Spanish American War

The Spanish-American War (1898) was a conflict between the United States and Spain that ended Spanish colonial rule in the Americas and led to U.S. territories in the western Pacific and the Caribbean.

Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain began in February 1895. Spain used force to stop the rebellion. U.S. newspapers used sensational headlines to cover the rebellion, arousing American sympathy for the Cuban rebels. The unexplained sinking in Havana harbor of the battleship USS Maine, which had been sent to protect U.S. citizens and property after anti-Spanish rioting in Havana, led to popular demand for U.S. intervention. Congress soon issued resolutions that declared Cuba’s right to independence, demanded the withdrawal of Spain’s armed forces from Cuba, and authorized the President’s use of force to secure that withdrawal. Congress renounced any U.S. plans for annexing Cuba.

Spain declared war on the United States on April 24, followed by a U.S. declaration of war, retroactive to April 21. Spain was not prepared militarily for this distant war with the mighty forces of the United States. On May 1, 1898, George Dewey led U.S. naval troops into Manila Bay in the Philippines and destroyed the anchored Spanish fleet with little resistance. Manila itself was occupied by U.S. troops by August.

An army of U.S. troops and volunteers under Gen. William Shafter (including Theodore Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders”) landed on the coast east of Santiago, Cuba. They slowly advanced on the city in an effort to force a Spanish fleet out of the harbor. A battle broke out. The Spanish ships came under heavy fire from U.S. guns and were all abandoned. Santiago surrendered to Shafter on July 17, thereby ending the war.

In the Treaty of Paris (signed Dec. 10, 1898), Spain renounced all claim to Cuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States, and transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the United States for $20,000,000. The Spanish-American War was an important turning point in the history of both countries. The treaty ended Spain’s overseas colonial holdings. The United States emerged from the war a world power with overseas possessions and a new role in international politics.

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