and eight corporals. Two musicians, an artificer (mechanic), a wagoner, and sixty-four privates rounded out each unit. As the regiment’s twelve companies were mustered into federal service, they were lettered from A to M (J was not used).

COL Godwin’s first companies came from St. Louis, which had a black population approaching 35,000. Because the War Department refused to commission black officers above the rank of lieutenant, the city’s recruits initially gave the new regiment “the cold shoulder.” According to the Post-Dispatch, the recruiting was “the flattest thing which has struck St. Louis recently.” Professor Obadiah M. Wood, a local black high school principal whose earlier offer to raise a regiment with himself as its colonel had been rejected, actually hindered the recruiting and expressed doubts that a single black company would be raised in Missouri. In spite of obstacles created by him and other disgruntled black leaders, three St. Louis companies (A-C) were mustered into service by mid-July. Four other Missouri companies came from Moberly (E), Columbia (F), Kansas City (K), and Springfield (L). Little Rock, Arkansas, also provided three units (G-I), while Company D came from Memphis. Company M, from Des Moines, Iowa, completed the regiment’s organization on 23 July.

Godwin selected a fairly impressive group of black officers. There were at least six college graduates (two with professional degrees) and seven had invaluable military experience–three in the Regular Army and four in the National Guard. When Godwin reported his unit’s status to BG Corbin, he indicated that the question of appointing lieutenants had given him “more trouble than everything else connected with the organization of the regiment.” He added that his black officers were “industrious and willing,” but they had “everything to learn, as well as the men.” Godwin also opined: “I believe that the regiment is composed of good material, and will in time do good service.”

Meanwhile, COL Eli Huggins was consolidating his 8th Immunes at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, which overlooked the Ohio River about three miles southeast of Cincinnati. COL Huggins accepted four companies from Tennessee, which were recruited in Greenville (C), Harriman (D), Murfreesboro (E), and Columbia (F). Three units came from the Kentucky cities of Louisville (H) and Winchester (I and K), and two from Charleston (L) and Parkersburg, West Virginia (M). Two companies also came from Washington, D.C. (B and G), while Newark, New Jersey, provided Company A. The Newark Evening News covered its volunteers’ well attended departure for Kentucky, reporting that as the train pulled out, “a rousing cheer went up …and every face that looked out of the car was seemingly a happy one.”

Huggins’s staff included a black assistant surgeon, 1LT William W. Purnell, a graduate of Howard University Medical School in the nation’s capital. Six other black Washingtonians also secured commissions in the regiment, including Company G’s first lieutenant, Benjamin O. Davis, who would later enlist in the 9th Cavalry, earn a commission in the Regular Army in 1901, and end his exemplary military career by becoming the Army’s first black general in 1940. 1LT William McBryar, of Company M, was one of more than a score of talented black NCOs from the Regular Army who were commissioned in the Immune regiments. McBryar, from the 25th Infantry, had been awarded the Medal of Honor in 1890 for his bravery pursuing Apache Indians in Arizona.

The men who enlisted in the 8th Immunes were primarily semi-skilled and unskilled workers–the case in all four of the black regiments–with only about two percent of them having white-collar jobs. More than three out of five men worked as laborers, which was the main occupation listed for each company. Farmer, cook, miner, and waiter were the next four most common occupations, although they were not found in every unit. Almost half the regiment’s farmers enlisted in Company K, from Winchester, while the miners only served in the companies raised in Harriman (D), and Charleston (L). More than one-third of the men were illiterate, as evidenced by the “Xs” they placed on company muster-in rolls. Only about one-sixth of them were married.

