Spanish–American War

Spanish–American War
Part of the Philippine Revolution and the Cuban War of Independence
Infobox collage for Spanish-American War.jpg
(clockwise from top left)
DateApril 21, 1898[b] – August 13, 1898
(3 months, 3 weeks and 2 days)

U.S. victory

Spain relinquishes sovereignty over Cuba, cedes Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands to the United States for $20 million.

United States United States

Commanders and leaders
  • 72,339 troops (total)[1]
  • 53,000 rebels[c]
  • 40,000 rebels[3]
  • 206,000 troops[d] (Caribbean)
  • 55,000 troops (Philippines)
Casualties and losses


  • 281 killed and 1,577 wounded (Army)[5]
  • 16 killed and 68 wounded (Navy)[5]
  • 2,061 dead from disease[6][7]
  • 11 prisoners[8]
  • 1 cargo ship sunk[9]
  • 1 cruiser damaged[6]


  • 200 killed and 400 wounded (Army)[10]
  • 500–600 killed and 300–400 wounded (Navy)[10]
  • 15,000 dead from disease[11]
  • 40,000+ prisoners[6][12]
  • 6 small ships sunk[6]
  • 11 cruisers sunk[6]
  • 2 destroyers sunk[6]

The higher naval losses may be attributed to the disastrous naval defeats inflicted on the Spanish at Manila Bay and Santiago de Cuba.[13]

Part of a series on the
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Governorate of Cuba (1511–1519)
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Captaincy General of Cuba (1607–1898)

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The Spanish–American War (Spanish: Guerra hispano-americana or Guerra hispano-estadounidense; Filipino: Digmaang Espanyol-Amerikano) was fought between the United States and Spain in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. U.S. acquisition of Spain's Pacific possessions led to its involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately in the Philippine–American War.[14]

The main issue was Cuban independence. Revolts had been occurring for some years in Cuba against Spanish rule. The U.S. later backed these revolts upon entering the Spanish–American War. There had been war scares before, as in the Virginius Affair in 1873, but in the late 1890s, U.S. public opinion was agitated by anti-Spanish propaganda led by newspaper publishers such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst which used yellow journalism to call for war.[15][16] The business community across the United States had just recovered from a deep depression and feared that a war would reverse the gains. It lobbied vigorously against going to war.

The United States Navy armored cruiser USS Maine had mysteriously sunk in Havana Harbor; political pressures from the Democratic Party pushed the administration of Republican President William McKinley into a war that he had wished to avoid.

President McKinley signed a joint Congressional resolution demanding Spanish withdrawal and authorizing the President to use military force to help Cuba gain independence on April 20, 1898.[17] In response, Spain severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21. On the same day, the U.S. Navy began a blockade of Cuba.[18] On April 23, Spain stated that it would declare war if the U.S. forces invaded its territory. On April 25, Congress declared that a state of war between the U.S. and Spain had de facto existed since April 21, the day the blockade of Cuba had begun.[19] The United States sent an ultimatum to Spain demanding that it surrender control of Cuba, but due to Spain not replying soon enough, the United States assumed Spain had ignored the ultimatum and continued to occupy Cuba.[20][not in citation given]

The ten-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. As U.S. agitators for war well knew,[21] U.S. naval power proved decisive, allowing expeditionary forces to disembark in Cuba against a Spanish garrison already facing nationwide Cuban insurgent attacks and further wasted by yellow fever.[22] American, Cuban, and Philippine forces obtained the surrender of Santiago de Cuba and Manila despite the good performance of some Spanish infantry units and fierce fighting for positions such as San Juan Hill.[23] Madrid sued for peace after two obsolete Spanish squadrons sank in Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay and a third, more modern, fleet was recalled home to protect the Spanish coasts.[24]

The result was the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the U.S. which allowed it temporary control of Cuba and ceded ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine islands. The cession of the Philippines involved payment of $20 million ($602,320,000 today) to Spain by the U.S. to cover infrastructure owned by Spain.[25]

