The Spanish - American War took place in the year 1898. It was a war between America and Spain, beginning on April 25th and ending on August 12th. It was caused by Cuba's struggle for freedom, American imperialism, and the sinking of the Maine. It lasted only 4 months. The war was fought in Cuba, the Philippines, and the Caribbean. The U.S. fleet destroyed Spanish naval squadrons, causing Spain to surrender. Spain's defeat ended its colonial empire, and the U.S. emerged as a world power. A treaty was signed in December of 1898, in which Cuba was given its freedom. The U.S. gained control of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
The three main causes of the war were: Cuba's fight for freedom from Spanish rule, American imperialism, and the explosion of the Maine. Cuba was under the control of Spain and wanted freedom. Spain turned down Cuba's request for independence. For a decade (1868 - 1878), Cuba rebelled against Spain. This was known as the Ten Years' War. Cuba lost and still did not have their freedom. In 1895, Cuba rebelled again. This time they gained control of some rural areas. Spain reacted by sending General Valeriana Weyler to Cuba to regain control of the land and to end the rebellion. He was extremely cruel and sent 500,000 Cubans to detention camps. Over 200,000 died of disease and food starvation. Weyler's cruelty angered the U.S. Their anger was increased by yellow journalism that exaggerated Weyler's treatment of Cuba. Weyler was recalled in 1897. Cuba remained determined to fight for their freedom.
The second reason for the war was American imperialism. Imperialism is when one country controls another. The U.S. wanted to extend its power overseas and believed they had a right to do so because of Manifest Destiny. The U.S. had interest in Cuba as a source of materials and markets. America's concern with the revolt in Cuba soon grew. The U.S. had invested $50 million in sugar and rice plantations, railroads, tobacco, and iron mines. Cuban trade was worth $100 million a year to America. Cuba was also very close to America, located just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. There was a lot of disagreement about whether or not the U.S. should get involved. Some thought it was a bad idea, while others sympathized with Cuba's fight for freedom.
The final cause of the war was the sinking of the Maine. The Maine was an American battleship. It was sent to Havana by President McKinley to protect American people and property. It was docked in Havana harbor on the night of February 15, when it was destroyed by an explosion. The cause of the explosion was unknown, but America blamed Spain. 266 people were killed.
President McKinley did not want to go to war. He tried to peacefully resolve the problems between Cuba and Spain. This did not work. On April 11, President McKinley gave in and asked for Congress' permission to intervene. On April 19th, Congress gave its permission. America officially declared war on Spain on April 25.
The war was fought in Cuba, the Philippines, and the Caribbean. These were all Spanish colonies. On June 22nd, 15,000 American soldiers landed southeast of Santiago de Cuba. On July 1, they defeated Spanish land troops. The most famous battle was the Rough Riders' charge up Kettle Hill led by Theodore Roosevelt in the Battle of San Juan Hill. The U.S. Navy blockaded Santiago harbor and forced Spain's fleeing ships ashore. Commodore George Dewey led an American squadron from Hong Kong to Manila. They secretly sailed into Manila harbor on April 30th. At 5:40 a.m., Dewey gave the order to open fire on the unsuspecting fleet. The battle was over by noon. The Spanish fleet had been destroyed. American fleets successfully destroyed Spanish naval squadrons, forcing them into retreat. Spain surrendered on August 12th.
After the two countries agreed to peace, a treaty was signed. It was signed in Paris, France on December 10, 1898. The treaty stated that Spain was to give Cuba their freedom. It also said that Spain would give the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the U.S. (the U.S. could not take control of Cuba because of the Teller Amendment). This was the end of Spain's colonial empire, and the beginning of America's status as a world power. The new colonies caused a lot of disagreement because many Americans felt that they did not have a right to control other countries. The U.S. established American military rule in the Philippines in 1898. America justified their control of the Philippines by claiming that they were not ready to run their own government and would fall prey to stronger countries.
The "Splendid Little War," as John Hay (Secretary of State) called it, lasted only four months and resulted in great gain for America. They became a world power and went on to protect their interest in Asia.
The war had many results. It resulted in the passing of the Platt Amendment by U.S. Congress in 1901. The Platt Amendment said that the U.S. could only interfere in Cuban affairs under certain conditions. The war sped up the building of the Panama Canal, which was completed in 1914. This canal allowed travel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It also made people take notice of Theodore Roosevelt and his leadership skills. He became Vice President in 1990 and President in 1901.
The Spanish - American war may not have been long, but it was historically important. It was the war that gave Cuba its long awaited freedom. It was the war in which Spain lost its colonial empire. It was also the war that caused America to become an imperialist world power.
- American imperialism
- President McKinley
- Santiago de Cuba