The Spanish-American War

After the end of the American Civil War, the United States became a major military and economic power in the Caribbean and Pacific. Also territorially the country expanded further. In 1867, it bought the region of Alaska from Russia for $ 7.2 million. In the same year, the US annexed Midway Island in the Pacific and was given the right to build a naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In 1898, the US annexed the entire Hawaiian archipelago.

In return for the US expansion, Spain lost more and more of its former territory in North America and the Pacific. End of the 19th century, whose possessions were limited only to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. But progressively, independence movements became noticeable in the last colonies as well. Thus, from 1868 to 1878, the first Revolutionary War prevailed in Cuba, which, however, could be crushed. In 1895, the Second Revolutionary War began, which resulted not only in later independence, but also in US military intervention and a related war with Spain.




The Cuban War of Independence:

The Cuban dissatisfaction with Spanish rule was due to the restrictions imposed on Cuba's trade and the incompetence of the Spanish government. So it came that from 1895 under the leadership of José Marti, the second Revolutionary War against the Spanish occupation was conducted. This began first in the east of the island, but already 1 year later, the revolt reached the outskirts of the capital Havana.

The Spanish governor General Valeriano Weyler tried to separate the revolt from the rest of the population by making some cities into fortresses and interning the population there. Although these fortified cities were actually intended as a refuge for faithful Spain, the cities were actually similar concentration camps in which the supply of people living there was completely insufficient and thus within a year about 300,000 civilians died of hunger.

This dying triggered horror on the part of the Cuban immigrants living in the US and the government was called upon to intervene. The US government did not take this opportunity, as many MPs thought it would increase trade with the country by intervening in Cuba, expelling the last colonial power from North America with Spain, and extending the political sphere of influence of the US.

The last and decisive reason for US military action was the loss of the USS Maine, which, contrary to the Spanish government's protest, entered the port of Havana to protect its US citizens. On 15 February 1898, the ship exploded and sank in the harbor basin, 266 sailors were killed. Although Spain could not clearly prove the blame for the explosion, the US declared war on 21 April 1898 to Spain.


Die USS Maine im Hafen von Havanna

The USS Maine in the harbor of Havana




The war in the Pacific:

The first dispute between the US and Spain took place in a naval battle in the Philippines. The US Commodore George Dewey, who was subordinated to the US Asian Squadron and at that time anchored in China, was commissioned to attack the Spanish ships in a port in the Philippines. With 6 warships and 3 support ships, he set off and arrived in the night of April 30 in front of Manila Bay. The US warships opened the fire on the cores of Spain there and could destroy 6 ships despite resistance of the shore batteries. The 7th and last ship of the Spaniards was sunk by his captain himself so that it did not fall into enemy hands.

Subsequently, an army of US and Filipino soldiers were able to conquer the island. However, when the capital, Manila, was captured on 13 August, US troops denied access to their allies, culminating not only in diplomatic tensions but also in a Philippine-American war from 1899 to 1913.

In the Western Pacific, Captain Henry Glass of the US cruiser USS Charlston was ordered to head for and conquer the island of Guam. On June 20, the warship arrived at the island and opened the fire on the Spanish Fort Santa Cruz. The Spanish commander was not informed at this time about the current state between Spain and the United States and went to the US warship. There he asked for some powder to return the salute. Captain Glass told him about the state of war, had him arrested and sent back to the island with an escort to prepare for the transfer. On June 21, the island was officially surrendered and disarmed the 54 Spanish soldiers stationed there.




The war in the Caribbean:

To drive the Spanish soldiers out of Cuba and capture the island, the United States began landing about 15,000 troops on 1 July. These were to take over the city of Santiago de Cuba in the southeast with the support of some 4,000 Cuban guerilla fighters. The road to the city, however, was blocked in the north by the Spanish positions at El Caney and San Juan Hill. When the attacks began, the Spanish defenders at El Caney, with 500 men, were able to bind around 8,000 US soldiers missing from the main battle for San Juan Hill. Nevertheless, the US Army succeeded first to take the Kettle Hill before infantrymen could overcome the barbed wire barriers to San Juan Hill and take the positions there.