On 20 August, COL Huggins proudly notified BG Corbin that “the regiment is now ready to go on short notice.” Two weeks later, the 8th Immunes was joined by the African American portion of Indiana’s Volunteer Army quota–two companies, primarily recruited from Indianapolis and Evansville. Indiana had included two black companies in its militia since the mid-1880s and had even assigned them to otherwise white regiments until 1896 (a rare instance of militia integration). Governor James A. Mount had been willing to raise a black regiment in addition to his assigned troop quota, but Secretary Alger told him that such a unit could only be accepted as part of Indiana’s quota. Mount was not that indebted to black voters, so he only allowed about 200 black Hoosiers–Companies A and B, 1st Indiana Volunteers–to be mustered into federal service in mid-July. These men would remain attached to the 8th Immunes, as a provisional fourth battalion, for four-and-a-half months.

In October COL Huggins and his men were transferred to Camp George H. Thomas, at Chickamauga Park, Georgia. A few days after arriving there, the Immunes were inspected by a three-man team of officers, led by LTC Marion P. Maus, who found that “[t]he men appeared and marched fairly well, and seemed to be respectful, and generally well contented.” He also reported, however, that the regiment “would not be fit for duty” on account of its “very poor and insufficient clothing” and “badly worn and unfit shoes.” Maus judged the officers to be “fairly well fitted for the performance of their duties” but recommended that three black lieutenants be discharged, one dishonorably.

Maus also inspected the two Indiana companies and found them to be as well drilled as the Immunes. He reported, however, that their six officers, with the exception of one first lieutenant, were “very poorly and insufficiently educated to hold commissions” and that “there was an objection shown to having these companies with the 8th, as it might be considered that they were a part of their organization.” Maus recommended that the Hoosiers be mustered out and that “such of the men that desire to remain in the service” should be assigned to Immune regiments.

The 8th Immunes had strained relations with the local white community, and in November the New York Times reported that the mayor of Chattanooga had informed Secretary Alger that “their presence near the city is undesirable and prejudicial to good order.” COL Huggins explained to the adjutant general that one of the most serious incidents involved one of the Hoosier volunteers, who refused “to leave the ‘white’ car and take the one assigned to colored people.” Huggins added that “[t]he distorted and exaggerated press reports of this affair” falsely attributed the disturbance to his regiment. Chattanooga’s mayor asked that the 8th Immunes be transferred, but it remained at Camp Thomas.

The Indiana companies were mustered out of service in January 1899, and COL Huggins’s regiment followed suit in March. As a train left Chattanooga carrying about half of the discharged soldiers home, it was reported that “a number of the men, who had in some way secured revolvers, began to discharge them in the air and into sheds and vacant houses.” Three local men were wounded. Police roughed up the Immunes when their train passed through Nashville, and the New York Times reported that they “presented a battered appearance” when they reached Louisville, Kentucky.

The 9th Immunes’ designated headquarters was New Orleans, and COL Charles Crane arrived there on 3 June. Crane was not pleased with the War Department’s decision to integrate his regimental officers, a racist attitude shared by most of the “Crescent City’s” white population. A New Orleans Daily Picayune editorial underscored this attitude: “Any association of black with white officers must be official only, and not in any way social. This is the only way to prevent demoralization.” Crane sent a telegram to BG Corbin advising: “If the Lieutenants are to be colored it will be hard to get good men for Captains.” Corbin wisely responded: “Go slow in the matter and wait results without reaching hasty conclusions. It may be much easier and much better than you think.”

New Orleans was the largest city in the South, with more than 70,000 black citizens, but COL Crane initially encountered the same recruiting problem that had confronted the 7th Immunes in St. Louis–local African American leaders were angry that no black officers above first lieutenant would be accepted, and they threatened to boycott the 9th Immunes’ recruiting if that policy was not changed. This situation did not concern Crane, however, and he informed BG Corbin that he could raise the regiment “outside of Louisiana, if necessary, accepting only companies from Texas and Mississippi and Alabama.”

New Orleans eventually provided the vast majority of the 9th Immune’s recruits, but two companies from Texas did join COL Crane’s regiment. There was a five-company Battalion of Colored Infantry in the Texas Volunteer Guard, but Governor Charles A. Culberson refused to include any black units in the Lone Star State’s Volunteer Army quota, so black Texans eager to serve asked Representative Robert B. Hawley of Galveston to use his influence to get them added to the ranks of an Immune regiment. Hawley contacted the War Department, and on 6 June Secretary Alger notified COL Crane that he wanted him to accept at least two companies from Texas and to correspond with Hawley about the matter.

