The Spanish American War was fought between the United States and Spain in 1898. The war was fought largely over the independence of Cuba. Major battles took place in the Spanish colonies of Cuba and the Philippines. The war began on April 25, 1898 when the United States declared war on Spain. The fighting ended with a U.S. victory three and a half months later on August 12, 1898.
Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill by Frederic Remington
Leading Up to the War
Cuban revolutionaries had been fighting for the independence of Cuba for many years. They first fought the Ten Year's War between 1868 and 1878. In 1895, Cuban rebels rose up again under the leadership of Jose Marti. Many Americans supported the cause of the Cuban rebels and wanted the United States to intervene.
Sinking of the Battleship Maine
When conditions in Cuba worsened in 1898, President William McKinley sent the U.S. battleship Maine to Cuba to help protect American citizens and interests in Cuba. On February 15, 1898, a huge explosion caused the Maine to sink in Havana Harbor. Although no one was sure exactly what caused the explosion, many Americans blamed Spain. They wanted to go to war.
The US Declares War
President McKinley resisted going to war for a few months, but eventually public pressure to act became too great. On April 25, 1898, the United States declared war on Spain and the Spanish American War had begun.
The first action of the United States was to attack Spanish battleships in the Philippines to prevent them from going to Cuba. On May 1, 1898, the Battle of Manila Bay occurred. The U.S. navy led by Commodore George Dewey soundly defeated the Spanish navy and took control of the Philippines.
The Rough Riders
The United States needed to get soldiers to help fight in the war. One group of volunteers included cowboys, ranchers, and outdoorsmen. They earned the nickname the "Rough Riders" and were led by Theodore Roosevelt, future president of the United States.
Teddy Roosevelt Photo by Unknown
San Juan Hill
The U.S. army arrived in Cuba and began to fight the Spanish. One of the more famous battles was the Battle of San Juan Hill. In this battle, a small Spanish force on San Juan Hill managed to hold off a much larger U.S. force from advancing. Many U.S. soldiers were gunned down trying to take the hill. Finally, a group of soldiers led by the Rough Riders charged up nearby Kettle Hill and gained the advantage the U.S. needed to take San Juan Hill.
The War Ends
After the Battle of San Juan Hill, the U.S. forces moved on to the city of Santiago. Soldiers on the ground began a siege of the city while the U.S. navy destroyed the Spanish warships off the coast in the Battle of Santiago. Surrounded, the Spanish army in Santiago surrendered on July 17.
With the Spanish forces defeated, the two sides agreed to stop fighting on August 12, 1898. The formal peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris, was signed on December 19, 1898. As part of the treaty, Cuba gained its independence and Spain gave up control of the Philippine Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the U.S. for $20 million.
Interesting Facts About the Spanish American War
The leader of Spain during the war was Queen regent Maria Christina.
Many historians and experts today don't think that the Spanish were involved with the sinking of the Maine.
Some American newspapers at the time used "yellow journalism" to sensationalize the war and the sinking of the Maine. They had little research or facts to back up their claims.
Although the "Rough Riders" were a cavalry unit, most of them didn't actually ride horses during the Battle of San Juan Hill. They had to fight on foot because their horses couldn't be transported to Cuba.
In 1903, the new government in Cuba agreed to lease the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to the United States (sometimes called "Gitmo"). Today, it is the oldest overseas U.S. naval base.