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1.a war between the United States and Spain in 1898
1.(MeSH)Conflict between Spain and the United States, arising out of Spanish policies in Cuba.
19th Cent. History (Medicine), 19th Cent. History of Medicine, 19th Cent. Medicine, 19th Century History, Historical Events, 19th Century, History, 19th Century, History, Nineteenth Century, History of Medicine, 19th Cent., Medical History, 19th Cent., Medicine, 19th Cent.[Hyper.]
Spanish American War (n.) [MeSH]
action, military action[Hyper.]
Spanish-American War (n.)
|Part of the Philippine Revolution, Cuban War of Independence|
Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill, by Frederic Remington
| United States
Republic of Cuba[i]
Republic of the Philipines[i]
|Commanders and leaders|
| William McKinley
Nelson A. Miles
William R. Shafter
Demetrio Castillo Duany
| Maria Christina
Práxedes Mateo Sagasta
Arsenio Linares y Pombo
Manuel Macías y Casado
Ramón Blanco y Erenas
|Casualties and losses|
United States Army:
United States Navy:
|History of Cuba|
This article is part of a series
|Captaincy General of Cuba|
|Cuban War of Independence|
|United States Protectorate|
|Republic of Cuba (1902–1959)|
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence. American attacks on Spain's Pacific possessions led to involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately to the Philippine–American War.
Revolts against Spanish rule had been endemic for decades in Cuba and were closely watched by Americans; there had been war scares before, as in the Virginius Affair in 1873. By 1897–98, American public opinion grew angrier at reports of Spanish atrocities in Cuba. After the mysterious sinking of the American battleship Maine in Havana harbor, political pressures from the Democratic Party pushed the administration of Republican President William McKinley into a war he had wished to avoid. Compromise proved impossible, resulting in the United States sending an ultimatum to Spain demanding it immediately surrender control of Cuba, which the Spanish rejected. First Madrid, then Washington, formally declared war.
Although the main issue was Cuban independence, the ten-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. American naval power proved decisive, allowing U.S. expeditionary forces to disembark in Cuba against a Spanish garrison already reeling from nationwide insurgent attacks and wasted by yellow fever. Cuban, Philippine, and American forces obtained the surrender of Santiago de Cuba and Manila owing to their numerical superiority in most of the battles and despite the good performance of some Spanish infantry units and spirited defenses in places like San Juan Hill. With two obsolete Spanish squadrons sunk in Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay and a third, more modern fleet recalled home to protect the Spanish coasts, Madrid sued for peace.
The result was the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the U.S., which allowed temporary American control of Cuba and, following their purchase from Spain, indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The defeat and collapse of the Spanish Empire was a profound shock to Spain's national psyche, and provoked a thoroughgoing philosophical and artistic reevaluation of Spanish society known as the Generation of '98. The victor gained several island possessions spanning the globe and a rancorous new debate over the wisdom of expansionism.
The combined traumas of the Peninsular War, the loss of most of its colonies in the Americas in the early 19th century Spanish American wars of independence, and two disastrous Carlist wars effected a new interpretation of Spain’s remaining empire. Liberal Spanish elites like Antonio Cánovas del Castillo and Emilio Castelar tried to redefine "empire" to dovetail with Spain's emerging nationalism. As Cánovas made clear in an address to the University of Madrid in 1882, the Spanish nation was a cultural and linguistic concept that tied Spain’s colonies to the metropole despite the oceans that separated them.
Cánovas argued that Spain was markedly different from rival empires like Britain and France. Unlike these empires, spreading civilization was Spain’s unique contribution to the New World. This popular reimagining of the Spanish Empire bestowed special significance on Cuba as an integral part of the Spanish nation. The focus on preserving the empire would have disastrous consequences for Spain’s sense of national identity in the aftermath of the war.
In 1823, U.S. President James Monroe enunciated the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the United States would not tolerate further efforts by European governments to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas; however, Spain's colony in Cuba was exempted. Before the Civil War Southern interests attempted to have the U.S. purchase Cuba and make it new slave territory. The proposal failed, and national attention shifted to the Civil War.
The U.S. became interested in a canal either in Nicaragua, or in Panama, where the Panama Canal was built, and realized the need for naval protection. Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan was an especially influential theorist; his ideas were much admired by Theodore Roosevelt, as the U.S. rapidly built a powerful fleet in the 1890s. Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897–98 was an aggressive supporter of a war with Spain over Cuba.
Meanwhile the Cuba Libre movement, led by Cuban intellectual José Martí, had established offices in Florida and New York to buy and smuggle weapons. It mounted a large propaganda campaign to generate sympathy that would lead to official pressure on Spain. Protestant churches and Democratic farmers were supportive, but business interests called on Washington to ignore them.