In late June, Crane and his mustering officer rode the train to Galveston and Houston to muster-in two newly raised volunteer companies–the Hawley Guard and the Ferguson Rifles. The man selected to command the latter unit was CPT Claron A. Windus, from Brackettville, Texas. Born in Wisconsin in 1850, Windus had served as a drummer boy during the Civil War and then lied about his age so that he could enlist in the 6th Cavalry in 1866. Four years later, his bravery as a company bugler during a fight with Kiowa Indians on the Little Wichita River in northern Texas earned him a Medal of Honor. After leaving the Army and becoming a deputy sheriff, Windus gunned down a suspected murderer while trying to arrest him in Brackettville. Ironically, the lawman’s victim was another Medal of Honor recipient–former Seminole-Negro Indian Scout Adam Payne.

The two Texas units joined the 9th Immunes as Companies G and I. The men in the other ten units all came from New Orleans, except for some Louisianans from Donaldsonville and New Iberia, who enlisted in the regiment’s last two companies. As the citizens of the Crescent City celebrated the Fourth of July, COL Crane called upon his personal connection with BG Corbin (they had served together in the 24th Infantry), asking him in a letter to “please see that my regiment is given a place among those sent to Cuba.” Four days later, Corbin replied: “The moment you are ready for assignment, telegraph me and [the] order will be made.”

On 19 July Crane notified Corbin that his regiment was complete, and four weeks later the Picayune made the surprising announcement that “Crane’s Black Band” would be leaving for Cuba immediately, in lieu of COL Charles S. Riche’s 1st USVI. Colonel Riche’s Immunes, which had been recruited in Galveston, had already begun to load equipment on the steamship Berlin when the unit was directed to disembark and make way for the 9th Immunes. The newspaper said “the conclusion seem[ed] inevitable that [the substitution] was intended as a slight to the white Texans.” It noted that Secretary Alger had done everything possible “to snub and slight the Southern troops and the Southern States.” The Picayune concluded that “immunes from the overwhelmingly Democratic State of Texas [were] not good enough for the Secretary’s political partisan purposes, and so they [were] set aside for negroes.”

COL Riche’s Immunes had many disciplinary problems while they were in New Orleans, but COL Crane’s friendship with the adjutant general may have been the key factor in causing the substitution. Whatever the true reasons for the regimental switch were, Crane’s men were happy to be sailing to Cuba. On 17 August, the proud members of the 9th Immunes marched from Camp Corbin, their encampment at the city fairgrounds, down Esplanade Avenue, arriving at the levee in mid-afternoon to board the Berlin “amid the cheers and farewells of a multitude of negroes.” The Times-Democrat said “it was a day long to live in the annals of New Orleans negrodom.” The 1st USVI was the only white Immune regiment that did not deploy overseas, and as it prepared for its humiliating return to Galveston, the 9th Immunes sailed down the Mississippi River, crossed the Gulf of Mexico, and arrived in Santiago, Cuba, on 22 August 1898.

Crane’s unit was the fourth (and only black) Immune regiment to deploy to the island, where fighting had ceased, but scores of American troops were dying from tropical diseases. Shortly after guarding Spanish prisoners on San Juan Hill for a few days, “a wave of tropical fevers” passed through the regiment, killing almost thirty enlisted men and one lieutenant. By mid-September, the men appeared to be stronger, and the unit relocated to a new camp located just outside San Luis, a city about eighteen miles north of Santiago. In San Luis, the 9th Immunes formed a brigade with two other black units–the 8th Illinois and the 23d Kansas.

Neither of the state regiments had white officers, and this caused friction with the Immunes. One member of the 8th Illinois was not impressed with Crane’s “superior and selfish southern white officers” and wrote that as far as they were concerned, “the man who did the most grinning…and could dance the best or make the best monkeyshines, was the best Negro soldier.” In his memoirs, COL Crane reached quite a different conclusion, noting that his regiment was better disciplined than either of the state units.

