Spanish-American War Facts

The Spanish-American War had it roots in Cuba's struggle for freedom and independence from Spain. That started in 1895. Spain's brutality and repressive actions were shown in U.S. newspapers resulting in American sympathy for the Cuban cause.

Rebellion against Spanish rule had been going on for decades in Cuba and was noticed by Americans. A growing chorus demanding that the U.S. involve itself in the struggle were amplified starting on February 15, 1898 when the U.S. battleship USS Maine was sunk without explanation in Havana harbour. The Maine had been dispatched to Havana in 1898 to protect American interests as the Cubans continued to revolt against the Spanish.

On the evening of February 15, 1898, the Maine sank after her forward gunpowder magazines exploded. Nearly three-quarters of the battleship's crew or an estimated 260 crew died then or soon after. Investigators later discovered more than five tons of powder charges ignited, destroying the ship's forward third and sending the rest of the wreckage to the harbor bottom.

A short war

Even though Cuban independence was the reason for the Spanish-American War, it wasn't fought just in Cuba. It was also fought in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

On April 24, 1898 Spain officially declared war on the United States. The United States followed suit with its own declaration the next day.

Because neither Spain's army or navy were ready for a distant war with a large nation like the United States, the war proved to be quite one sided. On May 1, 1898, Commodore George Dewey led a U.S. naval squadron into Manila Bay in the Philippines. The anchored Spanish fleet was destroyed. Only seven Americans were injured in the morning attack. Later in August, U.S. troops occupied Manila.

The Spanish Caribbean fleet was under the command of Admiral Pascula Cervera and was located in Cuba's Santiago Harbor by U.S. reconnaissance. An army of troops and volunteers led by General William Shafter landed on the coast east of Santiago and slowly advanced on Santiago. Among the American troops was Theodore Roosevelt.

On July 3, Cervera led his squadron out of Santiago, attempting to escape by heading west. In the subsequent fight, all of his ships came under heavy fire from U.S. guns. On July 17, Cervera surrendered and the war was over.

Treaty of Paris signed

The Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898. By signing the Treaty, Spain renounced all claim to Cuba. It also gave Guam and Puerto Rico to the U.S., and transferred sovereignty of the Philippines to the U.S. in exchange for $20 million.

The Spanish-American War is considered a turning point in the history of Spain and the United States. For Spain, the defeat turned its attention from overseas colonial conquest toward domestic needs. This resulted in a literary and cultural flowering in the country and 20 years of economic growth.

For the United States, with its victory, emerged into a world power with widespread overseas possessions. It enabled us to have a stronger hand in international politics.

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