HomeAmericaThe Spanish American War

Actual hostilities of this war lasted less than four months from April 25, 1898 through August 12, 1898. Most of the fighting was done in or near the Spanish possessions of Cuba and the Philippines. War grew out of the Cuban struggle for independence. Considering that Cuba is only ninety miles off the Florida coast, and the fact that we as a nation also struggled and fought a war for independence caused a deep sense of support for the Cuban cause.

In January 1898, serious disorder in Havana, Cuba, led the US Consul General of Havana to ask that a US warship be sent to protect US citizens. The second-class battleship, the USS Maine was ordered to Havana. On the night of February 15, 1898, the Maine was destroyed by an underwater explosion while at anchor in Havana harbor. 266 officers and men were killed.

“Remember the Maine” became the national battle cry overnight. William McKinley, our 25th President, had hoped to avoid war with Spain, but the national outrage over the Maine left him no choice. On April 11, 1898, he asked Congress for the authority to put an end to the fighting in Cuba. On April 19, Congress gave him that authority to intervene, and a declaration of war was announced on April 25.  The story is very famous and has been the inspiration for many films and documentaries you can some of them on the BBC iPlayer occasionally, use this Smart DNS solution for watching the BBC outside the UK.

On June 22, 1898, the US landed 17,000 troops southeast of Santiago de Cuba. Among these troops was a group of volunteers called the Rough Riders. These men had been raised by Lieutenant Colonel (and future US President) Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt led his men on a charge up Kettle Hill, which flanked a Spanish fortification on San Juan Hill. This charge made the Rough Riders famous, and Teddy Roosevelt called the day of the battle “the greatest day of my life.” On July 17, the Spanish garrison at Santiago de Cuba surrendered. On July 25, US troops landed and took the island of Puerto Rico with almost no resistance.

During this same time, the US was also fighting in the Philippines. The US subdued the Spanish and gained their surrender by August 13, but unlike Cuba, the Filipinos didn’t want military rule by the US. Hostilities escalated and marked the beginning of a bloody war that lasted more than two years. The Filipinos waged effective guerrilla warfare, even though they were armed with old equipment and badly outmatched in open combat.

The war finally ended in 1902, and in 1916, our Congress started a movement to give the Filipinos their independence. We continued to control the Philippines through WWII (1939-1945), but the islands gained their independence on July 4, 1946.

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