In mid-November, several drunken Immunes tried to steal a pig, and a member of the newly organized rural police attempted to arrest them. Later, unidentified Immunes shot at the policeman’s house, and he and several other Cubans were killed, as well as one soldier. COL Crane was away from San Luis at the time and hurried back to investigate the incident, but without success. All three of the black units were ordered to new camps outside San Luis, and the American press gave the affair much bad publicity. The Boston Globe reported that the Immunes belonged to “a command that, from the first, has been disorderly and inefficient.”

In early 1899, Cuban bandits began burning sugar cane fields and robbing plantations, so Crane’s regiment was broken up, and eight of its companies were stationed in towns outside San Luis. Houston’s Company I exchanged its Springfield rifles for carbines and horses and became one of three units that was mounted to pursue the lawbreakers. The men earned the nickname “Bandit Chasers,” and Crane later noted that they killed several of the “Cuban banditti” and thanks to their frequent operations “were fast becoming good soldiers.” When the regiment finally left Cuba in late April, MG Leonard Wood presented Crane with a letter stating that his unit’s work in suppressing bandits had been “especially worthy of commendation.”

The 9th Immunes sailed from Santiago on 26 April, having lost three officers and seventy-three enlisted men to disease. Six days later, after passing through the Staten Island quarantine station, the regiment arrived at Camp George G. Meade, near Middletown, Pennsylvania, for its final muster out of federal service. The War Department allowed volunteers to purchase their weapons, but aware of the problems that the 8th Immunes had encountered in Tennessee, Crane convinced his men to ship them separately. Thanks in part to this preventive measure, his Immunes had no problems as they rode trains to Louisiana and Texas, although one sergeant was killed in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, railway station when another veteran accidentally fired a revolver.

The 10th Immunes had been assigned the states of Virginia and North Carolina for its recruiting. COL Jesse Lee had originally designated Raleigh, North Carolina, as his headquarters, but he claimed that Governor Daniel L. Russell discouraged him from doing this. Lee then considered Charlotte, North Carolina, before finally settling on Augusta, Georgia. In addition to one company from that city (G), Lee accepted two other Georgia units from Atlanta (A) and Rome (I) four Virginia companies from Richmond (B), Alexandria (C), Pocahontas (E), and Hampton (F) three South Carolina units from Spartanburg (H), Darlington (K), and Aiken (M) Company D from Washington, D.C., and Company L from Jacksonville, Florida.

The integration of the 10th Immunes’ officers’ mess attracted national attention in July. In “Jim Crow” America, it was deemed socially unacceptable for the unit’s black and white officers to dine together. According to the New York Times, when COL Lee learned that his officers’ mess would be integrated, he decided to resign his temporary commission in the Volunteer Army and return to the 9th Infantry as a major. The Times approved of Lee’s action, saying that: “His course is simply the course taken by practically the entire white population of the country…as often as the occasion for it arises…The delusion that the two races are socially assimilable is a little too antiquated.”

Two of the 10th Immunes’ first lieutenants, Floyd H. Crumbly and Thomas Grant, had been lieutenant colonels in the Georgia militia–some of the few black militia officers who had been willing to accept demotions to secure commissions in the Immune regiments. Another subaltern, 1LT Edward L. Baker, Jr., reported to the regiment after spending six years as the 10th Cavalry’s sergeant major. In 1902 Baker would receive a belated Medal of Honor for leaving cover and, under fire, rescuing a wounded comrade from drowning at Santiago, Cuba, on 1 July 1898.

By 13 July, half of the 10th Immunes’ companies had arrived at Camp Dyer, the regimental headquarters established near Augusta. Under the watchful eye of LTC Charles L. Withrow, a New York lawyer in civilian life and the senior officer present, the new recruits pitched tents and learned what “soldiering” was all about. According to the Augusta Chronicle, they were eager to learn, but the large number of “green men” made the training very trying for the officers who were patiently attempting to instruct them.