Although Cuba attracted American attention, little note was made of the Philippines, Guam, or Puerto Rico.
Historians see little popular demand for an empire, but note that Britain, France, Germany and Japan had expanded their overseas empires dramatically, in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
The first serious bid for Cuban independence, the Ten Years War, erupted in 1868 and was suppressed by the Spanish colonial authorities a decade later. Neither the brutal fighting nor the reforms in the Pact of Zanjón (February 1878) quelled the desire of some revolutionaries for independence. One such revolutionary, José Martí, continued to promote Cuban financial and political autonomy even in exile. In early 1895, after years of organizing, Martí launched a three-pronged invasion of the island.
The plan called for one group from Santo Domingo 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 a nationalist revolution. While their call for revolution, the grito de Baíre, was successful, the expected revolution was not the grand show of force Martí had expected. With a quick victory effectively lost, the revolutionaries settled in to fight a protracted guerrilla campaign.
Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the architect of Spain’s Restoration constitution and the prime minister at the time, ordered General 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 ridicule in the Spanish press.
The mounting political pressure thus forced Cánovas to replace General Campos with General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, a soldier who had proved he could quash rebellions in the colonies 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 camps near the military headquarters. Although this strategy was brutally effective at slowing the spread of rebellion, it stirred indignation in the United States. McKinley remarked that this “was not civilized warfare" but "extermination.”
The Spanish government regarded Cuba as a province of Spain rather than a colony, and depended on it for prestige and trade, and as a training ground for the army. Prime minister 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.” He had long dominated and stabilized Spanish politics. He was assassinated in 1897, leaving a Spanish political system that was not stable and could not risk a blow to its prestige.
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, where 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 covered Spain’s actions and Weyler’s tactics in a way that confirmed the popular disparaging attitude toward Spain in America. In the minds, schoolbooks, and scholarship of the mostly Protestant U.S. public, the Catholic Spanish Empire was a backward, immoral union built on the backs of enslaved natives and funded with stolen gold.
The U.S. had important economic interests that were being harmed by the prolonged conflict and deepening uncertainty about the future of Cuba. Shipping firms that relied heavily on trade with Cuba suffered huge losses as the conflict continued unresolved. These firms pressed Congress and McKinley to seek an end to the revolt. Other U.S. business concerns, specifically those who had invested in Cuban sugar, looked to the Spanish to restore order. Stability, not war, was the goal of both interests. How stability would be achieved would depend largely on the ability of Spain and the U.S. to work out their issues diplomatically.
President McKinley, well aware of the political complexity surrounding the conflict, wanted to end the revolt peacefully. Threatening to consider recognizing Cuba’s belligerent status, and thus allowing the legal rearming of Cuban insurgents by U.S. firms, he sent Stewart L. Woodford to Madrid to negotiate an end to the conflict. With Práxedes Sagasta, an open advocate of Cuban autonomy, now Prime Minister of Spain (the more hard-line Cánovas del Castillo had been assassinated before Woodford arrived), negotiations went smoothly. Cuban autonomy was set to begin on January 1, 1898.
Eleven days after the Cuban autonomous government took power, a small riot erupted in Havana. The riot was thought to be ignited by Spanish officers who were offended by the persistent newspaper criticism of General Valeriano Weyler’s policies. McKinley sent the USS Maine to Havana to ensure the safety of American citizens and interests.
The need for the U.S. to send Maine to Havana had been expected for months, but the Spanish government was notified just 18 hours before its arrival, which was contrary to diplomatic convention. Preparations for the possible conflict started in October 1897, when President McKinley arranged for Maine to be deployed to Key West, Florida, as a part of a larger, global deployment of U.S. naval power 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 still others were moved to Hong Kong.
At 9:40 pm on February 15, 1898, Maine sank in Havana harbor after suffering a massive explosion. While McKinley preached patience, the news of the explosion and the death of 266 sailors stirred popular American opinion into demanding a swift belligerent response. McKinley asked Congress to appropriate $50 million for defense, and Congress unanimously obliged. Most American leaders took the position that the cause of the explosion was unknown, but public attention was now riveted on the situation and Spain could not find a diplomatic solution to avoid war. It appealed to the European powers, all of whom advised Spain to back down and avoid war.
The U.S. Navy’s investigation, made public on March 28, concluded that the ship’s powder magazines were ignited when an external explosion was set off under the ship’s hull. This report poured fuel on popular indignation in the U.S., making the war inevitable. 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. A study commissioned by National Geographic magazine in 1999, using AME computer modelling, stated that the explosion could have been caused by a mine, but no definitive evidence was found.
