*** American history Spanish-American War

Spanish-American War--Imperial America (1898)

Figure 1.--Americans were not quite sure what to make of its new possssions acquired duting the Spanish-Americn War. This cabinet card seems similar to European views of its colonies. We see five children doing a play or presentation on the Spanish American War. There is a young soldier boy in the middle flanked bt the Phillipines and Puero Rico on the left and Cuba and Hawaiia on the right. They are posing in front of a large American flag. Other Americans opposed building an empire. The two major acquisitions were Cuba and the Philippine Islands. The United States granted Cuba independence almost immeditely (1903). In the Philippines a bitter guerilla struggle ensued. After this and the establishment of a Commonwealth Government, the goal of American rule became independence, which was delayed by the Japanese invasion (1941).

The Europeans led by Spain and Portugal began their maitime outreach and empire building.(15th century). Their colonies and other forms of control and influence eventually covered much of world. The United States began as part of that colonial outreach. The United States was the firat part of the Europan comonial empires to achieve independence. The Europeans added many colonies in Africa and Asia during the 19th century. And there were Amercans who wanted to add colonies from a early point in American history. Cuba and Central americ wre the primary targets. But there was even more resistance to colonial ex[ansion. The slave issue was a major factor here. America's colonial outreach was esentially the Spanish American War, Cuba was the issue that set off the War, but the United States targeted most of Spain's remaininhg colonies. Spain was no longer a major European power and the United States had a modern fleet. As the Spanish possessions were all islands, the U.S. Navy played a prominant role in the conflict. The outcome was never in doubt. The actual fighting was thus very limited, confined primarily to Manila Bay and Cuba. And unlike the Europeans, the United States began plans to grant independence, first for Cuba (1903) and then the Philippines. Filipono independemnce was delayed by the Japanese World War II invasion (1941). Those who want to paint America in a negative light, always pount out this imperial interlude, never mentioning the very limited colonial experiment, and the rapid grnting of independence to Cuba and preparatins for Filipino independence from avery early point. Unlike the Europeans, the Unoted States made considerble effort to prepare he Philippines for independence, such as fonding an education system and setting up a Commonwealth Government. Imperialism it was, but give the immense portential power of the United states by 1898, it was very limited colonial experiment. and the people of the islands not granted independence w11ere granted Ameican citzenship. This was very different

The Philippines (May 1898)

The first action of the Spanish American War occured in thePhilippines. The Spanish-American War was all about Cuba. Cuban revolutionaries had launched their struggle (1895) and the repressive Spanish actions to defeat the rebellion attracted the attention of American newspapers. There were no articles on the Philippines or even Puerto Rico. American public opinion began to demand war with Spain which reached a crechendo after the battleship USS Maine blewup in Havana harbor (February 15). The United States and Spain declared war (April 24-25). The first action of the War, however, occurred far way from Cuba primarily because Adm. Dewey engaged the Spanish fleet in port. Dewey had only recently been given command of the Pacific Squadron. He felt like most ranking officers that war with Spain was imminent, largely because of the press reporting. Dewey assumed that it would be an Atantic war. [Lawrence] Dewey reached the Squadron in Hong Kong (December 1897). He began preparing for the war he saw coming. A,most immediately the Navy Department began to sending instructions (January 1898). John D. Long was the Secretary of the Navy. Some of the instructions came from Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, acting without instructions from Long or President McKinnely. Upon the outbreak of war, the Navy Department ordered Dewey;s Pacific Squandron to engage the Spanish Fleet at Manila Bay. Dewey was in Hong Kong and immediately sailed for the Philippines where an insurection against the Spanish was also underway. On board Dewey's flagship was Philipino rebel Emilio Aguinaldo. The Battle for Manila Bay began with Dewey's orders, "Fire when ready Grudley." (May 1) Dewey destoyed the Spanish Fleet and harbor batteries (May 1). There were no American casualties. Dewey had no land force with which to occupy the islands and the Spanish refused to surrendr. Aguinaldo's guerrillas engaged the Spanish forces. Finally an American land force of 15,000 troops (late-July). The United States did not want the insurgent Filipinos to seize power. There was at first an uneasy alliance between insurgent Filipino and U.S. forces led to a Spanish surrender (August 14).

