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The History of the Spanish-American War

SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR. A war between the United States and Spain, which occurred in 1898. After a consideration of the conditions in Cuba, which had existed in the island for a century and had resulted in violations of the laws of humanity and in systematic disregard of the rights of American citizens, the United States determined to intervene. The Cuban uprising of 1895 had been suppressed with severity by Spain. Devastation, famine, and death were the lot of the natives, and lives and property of foreigners were not safeguarded. On April 6, 1896, Secretary of State Richard Olney offered in rather vague terms the friendly offices of the United States to save Cuba from "absolute impoverishment" and to ameliorate the condition of foreigners in that country. Spain declined, and President Cleveland, in his annual message to Congress in December, 1896, spoke of "higher obligations" than those due to Spain, which would devolve upon the United States if Spain should be unable to cope with conditions. In the early part of McKinley's administration Congress appropriated $50,000 for Cuban relief. Sagasta, the new Prime Minister of Spain, perceiving the trend of affairs, recalled the hated Captain General Weyler and sent out General Blanco in his stead. Spain promised to establish civil order in Cuba and to give it local autonomy when the American Minister to Spain, Stewart L. Woodford (q.v.), announced that his country could not view with indifference indefinite prolongation of existing conditions. In the meantime the United States government began to strengthen its naval forces. Relations became further strained when a letter written by the Spanish Minister criticizing President McKinley was stolen from the mails and published. His resignation followed the disavowal of any knowledge of the affair by the Spanish authorities. The critical point was reached when the United States battleship Maine was blown up on the evening of Feb. 15, 1898, in Havana harbor with a loss of 266 men. Boards of investigation were appointed by both countries. The American commission reported that the catastrophe was due to the explosion of a submarine mine. This was supported by a later investigation in (l 911). On March 8 Congress appropriated $50,000,000 for national defense, and on March 11 the War Department began mobilization of the regular army. President McKinley had again tendered the good offices of the United States, before the report of the investigating committee, but, not satisfied with Spain's reply, determined to lay the whole matter before Congress. In anticipation of war American citizens left Cuba, the Cuban Junta demanded recognition before interference, ands Spain declared a general truce on April 10. In his message (April 11) President McKinley described the situation, declaring intervention necessary, advising against recognition of the Cuban government, and requesting Congress to take action. Eight days later Congress declared the people of Cuba free and independent, demanded the surrender of all Spanish authority over the island, and empowered and directed the President to enforce this resolution by the army and navy. The President signed this ultimatum on April 20 and gave Spain until the 23d to make satisfactory reply. The Spanish Minister almost immediately demanded his passports, and the American Minister was handed his at Madrid. Formal declarations of war were issued by Spain and the United States on April 24 and 25 respectively.

The first naval action occurred on April 27, when Capt. W. T. Sampson (in charge of the blockading squadron, Cuban north coast) bombarded Matanzas. Spain sent a fleet to Cuban waters and had another in Philippine waters. Com. George Dewey (q.v.), who was at Hongkong was ordered (April 25) to "proceed to the Philippine Islands; commence operations at once against Spanish fleet; capture vessels or destroy." On April 30, under cover of the darkness, he entered Manila harbor with 9 vessels, 131 guns, and 1678 men. The next morning he attacked Admiral Montojo, whose 10 more or less helpless vessels (120 guns and 1796 men) lay at anchor in Cavite Bay. After a four-hour fight he destroyed the enemy's fleet and silenced the local fortifications with a loss of only six wounded. The whereabouts of the Spanish fleet in Cuban waters, under the command of Cervera, puzzled the Americans for some time until it was discovered in Santiago Bay. The harbor was rigorously blockaded by Admiral (then Captain) Sampson (q.v.), who had superseded Com. W. S. Schley (q.v.) on June 1. A daring attempt by Lieut. R. P. Hobson (q.v.) to close the harbor channel by the sinking of the collier Merrimac was unsuccessful. On Sunday morning, July 3, Cervera's ships emerged. The United States fleet immediately pursued and in four hours destroyed or drove ashore the six Spanish ships. The Spanish losses were about 350 killed and 1700 officers and men captured. The Americans lost one man and had ten wounded.

President McKinley had issued a call for 125,000 volunteers on April 23, 1898, and a second call for 75,000 more on May 25. Spain had about 197,000 men in Cuba, of whom 155,000 were regulars. On June 13 Gen. W. R. Shaftcr, U.S.V. (q.v.), left Tampa, Fla., with 815 officers and 16,072 men, composed almost entirely of regulars. His instructions were: "Go with your force to capture garrison at Santiago and assist in capturing harbor and fleet." He landed on June 20 at Daiguiri, the Spaniards withdrawing to their intrenchments near Santiago, protected by barbed-wire entanglements. Gen. Joseph Wheeler (q.v.) dislodged the Spanish troops at Las Guasimas after a sharp engagement in which he lost 68 men, killed and wounded (Spanish loss 23). On July 1 the United States troops, with the aid of Cubans under General Garcia, began the general assault on the Spanish positions. Two really separate actions were fought, El Caney and San Juan; San Juan Hill was captured at 1.30 P.M.; El Caney carried by storm at 4.30. On July 3 General Shafter notified the Spanish commander, Toral, that unless he surrendered by the morning of the 4th the city would be shelled. The truce which followed was ended on the 10th and hostilities, under the form of a siege, resumed. On the 16th articles of capitulation were signed. All forces, material, and territory of the District of Santiago were to be surrendered and all Spanish soldiers to be transported to Spain. The Spanish losses are not accurately known; those of the Americans were 1156. On July 25 Gen. Nelson A. Miles, U.S.A. (q.v.), landed on the island of Porto Rico; his skillfully conducted campaign was terminated on August 13 by the news that an armistice had been concluded. On August 13 Admiral Dewey and Gen. Wesley Merritt made a combined attack on the city of Manila, which surrendered; final capitulation was concluded August 14. About 13,000 Spanish soldiers yielded to the Americans, who had lost only five killed and 43 wounded. For the subsequent organization of the Filipinos for gaining independence, see AGUINALDO; PHILIPPINE ISLANDS.

Spain sought peace through the French Ambassador late in July. On August 12 the peace protocol and preliminary arrangements .were concluded. The treaty was signed on December 10 in Paris; by this Spain withdrew from Cuba and ceded Porto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States, which in return agreed to pay her $20,000,000 and to yield temporary commercial privileges in the Philippines. The political status of the inhabitants of the new possessions was to be determined by the new government. During the war a high death rate in camps brought out charges of maladministration against the War Department.

The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. XXI (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 350-351.