After the Maine was destroyed, newspaper publishers Hearst and Pulitzer decided that the Spanish were to blame, and they publicized this theory as fact in their New York City papers using sensationalistic and astonishing accounts of "atrocities" committed by the Spanish in Cuba. Their press exaggerated what was happening and how the Spanish were treating the Cuban prisoners. The stories were based on truth but written with incendiary language causing emotional and often heated responses among readers. A common myth states, to the opinion of his illustrator Frederic Remington, that conditions in Cuba were not bad enough to warrant hostilities, Hearst responded: "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."
This new "yellow journalism" was, however, uncommon outside New York City, and historians no longer consider it the major force shaping the national mood. Public opinion nationwide did demand immediate action, overwhelming the efforts of President McKinley, Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed, and the business community to find a negotiated solution.
A speech delivered by Senator Redfield Proctor of Vermont on March 17, 1898 thoroughly analyzed the situation, concluding that war was the only answer. The speech helped provide one final push for the United States to declare war.: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. 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, Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado proposed the Teller Amendment to ensure that the U.S. would not establish permanent control over Cuba after the war. The amendment, disclaiming any intention to annex Cuba, passed the Senate 42 to 35; the House concurred the same day, 311 to 6. The amended resolution demanded Spanish withdrawal and authorized the President to use as much military force as he thought necessary to help Cuba gain independence from Spain. President McKinley signed the joint resolution on April 20, 1898, and the ultimatum was sent to Spain. In response, Spain broke off diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21. On the same day, the U.S. Navy began a blockade of Cuba. Spain declared war on April 23. On April 25, Congress declared that a state of war between the U.S. and Spain had existed since April 21, the day the blockade of Cuba had begun.
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 Regular U.S. Army was just 28,000 men. The Army wanted 50,000 new men but received over 220,000, through volunteers and the mobilization of state National Guard units.
In the 300 years of Spanish rule, the country 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.
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. Dewey managed this with only nine wounded. 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. Despite these problems, the Asiatic Squadron not only destroyed the Spanish fleet but also captured the harbor of Manila.
Following Dewey's victory, Manila Bay was filled with the warships of Britain, Germany, France and Japan. The German fleet of eight ships, ostensibly in Philippine waters to protect German interests, acted provocatively – cutting in front of American ships, refusing to salute the United States flag (according to customs of naval courtesy), taking soundings of the harbor, and landing supplies for the besieged Spanish.
The Germans, with interests of their own, were eager to take advantage of whatever opportunities the conflict in the islands might afford. The Americans called the bluff of the Germans, threatening conflict if the aggression continued, and the Germans backed down. At the time, the Germans expected the confrontation in the Philippines to end in an American defeat, with the revolutionaries capturing Manila and leaving the Philippines ripe for German picking.
Commodore Dewey transported Emilio Aguinaldo, a Filipino leader who had led rebellion against Spanish rule in the Philippines in 1896, to the Philippines from exile in Hong Kong to rally more Filipinos against the Spanish colonial government. By June, U.S. and Filipino forces had taken control of most of the islands, except for the walled city of Intramuros. On June 12, Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines.
On August 13, with American commanders unaware that a cease-fire had been signed between Spain and the U.S. on the previous day, American forces captured the city of Manila from the Spanish. This battle marked the end of Filipino-American collaboration, as the American action of preventing Filipino forces from entering the captured city of Manila was deeply resented by the Filipinos. This later led to the Philippine–American War, which would prove to be more deadly and costly than the Spanish–American War.
The U.S. had sent a force of some 11,000 ground troops to the Philippines. 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, resulting in the Philippine–American War. On August 14, 1899, the Schurman Commission recommended that the U.S. retain control of the Philippines, possibly granting independence in the future.
On June 20, a U.S. fleet commanded by Captain Henry Glass, consisting of the armored 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 cannon 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. Glass informed them that the U.S. and Spain were at war.
The following day, Glass sent Lt. 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.
Theodore Roosevelt advocated intervention in Cuba, both for the Cuban people and to promote the Monroe Doctrine. While Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he placed the Navy on a war-time footing and prepared Dewey's Asiatic Squadron for battle. He also worked with Leonard Wood in convincing the Army to raise an all-volunteer regiment, the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. Wood was given command of the regiment that quickly became known as the "Rough Riders".
The Americans planned to capture the city of Santiago de Cuba to destroy Linares' army and Cervera's fleet. 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.
