The Spanish American War - A Stan Klos Company
The Spanish American War
by Neal McLaughlin
-- August 2004
The Spanish-American War, is perhaps, the short conflict in the annals of
military history? From April 25- August 12 1898 The American military machine
and her allies: virtually destroyed the Spanish Navy, liberated the Philippine
Islands, took San Juan Hill and gave the long-struggling Cuba their
The beginning of the 15th century was a very profitable period for Spain.
She was the first nation to circumnavigate the Atlantic Ocean and in the process
colonize the Amerindian Nations of the Western Hemisphere.
Spain's colonies ranged from Virginia south to Tierra de Fuego on South
America, with the exception of Brazil, and then west to California and Alaska.
From 1492 to 1825 the Spanish Empire flourished. However, by the end of 1825 a
majority of these colonies had fallen into other hands.
Spain acknowledged the independence of its possessions of those
territories which today are part of the United States, but at that time fell
under Mexican Authority, as well as those territories to the tip of South
What did remain of the Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere were Cuba
and Puerto Rico and across the Pacific, the Philippine islands and in
Micronesia: Carolina, the Marshall and Mariana Islands and Guam.
Cuba was not at all impressed or happy with remaining under Spanish
authority and announced that they desired autonomy, and would take whatever
means necessary to achieve their objective. To validate their position, the
Mambises, guerilla fighters, initiated many aggressive and brutal campaigns
against the Spaniards. As the death toll surmounted 200,000 there was an attempt
at a peace negotiation.
The Treaty of El Zanion that followed the negotiations had ended the 10
years of fighting and stipulated that the Spaniards were to abolish slavery in
Cuba and that they would implement certain government reforms. Spain, however,
had neglected to carry through on their promises and in 1895, the Cubans,
frustrated by the empty promises, had decided that aggression, and lots of it
would be needed to establish their independence.
Under the leadership of Jose Marti, the Cuban Revolutionary Party was
established. When Cuba issued the call-to-arms 0n February 24, 1859, Jose Marti
and his revolutionaries left the United States to aid in the struggle in Cuban,
and he was subsequently killed on May 19, 1895
As the revolution for freedom intensified, the Spanish Government deployed
more than 100,000 troops to help suppress the rebellion. In hopes of ending the
conflict quickly, Spain had sent the notorious General Valeriano Weyler y
Nicolau to act as Captain -General and to over-see the military government.
Upon arriving in Cuba, one of General Valeriano the "Butcher" Nicolau
first action was to gather the peasant population and imprison them in
concentration camps, where many would die of starvation and disease
Upon hearing of the atrocities committed upon the Cuban people, American
citizen s became outraged and sympathy for the Cuban population became
forefront. The Spanish government had become alarmed by the increasing anger of
America and immediately removed General Nicolau from the island.
The spirit of Imperialism combined with the supporters of the Manifest
Destiny believed that the United States needed to take aggressive steps, both
economically and militarily to end the Spanish reign in Cuban and to prove
America as a true world power.
Despite President Grover Cleveland's' neutrality promise of 1895,
President William McKinley, who had hoped to avoid war with Spain, was soon
swept into the turbulent rush of American emotions which cried for intervention
on behalf of the Cuban people.
On April 11, President McKinley, omitting the fact that he was aware that
Spain had called for an armistice, sought the permission of congress to put an
end to the hostilities in Cuba.
On April 19, his proposal passed the 2 houses of Congress and 3 days later
the U.S. Navy; North Atlantic Squadron, established a blockade in the Havana
Not long after Cuba had announced its intent of full independence the
Philippine people began to grow restless under Spanish authority and they, too,
announced their desire to be free of the Spanish rule.
Puerto Rico had become split in their feelings toward independence. There
were those who wanted full independence and yet others, those based in the
United States, who had wanted to ally with America. However, on November 25th,
1897, Spain relinquished their hold and cleared the way for a new government,
which was established on February 1898.
With tensions mounting and war looming on the horizon, President McKinley
asked for at least 125,00 volunteers to enlist but later increased that number
to 267,000 troops to augment the American forces that had been scattered about
at small out-post through out the world.
This still left a large void in the American fighting force for it would
take at least 2-3 months before these troops would be adequately trained to
actively engage in combat. Until the new troops could be readied,
Commander-General Nelson A. Miles had proposed that the scattered troops be
concentrated into one Corp and be ready to take an advantage of any opportunity
resulting from Naval Operations.
The prime objective of the U.S. Navy was to form a blockade in the Havana
Harbor, thus cutting the supply route to the Spanish Army, whom of which most
were stationed in the lower regions. The plan was that eventually the Spaniards
would be unable to maintain themselves against the Cuban insurgents and the U.S.
fighting forces, resulting in their surrender.
However, one-half of the United States navies were forced to remain in
Hampton, Virginia when it was discovered that the Spanish Navy under the command
of Admiral Pascual Cervera was heading across the Atlantic with the intention of
bombarding U.S. costal cities.
Rear-Admiral William Thomas Sampson was able to rectify the costal defense
problem by utilizing Civil- War Monitors in place of the much needed
battleships, even though the Monitors had no artillery for their cannons.
Conditions deteriorated quickly as the tensions mounted between Spain and
Cuba. The naval blockade had been successful in cutting off the Spanish supply
route and it seemed inevitable that the Spaniards would soon fly the white flag.
However, on the night of February 15, 1898, as she lay anchored, on post
in the Savannah Harbor, the battleship Maine exploded and sank with all 266
hands on board. The United States immediately believed this to be a callous act
of the Spaniards, [a 1976 U.S. Navy study suggest another cause for the
explosion.] and in response, declared war.
From the onset, the American war machine had the upper hand. Her Navy was
far more superior to that of Spain, the American fighting force was quicker and
successfully overran the Spanish fighters, many who were isolated and had no
choice but to surrender.
On July 1st, 1898, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his Roughriders charged
up Kettle Hill, while Brigadier General Jacob Kent charged San Juan Hill. Where
they successfully pushed the Spaniards further inland.
On July 16, after sustaining more than 1,700 causalities the Spanish Army
agreed to an unconditional surrender of all 23,500 troops that had been
scattered about the city.
On December 10, 1898, Representatives from the United States and Spain
gathered in Paris where they established a mutual agreement on the independence
of Cuba, Relinquished Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States and allowed the
Victorious America to purchase the Philippine Islands from Spain for 20
million-dollars. The Treaty of Paris had officially ended the war that by
today's comparisons may have been brief. However, the price of victory did not
come cheap. In all, it had cost the United States 250 million-dollars and a
death toll of 3,000 of which 90 % of these resulting from infectious diseases.