A correspondent from the New York Times visited the regiment and pronounced that its men were “the finest specimens of physical manhood that can be found in the volunteer service.” Noting that visitors of both races came to the camp on Sunday afternoons, he wrote: “Handsomely gowned women mingled on the parade ground with the wives and sisters of the soldiers–their cooks and chambermaids–and thus a black and white tout ensemble is presented, which is rare, indeed, in an old-time Southern city.”

The War Department quickly designated Thaddeus W. Jones as the new commander of the 10th Immunes, and on 2 August–still weak from a bout with malaria that he had contracted in Cuba–COL Jones arrived at Camp Dyer. A North Carolinian with about twenty-five years of service with the “buffalo soldiers,” Jones was fully sensitized to racial issues and an excellent choice to replace Lee. The Augusta Chronicle reported that being a Southerner, “he would naturally understand the negro.”

September brought news that the 10th Immunes was being transferred to Lexington, Kentucky, where it would form a brigade with the 7th Immunes and perhaps eventually be shipped to the Philippines, since Spanish forces in Cuba had already surrendered. The first elements of COL Jones’s regiment arrived in Lexington on 18 September, and the men established a camp at Weil’s Farm, a few miles west of the city.

In October LTC Maus’s team inspected the 7th and 10th Immunes at Weil’s Farm. Maus was impressed with the number of COL Godwin’s men who were present for inspection, reporting: “I doubt whether another regiment in the volunteer service could show as many men present for duty.” He found that the unit’s marching was excellent, but the men “were very poorly dressed.” Maus also recommended that all three of the officers from Memphis’s Company D be discharged. After the team inspected the 10th Immunes, Maus reported that the men’s clothing was “in a shameful condition.” He found that many of the men “were in rags, while a number had civilian trousers. In some cases the feet of the men were showing through their shoes.” Maus reported that the officers seemed “to perform their duties acceptably” but recommended that four of them–LTC Withrow, a major, a captain, and a lieutenant–be discharged.

The 10th Immunes only stayed in Lexington until mid-November, when it returned to Georgia, this time reporting to Camp Haskell, a few miles from Macon. There were eventually four black regiments assigned to the camp–the 3d North Carolina, the 6th Virginia, and the 7th and 10th Immunes. The men in these units dreaded the oppressive discrimination that characterized race relations in the deep South. It only took some of them a few days to get into trouble with the local authorities, who refused to modify the Jim Crow restrictions that they routinely imposed on Macon’s black community. One member of the 7th Immunes wrote that “the hatred of the Georgia cracker for the Negro cannot be explained by pen.”

None of the black troops responded well to Macon’s racism, but unlike the state units, the 10th Immunes avoided making headlines. In December, a 6th Virginia private was shot and killed by a street car conductor, because he refused to ride in the “trolley” for black passengers that was attached to the rear of the regular car. Later, two men from the 3d North Carolina were shot and killed in a Macon street fight. Such incidents caused one Virginian to describe Macon as “this pest hole of the South,” where a week never passed without some black soldiers being “justifiably homicided.”

The Virginia and North Carolina regiments were finally mustered-out of federal service in late January and early February, and the 7th Immunes followed suit at the end of February. COL Godwin’s men were able to travel to their respective cities without major incidents, and most of the units were joyously welcomed home by friends and family. St. Louis’s three companies were officially welcomed by their mayor, who tendered them the freedom of the city. Recalling his unpleasant stay in the South, one lieutenant told the crowd: “If I owned both Macon, Georgia, and hell, I would rent Macon and live in hell.”

The 10th Immunes suffered through an additional week at Camp Haskell and finally mustered-out on 8 March, as news arrived that two days before, the 8th Immunes had encountered problems after it mustered out of federal service 200 miles to the northwest. This story marked the beginning of national press coverage painting a picture of violence and destruction left in the wake of two black Immune regiments as they traveled home from Georgia.