From June 22–24, the U.S. V 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 commanded of about 2000 soldiers led by General Antonio Rubin 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 American Civil War-era skirmishers at the head of the advancing columns. All four U.S. soldiers who had volunteered to act as skirmishers walking point at the head of the American column were killed, including Hamilton Fish, from a well-known patrician New York City family, and Captain Alyn Capron, whom Theodore Roosevelt would describe as one of the finest natural leaders and soldiers he ever met.
The Battle of Las Guasimas showed the U.S. that the old linear Civil War tactics did not work effectively against Spanish troops who had learned the art of cover and concealment from their own struggle with Cuban insurgents, and never made the error of revealing their positions while on the defense. Spanish troops were equipped with smokeless powder arms that also helped them to hide their positions while firing. Regular Spanish troops were mostly armed with modern charger-loaded 1893 7mm Spanish Mauser rifles and using smokeless powder, while militia and irregular troops were armed with Remington Rolling Block rifles in .43 Spanish using smokeless powder and brass jacketed bullet.
The high-speed 7x57mm Mauser round was termed the "Spanish Hornet" by the Americans because of the supersonic crack as it passed overhead. In response, American troops using .30–40 Krag-Jørgensen and worse, .45–70 Springfield single-shot black powder rifles found themselves unable to respond with an equivalent volume of fire. American soldiers could advance against the Spaniards only in what are now called "fireteam" rushes, four-to-five man groups advancing while others laid down supporting fire from small arms.
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" regiments, and volunteer regiments, among them Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders", the 71st New York, the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, and 1st North Carolina, and rebel Cuban forces attacked 1,270 entrenched Spaniards in dangerous Civil War-style frontal assaults at the Battle of El Caney and Battle of San Juan Hill outside of Santiago. More than 200 U.S. soldiers were killed and close to 1,200 wounded in the fighting. Supporting fire by Gatling guns was critical to the success of the assault. Cervera decided to escape Santiago two days later.
The Spanish forces at Guantánamo were so isolated by Marines and Cuban forces that they did not know that Santiago was under siege, and their forces in the northern part of the province could not break through Cuban lines. This was not true of the Escario relief column from Manzanillo, which fought its way past determined Cuban resistance but arrived too late to participate in the siege.
After the battles of San Juan Hill and El Caney, the American advance halted. Spanish troops successfully defended Fort Canosa, allowing them to stabilize their line and bar the entry to Santiago. The Americans and Cubans forcibly began a bloody, strangling siege of the city. During the nights, Cuban troops dug successive series of "trenches" (raised parapets), toward the Spanish positions. Once completed, these parapets were occupied by U.S. soldiers and a new set of excavations went forward. American troops, while suffering daily losses from Spanish fire, suffered far more casualties from heat exhaustion and mosquito-borne disease. At the western approaches to the city, Cuban general Calixto Garcia began to encroach on the city, causing much panic and fear of reprisals among the Spanish forces.
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.
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 (also known as the Flota de Ultramar). In May, the fleet of Spanish Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete had been spotted by American forces in Santiago harbor, 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 Cristobal Colon, 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 Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 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 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 and became a Congressman.
Fiebre amarilla, yellow fever, had quickly spread amongst the American occupation force, crippling it. A group of concerned officers of the American army chose Theodore Roosevelt to draft a request to Washington that it withdraw the Army, a request that paralleled a similar one from General Shafter, who described his force as an “army of convalescents”. By the time of his letter, 75% of the force in Cuba was unfit for service.
On August 7, the American invasion force started to leave Cuba. The evacuation was not total. The U.S. Army kept the black Ninth Infantry 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; this logic led to these soldiers being nicknamed “Immunes”. Still, when the Ninth left, 73 of its 984 soldiers had contracted the disease.
In May 1898, 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 prior to the invasion. On May 10, U.S. Navy warships were sighted off the coast of Puerto Rico. On May 12, a squadron of 12 U.S. ships commanded by Rear Adm. William T. Sampson bombarded San Juan. During the bombardment, many government buildings were shelled. On June 25, the USS Yosemite blockaded San Juan harbor.
On July 25, General Nelson A. Miles, with 3,300 soldiers, landed at Guánica, beginning the Puerto Rican Campaign. The troops faced resistance early in the invasion. The first skirmish between the American and Spanish troops occurred in Guánica. The first organized armed opposition occurred in Yauco in what became known as the Battle of Yauco. This encounter was followed by the Battles of Fajardo, Guayama, Guamaní River Bridge, Coamo, Silva Heights and finally by the Battle of Asomante. On August 9, 1898, infantry and cavalry troops encountered Spanish and Puerto Rican soldiers armed with cannons in a mountain known as Cerro Gervasio del Asomante, while trying to enter Aibonito.
