The Spanish-American War, 1898

Future Secretary of State John Hay described the Spanish-American War as a “splendid little war.” The first battle was fought on May 1 in the Philippines, where Commodore George Dewey defeated the Spanish naval force. On June 10, U.S. troops landed at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and additional forces landed near the harbor city of Santiago several weeks later. The U.S. Navy destroyed the Spanish Caribbean forces.

On July 26, the French ambassador in Washington approached President McKinley on behalf of the Spanish government to discuss peace terms. A cease-fire was signed on August 12. The war officially ended four months later, when the U.S. and Spanish governments signed the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. The treaty guaranteed the independence of Cuba, forced Spain to cede Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States, and arranged the sale of the Philippines to the United States for the sum of $20 million.

The McKinley Administration used the war as an excuse to annex the independent nation of Hawaii. Following a coup against Hawaiian Queen Lili`uokalani in 1893, a group of Hawaii-based businessmen requested annexation by the United States, which President Grover Cleveland rejected. Supporters of annexation argued that Hawaii was vital to the U.S. economy, that it would serve as a strategic base to help protect U.S. interests in Asia, and that other nations were intent on taking over the islands if the United States did not. At McKinley’s request, a joint resolution of Congress made Hawaii a U.S. territory on August 12, 1898.

Source: The Spanish-American War, 1898
Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, Public Domain

Back to top