Angriff der Rough Riders am San-Juan-Hügel

Attack of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill


At sea, US Marines were able to take much easier the bay of Guantánamo and then use as a base for their ships. Shortly thereafter, the US Navy blocked the port of Santiago de Cuba, thus preventing the departure of the Spanish main body. Despite the blockade on July 3, 6 Spanish ships tried to break them, but were destroyed by US warships.


The Spanish cruiser Cristóbal Colón, who was sunk in July 1898 at Santiago de Cuba

The Spanish cruiser Cristóbal Colón, who was sunk in July 1898 at Santiago de Cuba


To capture the Cuban capital of San Juan, 12 US warships began shelling the harbor on May 12, followed by a blockade. In July, 3,300 marines were able to carry out a landing operation, which the city could be taken without much resistance.

The peace treaty on 12th August ended the war between Spain and the United States. Until 1902, Cuba remained under the US military, only then the island became independent. The naval base in Guantánamo was leased by the US Navy and is still under US administration.


Der französische Botschafter in den USA Jules Cambon unterzeichnet im Namen Spaniens am 1. Mai 1899 die Ratifikationserklärung des Vertrags

The French Ambassador to the United States Jules Cambon, on behalf of Spain, signed the ratification of the treaty on 1 May 1899






You can find the right literature here:


The Spanish War: An American Epic 1898

The Spanish War: An American Epic 1898 Paperback – August 17, 1986

On the night of February 15, 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine was ripped in half by an explosion in Havana harbor with the loss of 266 American lives. War with Spain followed nine weeks later. After a three-month fight on two fronts half a world apart, the era of isolation was gone forever, as the United States formed alliances and gained spheres of influence that would shape its desstiny for decades to come.

G. J. A. O'Toole colorfully depicts the sweep of events and also presents new findings on the mysterious mission of the Maine and on the part played by Washington in the expansion of the conflict.

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Spanish American War: A History From Beginning to End

Spanish American War: A History From Beginning to End Paperback – September 19, 2016

“A splendid little war “- that’s how one contemporary observer described the Spanish-American War, a war that is arguably one of the most important wars ever fought. The duration was short and the victory decisive, thus little and splendid, the latter, at least, from the victor’s point of view. The impacts of the war, however, were anything but little. In fact, the aftermath of the Spanish-American War is still affecting global affairs today. The dominant superpowers of 1898 watched as a new player on the international scene, the United States, shifted its ideology from isolationism to expansionism, and emerged as a force to reckoned with, a true superpower.

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The Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection: 1898–1902 (Men-at-Arms)

The Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection: 1898–1902 (Men-at-Arms) Paperback – February 27, 2007

In 1898 US public opinion turned against the Spanish for their repression of Cuba. Relations between the two governments soured and ultimately resulted in the mysterious blowing up of the USS Maine in Havana harbor, which triggered a short but demanding war.

A US expeditionary force was sent to Cuba, where the troops encountered both difficult climate and terrain, and a fierce Spanish garrison which, despite being greatly outnumbered, fought hard before surrendering.

Many famous US personalities were involved, including future President Theodore Roosevelt, future general John Pershing, and journalists William Randolph Hearst and Stephen Crane.

The war against the Spanish may have been brief but as Henry Cabot Lodge declared: "Its results were startling, and of world-wide meaning." Victory made the US a nation with global interests.

As an extension of the war, US troops also captured the island of Puerto Rico. The US Navy bombarded Manila in the Philippines, and landed its troops. The Spanish garrison quickly surrendered, but a local anti-Spanish insurgent force under Emilio Aguinaldo resisted US occupation. The conflict continued until 1902, more than 100,000 US troops were eventually committed, and the campaign saw difficult jungle fighting, with indigenous Moro tribesmen fiercely resisting US forces.

Providing a detailed examination of the experiences and equipment of the opposing sides, and featuring rare and previously unpublished photographs, this book highlights this crucial yet oft-forgotten war that changed the future of American foreign policy during "the age of American imperialism."

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