When the train carrying the first increment of the 10th Immunes reached Griffin, about halfway between Macon and Atlanta, the men began firing small arms and yelling like Indians. The New York Times reported that the city was “at the mercy of the negroes, who kept up a fusillade of shots until the train carried them beyond the city limits.” Before the regiment’s second increment reached the town, Griffin’s mayor activated the local militia company, and its men were issued five rounds of ammunition and marched to the railroad station, where they were joined by nearly 100 deputized civilians.

About two hundred heavily armed and angry Georgians met the next trainload of Immunes and ordered them to be quiet, but as the train pulled out of the station, the soldiers began shooting again, and the militia company reportedly fired a volley into the last car. This resulted in a white brakeman being fatally wounded, while one of the Immunes suffered a slight wound. The Immunes’ lack of discipline resumed as they traveled farther north through the Carolinas. According to the New York Times, “the riotous troops forced their way into stores and saloons, taking whatever they wanted. A switchman who failed to run at their command was fired upon and people on the streets [were] insulted.” When the four companies of Virginians finally arrived in their hometowns–Alexandria, Hampton, Pocahontas, and Richmond–there were no reported incidents, nor were there problems with the Washington unit’s homecoming.

Because the 10th Immunes had already mustered out of federal service and was no longer subject to military discipline, the War Department did not investigate or make amends for the Griffin affray or any of the other alleged incidents. There were few doubts that some of the homeward bound black veterans had been drinking and firing privately owned weapons, but the extent of their misconduct and whether white citizens had overreacted remained subject to interpretations that were predictably divided along racial lines. A few of the 10th Immunes’ white officers publicly supported their men, including LTC Withrow, who wrote a widely publicized letter to Georgia’s Governor Allen D. Candler criticizing the Griffin militiamen, “who disgrace[d] the uniform of your state and demonstrate[d] their total unfitness to bear your commissions and your arms.” Governor Candler strongly supported the actions of his white constituents and later attempted to justify a lynching at Palmetto, Georgia, by complaining that the Immune regiments had “placed in the mind of the negro a spirit of boldness.”

Thus, the overall record of the black Immune regiments was forever tainted by the San Luis, Chattanooga, and Griffin affrays. White Americans, especially in the South, would always remember the units as undisciplined mobs, and racists would cite their indiscipline as clear proof that African Americans were unsuitable for military service. The Atlanta Constitution declared: “The modern negroes are now in a transition state and it will be years to come before they come around to that conception of citizenship which enables the whites to submit to the discipline necessary to make good troops.” A New York Times editorial maintained that enlisting “the so-called immune regiments was a mistake,” because “[t]hey were not ‘immune’ from anything but the obligations of law and discipline and decency.”

The War Department was much fairer in its assessment of the black Immunes. Although neither black nor white Immune regiments had shown any immunity to diseases–a total of seven officers and 241 enlisted men had succumbed to them–it was still commonly believed that black soldiers performed better than white troops in tropical climates, so in September 1899 the last two of twenty-five new volunteer regiments organized for service in the Philippine War–the 48th and 49th USVI–were reserved for African American enlisted men and company officers.

Thad Jones became the lieutenant colonel of the 48th USVI, while Charles Crane held the same rank in the 38th USVI, and COL Edward Godwin commanded the 40th USVI. More than thirty former Immune lieutenants served as officers in the new black regiments, and several former Immune NCOs also were able to secure shoulder straps. Scores of other black Immunes also headed for the Philippines by enlisting in the 48th and 49th USVI or in one of the Regular Army’s four black regiments. Reporting on the leadership of the two black volunteer units, the adjutant general noted: “It is believed that the best equipped men of our colored citizens have been commissioned in these regiments.” An even greater demonstration of official confidence, however, was the fact that all of the companies in the 48th and 49th USVI were commanded by black captains. This was a small but important step in the advancement of the race, not only in the Army, but within society as well.