Cuba (June-July 1898)

The War began only hours after America declared War. A U.S. naval squadron commanded by Admiral William T. Sampson began the blockade of Cuban ports. The U.S Army quickly followed with a hastily assembled invasion force. Despite several years of war talk, the United States Army was totally unprepared for war. Fortunately for the United States, Spain was even less prepared and did not have the industrial and economic resourrces to match the Americans. The American Atlantic Fleet sought out the Spanish Atlantic Fleet, but it sought refuge in Santiago Harbor. Army commanders decoded to invade Oriente Province around Santiago in the east rather than the better defende Havana areav in the West. The Cuban Mambi (revolutionary) Armny largely controlled the Oriente Province, except for Santiago area where the Spanish had strong defenses and concentrated their forces. The Mambi Army's control of Oriente would allow the Americans to easily gain a foothold on the island. An American military force commanded by General William R. Shafterat landed at Daiquirí and Siboney (June 22-24). The began building a base there. The rebels helped the Americans by protecting the U.S. landing in Daiquiri during the initial and most vulnerable phase. The American land invasion was a chaotic affair. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt resigned his Government post and formed a unit of voluntary calvalry (who were unable to bring their horses)--the Rough Riders. The Spanish forces on the island resisted vigorously. The Americans once ashore moved on Santiago de Cuba, a major city and military center. Linares' army headquarters was located there as well as Cervera's fleet. The American forces to reach the city had to penetrate Spanish defences built up in the in the San Juan Hills and a small town in El Caney located just east of Santiago. The port of Santiago and the Spanish fllt based there also became the main target of American naval operations. A naval force operation in the Caribbean area needed aotential shelter in case a hurrican developed. This was especially important as hurrican forcasting and tracking was not yet developed a and the War was fought during the summer hurricane season. The Navy selected Guantánamo Bay with its superb natural harbor as a refuge if needed. The Navy seized Guantanamo Bay (June 6). The Spanish did not want to come out of their Santiago defenses to oppose the Americans. The Spanish land defenses of Santiago were centered around Fort Canosa. and the major land battles were fought in the area surronding the fort. The first major engagement was the Battle of Las Guasimas (June 24). The Battle of El Caney and San Juan Hill was foughtv July 1). Here Col. Col. Roosevelt and the Rough Riders became national heros. After seizing the hills, the American advance halted as the Spanish made a stand at Canosa. The Americans and Cuban revolutionaries began a seige of the city. As the U.S. Army moved on Satigo, the Spanish decided to come out of the port dfenses. The Americans subsequently engaged and destroyed the Spanish Caribbean Squadron (Flota de Ultramar) (July 3). It was the most importahnt naval engagement of the Spanish-American War. The Spanish in Satiago surrended (July 16). U.S. General Nelson A. Miles decided not to permit Cuban Mambi troops to enter Santiago with the Americans and participate in the surrender ceremonies. He explained that he did not want possible clashes between the Cubans, possibly seeking revenge, and the Spanish. Cuban Mambi General Calixto García, commanding the Mambi forces in the Eastt, ordered his troops to hold their respective areas and resigned his command. He wrote a letter of protest to General Shafter. With their fleet destroyed, however, the Spanish saw a continuation of the War as futle. They had already lost the Philippines and Puerto Rico. And with no real hope of holding on to Cuba, Spain sued for peace (July 17).

Puerto Rico (July 1898)

