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Spanish American War
In 1890 the Spanish Empire included: Cuba, Puerto Rica, Philippines and Guam.
Cuba tried to overthrow Spanish rule between 1868 and 1878. After it failed some Cubans escaped to
the United States. Some that escaped were led by poet and journalist Jose Marti and the exiles worked to gain
American support. Americans were interested in what was going on in Cuba because in 1894 nearly 90% of
Cuba’s exports (primarily sugar) came to the United States.
Jose Marti eventually returned to Cuba and led another uprising. In response to this the Spanish
military instituted a policy of reconcentracion (placing hundreds of civilians into guarded camps with curfews
and limited supplies). During this time period, there were two primary newspapers in New York that were
competing for readers; William Randolph Hearst was the editor of The New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer
was the editor of The New York World. To attract readers they exaggerated stories called yellow journalism
that pulled at the readers’ heart and made Americans want to help Cuba gain their freedom from Spain.
In February of 1898 two events will made negotiations with Spain impossible. First a letter written by
the Spanish Minister to the U.S. written to the Foreign Minister of Spain was intercepted and published in the
paper. This letter became known as the DeLome letter and criticized McKinley as weak and incompetent.
American’s were outraged to learn of this. Following the letter, on the night of February 15th, 1898 the U. S.
Battleship Maine, which was anchored quietly in the Havana harbor, was suddenly blown up tearing out her
bottom out and sinking her, killing 260 officers and men on board. President McKinley responded to these
events by sending demands and attempting to negotiate with Spain. He told them that the war in Cuba must
stop and had Congress authorize him to use force if necessary. Congress also passed the Teller Amendment, a
resolution stating that the U.S. had no designs on Cuba and would withdraw troops sent there during a
Spanish American War.
Meanwhile in the Philippines ~ Assistant Secretary of the Navy T. Roosevelt cabled the American naval
commander in the Pacific, George Dewey, and ordered him in the event of war to proceed immediately to the
Philippines and destroy the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. Five days after McKinley signed the war resolution
Dewey sank 10 Spanish Vessels.
Back in Cuba U.S. troops moved into Santiago. Teddy Roosevelt led the Rough Riders and the 9th and
10th Calvary. The most famous incident of the war was their charge up San Juan Hill. The American Navy
destroyed every Spanish Naval vessel and Spain surrendered
The Spanish American War down is considered the “Splendid little War” because it only lasted 16
weeks; however, 2500 Americans died even though less than 400 of them died in battle.
The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1898 to end the war. The treaty stated that Spain would surrendered
claim to Cuba and it gave Puerto Rico and Guam to the U.S. Spain then sold the Philippines to America for $20
million. With the addition of these colonies America had become an Imperial Power.
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Spanish American War