The War

Although Cuba played a key role in the start of the war, battles between the U.S. and Spain took place around the world. In fact, the first hostilities took place in the Philippines on May 1, in the Battle of Manila Bay. Fighting did not occur in Cuba until June a key battle took place on July 1. One of the leaders of U.S. forces in this battle was Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, who led a cavalry regiment known as the Rough Riders.

In May, U.S. troops landed in Puerto Rico, where they faced little Spanish opposition. By August 2, the Spanish and the Americans began to negotiate an end to the conflict, with the Spanish accepting the peace terms laid out by President McKinley.

Hostilities formally ended on August 12, 1898. The Treaty of Paris, ending the Spanish-American War, was signed on December 10. Spain gave up Guam, Puerto Rico, its possessions in the West Indies, and the Philippines in exchange for a U.S. payment of $20 million. The United States occupied Cuba but, as provided for in the Teller Amendment, did not try to annex it.

Media Coverage

The war helped fuel major changes in U.S. news media. U.S. newspapers covered the war with gusto. Technological innovations changed reportage and documentation. New technology that made it easier for newspapers to publish photographs allowed the papers to publish more illustrations and less text. Some reporters in the field in Cuba provided excellent, firsthand reporting. Reporters who used telegraphs as the basis for their stories, however, typically relied on secondhand information.

Major newspaper owners—including Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal—viewed public interest in the war as an opportunity to sell newspapers. The papers, in a circulation war, featured sensational coverage and attention-grabbing photographs of events in Cuba. Although the cause of the explosion of the USS Maine was unknown, for example, New York newspapers blamed Spain. Historians once held that biased coverage of the war, often referred to as yellow journalism, was a cause of the war. Today, however, historians find less evidence for that claim.

At the time of the war’s outbreak, film was a new medium, and the conflict became a popular topic. Short films showed such scenes as servicemen exercising, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders on their horses, and funeral processions of dead soldiers. Motion pictures began to move from being seen as a fad to an accepted method of documenting historical events--even though some films depicting events from the war were actually re-enactments.

This Was a Real “Fake News” Story – And It Landed Us in a War

When President Donald Trump tweeted his “Fake News” awards in January, the big “winner” was CNN for inaccurate reporting of the special investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Also making the cut were the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek and Time. Conspicuously absent was Fox News, which spread Trump's false claims and conspiracy theories, including his "birther" crusade against former President Barack Obama.

“Fake news” did not begin with Trump’s election to the presidency, though. Nor did it originate with the modern 24-hour news cycle and social media which encourage half-truths or outright falsehoods in order to stay up-to-date with the most recent current events. In fact, many historians trace the origins of fake news to the beginnings of the Spanish-American War. That attribution makes this month the 120th anniversary of fraudulent news coverage.

At the turn of the 20th century, fake news was called “yellow journalism,” or sensationalizing the news with eye-catching headlines, inflammatory cartoons and exaggerated accounts in order to sell more newspapers. No newspaper did this better than Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal.

Locked in a circulation battle, both papers embellished stories and sometimes made them up all together. The competition to outdo each other began when Hearst and Pulitzer saw an opportunity to sell more papers by focusing on the rising tensions between Spain and one of her Latin American colonies, Cuba.

As the struggle for Cuban independence intensified, Spain took brutally repressive measures to halt it. To protect U.S. citizens and property after anti-Spanish rioting in Havana, President William McKinley ordered the battleship USS Maine to Cuba.

Meanwhile, Hearst hired artist Frederic Remington to capture images of the war that was supposedly about to start. But when Remington arrived in Cuba he found that tensions had subsided and telegraphed Hearst to tell him there would be no war. The artist was flabbergasted when the newspaper magnate replied: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

After the Maine exploded in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, both papers began publishing sensationalist accounts. Despite the fact that the cause of the explosion was unknown, the World ran a story about the ship being blown up by a Spanish torpedo along with a picture of a violent explosion.

Not to be outdone, the Journal ran a similar story, claiming it would give a $50,000 reward to anyone with information on the attack. (A 1976 naval investigation determined that the ship exploded due to a fire that ignited its ammunition stocks.)