Puerto Rico was the second of Spain's two remaining Caribbean islnd colonies. Spain moved toward home rule in Puerto Rico. We are not rntirely sure why, we suspect that American press critism about Cuba was a factor. And unlike Cuba there was no revolutionary movement challenging Spanish rule. Spain approved the "Carta Autonámica" (Autonomy Charter) transering political and administrative autonomy to the island--essentially home rule (November 25, 1897). The island to retain its representation in the Spanish Cortes (parliament). The legislature consisted of a Council of Administration with eight elected and seven appointed members, and a Chamber of Representatives with one diputado for every 25,000 inhabitants. With home rule, Puero Ricans were able to organize political parties. José Celso Barbosa and Manuel Fernández Juncos helped organize the Partido Autonomista Ortodoxo (Orthodox Autonomist Party). The new local goverment began to function (February 9, 1898). Spanish Governor General Manuel Macías inaugurated the new government formed under the Autonomy Charter. The town councils assumed complete authority over local matters. With the Autonomy Charter, the Spanish Governpr General no longer had any autority over fomestic civil matters unless authorized by the Cabinet. With relations between Spain and the United states deteiorating, Dr. Julio J. Henna and Robert H. Todd, leaders of the Puerto Rican section of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, began contacting President McKinley and Senate leaders (March 10). They wanted the United States to include Puerto Rico in whatever intervention occured over Cuba. Henna and Todd provided the U.S. government details about Spanish military deploymet on Puerto Rico. War breaks out (April 19-24). Spanish Minister of Defense Segismundo Bermejo ordered Admiral Cervera to proceed with his fleet from Cape Verde to the Caribbean (April 24). Lt. Henry H. Whitney of the Fourth Artillery is oedered to Puerto Rico on a reconnaissance mission for the Army's Bureau of Military Intelligence. He secured maps and information on the Spanish military forces. Spanish artillery units in the fortress of San Cristóbal guarding San Juan Harbor exchanged fire with the USS Yale (May 10). A squadron of 12 U.S. ships commanded by Rear Adm. William T. Sampson bombarded San Juan (May 12). The USS Yosemite is deployed off San Juan harbor to blockade the port (June 25). General Nelson A. Miles, commander of the invading forces, is ordered to sail for Puerto Rico (July 18). Am American convoy of nine transport ships with 3,300 soldiers escorted by the USS Massachusetts sailed for Puerto Rico from Guantánamo Bay in Cuba (July 21). General Nelson Miles lands in Puerto Rico with the first contingent of 16,000 American troops (July 25). They land unopposed at the town of Guánica along the southern coast. U.S. troops invaded Puerto Rico and encountered minimal resistance. Spanish resistance to the landing force lased only during the morning. In only a week, the entire island was in American hands. U.S. and Spanish Commissions met in San Juan to discuss the details of the withdrawal of Spanish troops and the implementation od cession of the island to the United States (September 9). Governor Macías officially announced to the Puerto Rican people that Puerto Rico had been ceded to the United States (September 29). The last Spanish forces withdraw from Puerto Rico (October 18). General John R. Brooke was appointed the first American military governor.

Guam (June 1898)

The island of Guam is the southrn-most island of the Marianas. The indifenous population is the Chamorros. They resisted Spanish conquest, but over time became throughly Hispanicized. From the Marianas, the Spanish seized other islands in Micronesia, not encountering the level of resistance experienced on Saipan. Guam became the center of Spanish administration and an important stop for the Spanish galleons sailing between the Philippines (Manila) and Mexico (Acapulco). The convoy known as the Galeon de Manila. The Marianas under Spanish rule remained a backwater under the General Government of the Philippines. Germany began diplomatic efforts to question Spanish control of the Marianas. Pope Leo XIII confirmed Spanish sovereignty over the Marianas (1885). Partly as a result, Spain changed its policy toward the now throughly Hispanicized Guamanian Chamorros. Spanish authorities began encouraging the Chamorros on Guam to move to the Northern Marianas. The Spanish saw a larger Chamorro population on Saipan and other islands in the Northern Marianas as a way of strengthening Spanish control. The Carolinians had by that time settled much of the most productive coastal areas. The United States seized Guam in a bloodless landing during the Spanish-American War (June 21, 1898). Spain in the Treaty of Paris ceded Guam to the United States. Spain with the loss of the Philippines deciced to sell the rest of its Pacific islands to Germany. Guam was useful to the U.S. Navy as a coaling station between the Hawaiian Island and the Philippines. Later it was became in a stop in the Pan Am Clipper service. The United States paid $20 million for the various islands seized. The island population, The Guam Bellhas, totaled about 10,000 inhabitants, mostly Hispanized Chamorros. President William McKinley by executive order placed Guam under the administration of the Department of Navy. The United States officially took possession of Guam (February 1899). The U.S. Naval Station, Guam, was established (August 1899). The entire island was designated as Naval Station. The Commanding Officer, Captain R.P. Leary was designated as the first American Governor of Guam.

Hawaiian Islands (July 1898)

Hwaaii was not a Spanish colony, but annexatioin became ted up with the Spnish American War. Expansonists had long wanted to acquire the Hawaiian Islands. An American planters on the islands wanted to become part of the Unite States. With Dewy's victorty in the Philippines, the casewas successfully made for annexation. The Hawaiian Islands helped scure the ea lanes betweem the Ameican mainlnd and the Philippines. The Government declared Hawaii was needed as a navy base. That naval base, Pearl Harbor, would come to play a major role in American history. Congress approved annexation (July 7, 1898).


Lawrence, Willian J. A Concise Life of Admiral George Dewey (1899).


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Created: 5:57 AM 5/1/2015
Last updated: 5:57 AM 5/1/2015