The defeat and loss of the last remnants of the Spanish Empire was a profound shock to Spain's national psyche and provoked a thorough philosophical and artistic reevaluation of Spanish society known as the Generation of '98.[24] The United States gained several island possessions spanning the globe and a rancorous new debate over the wisdom of expansionism.[26]

Historical background

Spain's attitude towards its colonies

The combined problems arising from the Peninsular War (1807–1814), the loss of most of its colonies in the Americas in the early 19th-century Spanish American wars of independence, and three Carlist Wars (1832–1876) marked the low point of Spanish colonialism.[27] Liberal Spanish elites like Antonio Cánovas del Castillo and Emilio Castelar offered new interpretations of the concept of "empire" to dovetail with Spain's emerging nationalism. Cánovas made clear in an address to the University of Madrid in 1882[28][29] his view of the Spanish nation as based on shared cultural and linguistic elements – on both sides of the Atlantic – that tied Spain's territories together.

Cánovas saw Spanish imperialism as markedly different in its methods and purposes of colonization from those of rival empires like the British or French. Spaniards regarded the spreading of civilization and Christianity as Spain's major objective and contribution to the New World.[30] The concept of cultural unity bestowed special significance on Cuba, which had been Spanish for almost four hundred years, and was viewed as an integral part of the Spanish nation. The focus on preserving the empire would have negative consequences for Spain's national pride in the aftermath of the Spanish–American War.

American interest in the Caribbean

In 1823, the fifth American President James Monroe (1758–1831, served 1817–1825) enunciated the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the United States would not tolerate further efforts by European governments to retake or expand their colonial holdings in the Americas or to interfere with the newly independent states in the hemisphere; at the same time, the doctrine stated that the U.S. would respect the status of the existing European colonies. Before the American Civil War (1861–1865), Southern interests attempted to have the United States purchase Cuba and convert it into a new slave territory. The pro-slavery element proposed the Ostend Manifesto proposal of 1854. It was rejected by anti-slavery forces.

After the American Civil War and Cuba's Ten Years' War, U.S. businessmen began monopolizing the devalued sugar markets in Cuba. In 1894, 90% of Cuba's total exports went to the United States, which also provided 40% of Cuba's imports.[31] Cuba's total exports to the U.S. were almost twelve times larger than the export to her mother country, Spain.[32] U.S. business interests indicated that while Spain still held political authority over Cuba, economic authority in Cuba, acting-authority, was shifting to the US.

The U.S. became interested in a trans-isthmus canal either in Nicaragua, or in Panama, where the Panama Canal would later be built (1903–1914), and realized the need for naval protection. Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan was an especially influential theorist; his ideas were much admired by future 26th President Theodore Roosevelt, as the U.S. rapidly built a powerful naval fleet of steel warships in the 1880s and 1890s. Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897–1898 and was an aggressive supporter of an American war with Spain over Cuban interests.

Meanwhile, the "Cuba Libre" movement, led by Cuban intellectual José Martí until his death in 1895, had established offices in Florida.[33] The face of the Cuban revolution in the U.S. was the Cuban "Junta", under the leadership of Tomás Estrada Palma, who in 1902 became Cuba's first president. The Junta dealt with leading newspapers and Washington officials and held fund-raising events across the US. It funded and smuggled weapons. It mounted a large propaganda campaign that generated enormous popular support in the U.S. in favor of the Cubans. Protestant churches and most Democrats were supportive, but business interests called on Washington to negotiate a settlement and avoid war.[34]

Cuba attracted enormous American attention, but almost no discussion involved the other Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Guam, or Puerto Rico.[35][page needed] Historians note that there was no popular demand in the United States for an overseas colonial empire—Americans did not admire the British Empire or the others.[36]

Other Languages
brezhoneg: Brezel 1898
日本語: 米西戦争
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Ispaniya-amerika urushi
Simple English: Spanish–American War
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Špansko-američki rat
粵語: 美西戰爭
中文: 美西战争