With an estimated 260 of the Maine’s 400 sailors being killed in the explosion, it’s not surprising that the sensationalized accounts published by the World and the Journal resulted in the demand for swift action by Congress and the American public and Hearst got his war.

Today, historians identify the Spanish-American War as the first press-driven war because Hearst and Pulitzer created an environment in which the print media exercised tremendous power and sway over national affairs.

Without sensational headlines and stories, the American demand for Cuban intervention would not have occurred. Instead, the United States, which won the nine-month-long war, emerged as a world power, and “fake news” proved to be the major factor.

Spanish American War, 1898

On April 25th, 1898 the United States of America declared war on Spain. On the 23rd of April, two days before the official declaration of war, President William McKinley issued a call for 125,000 volunteers to bolster the ranks of the regular U.S. Army for the coming conflict in the Philippines and the Caribbean. New York State was asked to furnish twelve full regiments of infantry and two troops of cavalry to the war effort. President McKinley expressed the desire that as large a portion of the volunteers as possible should be composed of troops from the National Guard, as they are already armed, equipped, and drilled. As the National Guard was technically the New York State militia, it was illegal to simply muster the units into the army. The commanders of all of the state&rsquos infantry organizations were ordered to assemble their units in full uniform and obtain by actual count, the number of officers and men who wished to be relegated to active service for a two-year tour of duty. Under this first call for volunteers New York State furnished in full their quota, composed entirely of units from the National Guard.

The twelve regiments chosen for service in the Spanish-American War were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 47th, 65th, 69th, and 71st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiments. All of these regiments were formerly National Guard units and most of them retained their original organizations. Only the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd regiments were different as they had been assembled from a collection of independent companies and battalions. Squadron A and Troop C, of the National Guard cavalry provided the two required troops for the war effort. Each regiment was composed of twelve companies, each with an effective strength of 84 officers and men. This gave each regiment a total strength of 1,008 men on paper. In actuality the numbers at the onset of the war were slightly higher, with each regiment fielding 1,019 officers and men. The cavalry troops were the same size as an infantry company and had an equivalent strength. New York State supplied a total of 12,460 officers and men in its volunteer regiments in response to the president&rsquos first call for troops.

Spanish-American War: Causes of the War

Demands by Cuban patriots for independence from Spanish rule made U.S. intervention in Cuba a paramount issue in the relations between the United States and Spain from the 1870s to 1898. Sympathy for the Cuban insurgents ran high in America, especially after the savage Ten Years War (1868–78) and the unsuccessful revolt of 1895. After efforts to quell guerrilla activity had failed, the Spanish military commander, Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, instituted the reconcentrado, or concentration camp, system in 1896 Cuba's rural population was forcibly confined to centrally located garrison towns, where thousands died from disease, starvation, and exposure.

Weyler's actions brought the rebels many new American sympathizers. These prorebel feelings were inflamed by the U.S. yellow press, especially W. R. Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, which distorted and slanted the news from Cuba. The U.S. government was also moved by the heavy losses of American investment in Cuba caused by the guerrilla warfare, an appreciation of the strategic importance of the island to Central America and a projected isthmian canal there, and a growing sense of U.S. power in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere. There was an unspoken threat of intervention. This grew sharper after the insurgents, refusing a Spanish offer of partial autonomy, determined to fight for full freedom.

Although the majority of Americans, including President McKinley, wished to avert war and hoped to settle the Cuban question by peaceful means, a series of incidents early in 1898 intensified U.S. feelings against Spain. The first of these was the publication by Hearst of a stolen letter (the de Lôme letter) that had been written by the Spanish minister at Washington, in which that incautious diplomat expressed contempt for McKinley. This was followed by the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana harbor on Feb. 15, 1898, with a loss of 260 men. Although Spanish complicity was not proved, U.S. public opinion was aroused and war sentiment rose. The cause of the advocates of war was given further impetus as a result of eyewitness reports by members of the U.S. Congress on the effect of the reconcentrado policy in Cuba.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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