Spanish American War Summary

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A summary of the Spanish-American War. This was a short conflict fought between the United States of America and Spain, the war was declared in April 1898 and ended in August  the same year, four months later, the two countries signed the ‘Treaty of Paris’ that ended the conflict.  The war began when America made demands of Spain that it find a way to peacefully resolve Cuba’s demands for independence, this was combined with a relentless onslaught of anti-Spanish news stories in the multitude of newspapers, owned by William Randolph Hearst.

This ‘bad press’, combined with a lust for expansionism and the colonization of nearby Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico and Cuba as well as Spain’s Pacific interests Guam and The Philippines, by some members of the US government and other powerful American figures, forced the American government to consider declaring war on Spain. In January 1898, large scale riots by pro-Spanish, anti-American “Voluntarios” in Havana gave the US an excuse to send warships to Cuba, one of which, the USS Maine was sunk, probably by accident but Hearst’s newspapers quickly summarized the incident as a Spanish conspiracy, and a report by the navy a couple of months later, that the disaster which took the lives of 250 men, was caused by a submarine mine, quickly led to the start of the Spanish American War.

On July 3, 1898  Spanish American War began in earnest with the battle of Santiago de Cuba, the largest naval battle of the war which ended with the total destruction of the Spanish Caribbean fleet, American soldiers, aided by Cuban independence fighters took the town of Santiago de Cuba, and eventually the whole of the island.  In the Philippines, the situation was a little more complex as Germany had substantial commercial interests in Manila and its navy was willing to defend the harbor, and by definition, Spain. German ships lined up in front of the American fleet in the harbor, ostensibly ignoring the fact that the Spanish and Americans were at war.  The Germans were engaged in supplying their country’s interests in the city, with food and other supplies, and again, by summary definition, supplying the Spanish. The American Navy called the German bluff and showed their intention to fight.

Eventually, the German Navy backed down; on August 13th American soldiers captured the city of Manila, unaware that the Spanish American War had actually ended a day earlier. Guam was captured without a shot being fired, well actually, Captain Henry Class on the USS Charlston fired one warning shot on June 20th, the Spanish officer in charge of the island, boarded the ship and requested to borrow some powder to return the ships salute!

After just 109 days the Spanish American War ended with the signing of the ‘Treaty of Paris’, which gave rise to America’s summary possession of the former Spanish Colonies of Puerto Rico, The Philippines and Guam. With only one concession by the US to give back the mosquito infested city of St Augustine Florida back to the Spanish.

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