The American commanders decided to retreat and regroup, returning on August 12, 1898, with an artillery unit. The Spanish and Puerto Rican units began the offensive with cannon fire, being led by Ricardo Hernáiz. The sudden attack caused confusion among some soldiers, who reported seeing a second Spanish unit nearby. In the cross fire, four American troops—Sergeant John Long, Lieutenant Harris, Captain E.T. Lee and Corporal Oscar Swanson—were gravely injured. Based on this and the reports of upcoming reinforcements, Commander Landcaster ordered a retreat.
With defeats in Cuba and the Philippines, and both of its fleets incapacitated, Spain sued for peace.
Hostilities were halted on August 12, 1898, with the signing in Washington of a Protocol of Peace between the United States and Spain. After over two months of difficult negotiations, the formal peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris, was signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, and was ratified by the United States Senate on February 6, 1899.
The United States gained almost all of Spain's colonies in the treaty, including the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. 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 perpetual lease of Guantánamo Bay.
The war lasted four months. 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." 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.
The war marked American entry into world affairs. Since then, the U.S. has had a significant hand in various conflicts around the world, and entered many treaties and agreements. The Panic of 1893 was over by this point, and the U.S. entered a long and prosperous period of economic and population growth, and technological innovation that lasted through the 1920s.
The war redefined national identity, served as a solution of sorts to the social divisions plaguing the American mind, and provided a model for all future news reporting.
The war also effectively ended 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 Guinea, Spanish Sahara, Spanish Morocco and the Canary Islands.
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." He was challenged to a duel by a group of young Puerto Ricans for writing this pamphlet.
Culturally, a new wave called the Generation of '98 originated as a response to this trauma, marking a renaissance in Spanish culture. Economically, the war benefited Spain, because after the war large sums of capital held by Spaniards in Cuba and America were returned to the peninsula and invested in Spain. This massive flow of capital (equivalent to 25% of the gross domestic product of one year) helped to develop the large modern firms in Spain in the steel, chemical, financial, mechanical, textile, shipyard, and electrical power industries. However, the political consequences were serious. The defeat in the war began the weakening of the fragile political stability that had been established earlier by the rule of Alfonso XII.
Congress had passed the Teller Amendment prior to 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 (this was 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. The Platt Amendment also provided for a permanent American naval base in Cuba. Guantánamo Bay was established after the signing of treaties between Cuba and the U.S. beginning in 1903.
The U.S. annexed the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. 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, 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, and he was soon elected governor and then vice president.
The war served to further repair relations between the American North and South. The war gave both sides a common enemy for the first time since the end of the Civil War in 1865, and many friendships were formed between soldiers of northern and southern states during their tours of duty. This was an important development, since many soldiers in this war were the children of Civil War veterans on both sides.
The African-American community strongly supported the rebels in Cuba, supported entry into the war, and gained prestige from their wartime performance in the Army. Spokesmen noted that 33 African-American seamen had died in the Maine explosion. The most influential Black leader, Booker T. Washington, argued that his race was ready to fight. War offered them a chance "to render service to our country that no other race can," because, unlike Whites, they were "accustomed" to the "peculiar and dangerous climate" of Cuba. One of the Black units that served in the war was the 9th Cavalry Regiment. In March 1898, Washington promised the Secretary of the Navy that war would be answered by "at least ten thousand loyal, brave, strong Black men in the south who crave an opportunity to show their loyalty to our land, and would gladly take this method of showing their gratitude for the lives laid down, and the sacrifices made, that Blacks might have their freedom and rights."
In 1904, the 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 prior veterans organizations which both arose in 1899: the American Veterans of Foreign Service and the National Society of the Army of the Philippines. The former was formed for veterans of the Spanish–American War, while the latter was formed for veterans of the Philippine–American War. Both organizations were formed in response to the general neglect veterans returning from the war experienced at the hands of the government.
To pay the costs of the war, Congress passed an excise tax on long-distance phone service. 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.
The Spanish–American War was the first U.S. war in which the motion picture camera played a role. The Library of Congress archives contain many films and film clips from the war. In addition, many feature films have been made about the war. These include
The United States awards and decorations of the Spanish–American War were as follows:
The governments of Spain and Cuba also issued a wide variety of military awards to honor Spanish, Cuban, and Philippine soldiers who had served in the conflict.
It has been a splendid little war; begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by the fortune which loves the brave. It is now to be concluded, I hope, with that firm good nature which is after all the distinguishing trait of our American character.
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