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The Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War was a conflict which occurred in 1898 between the United States and Spain. The war ended Spanish colonial rule in the Americas and led to the U.S. acquiring several territories in Latin America and the western Pacific.


History.com Editors. “Spanish-American War.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14

May 2010, www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/spanish-american-war.

The background image is of the USS Maine National Monument in New York.

The Spanish-American War was a turning point for both countries. The United States emerged as a world power with new territories across the world and a new role in international politics that would lead it to be involved in the affairs of Europe and the rest of the world. Spain’s loss, on the other hand, caused the nation to focus less on overseas colonial endeavors and more on its own domestic needs. This process led to cultural and literary development, as well as decades of important economic development in Spain.

Spain announced an armistice on April 9th, 1898 and tried to grant Cuba some limited powers of self-government. However, the U.S. Congress issued resolutions declaring Cuba’s right to independence, demanding Spain’s armed forces withdraw from the island, and authorizing President McKinley to use force to secure that withdrawal. As a result, Spain declared war on the United States on April 24th, 1898. The United States declared war on April 25th, then retroactively changed it to April 21st.

The Spanish-American War began as a result of the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain, which began in 1895. Several newspapers engaging in yellow journalism, or journalism based upon exaggeration and dramatic headlines, graphically portrayed Spain’s oppressive measures to stifle the Cuban rebellion. Americans began sympathizing with Cuban rebels. The increasing popular demand for U.S. intervention only grew after the American battleship USS Maine sunk in Havana harbor in February 1898. The ship had been sent there to protect United States citizens and property from anti-Spanish rioting.

The Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the Spanish-American War, was signed on December 10th, 1898. In the treaty, Spain renounced Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States, and gave control of the Philippines to the United States for $20 million. However, Philippine rebels fought against the Americans just as they had the Spanish. The Philippine-American War lasted from 1899 to 1902, and killed ten times more U.S. troops than defeating Spain did.

The Spanish-American War was quite one-sided because Spain’s army and navy were unprepared for a far away war with a power as strong as the United States. On May 1st, 1898, a U.S. naval squadron led by Commodore George Dewey entered Manila Bay in the Philippines. They destroyed the Spanish fleet anchored there in just two hours, and then paused the Battle of Manila Bay so the crew could have a second breakfast. Only 10 American men were lost, while the Spanish losses were over 370. U.S. troops occupied Manila by August 1898.

U.S. intelligence determined that the Spanish Caribbean fleet under Admiral Cervera was in Santiago Harbor in Cuba. General William Shafter and an army made up of troops and volunteers landed east of Santiago and moved through the city in order to force Cervera’s fleet out of the harbor. Cervera led his troops out of Santiago and attempted to escape. However, in the battle which followed, all of his ships were beached either burning or sinking due to heavy fire from U.S. guns. Santiago was surrendered to Shafter on July 17th, 1898, effectively ending the Spanish-American War.