Eli M. Oboler Library

United Spanish War Veterans - Historical Sketch

On April 25, 1989, the United States declared war on Spain following the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898. As a result of the war, Spain lost its control over Cuba, Puerto, the Philippine Islands, Guam and other islands.

Cuba was the first to initiate its own struggle for independence. The moral leader of this struggle was Jose Marti who established the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892. Marti participated in the first weeks of armed struggle and was killed on May 19, 1985. The Philippines was also beginning to grow restive with Spanish rule. Jose Rizal, a member of a wealthy Mestizo family, resented that his upper mobility was limited by Spanish insistence on promoting only pure-blooded Spaniards. Spain proclaimed the autonomy of Puerto Rico on November 25, 1897, although the news did not reach the island until January 1898. A new government established on February 12, 1898

Events moved swiftly after the explosion aboard the U.S.S. Maine. On March 9, 1898, Congress passed a law allocating fifty million dollars to build up military strength. On March, 28, 1898, the U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry finds that a mine blew up the Maine. President McKinley orders a blockade of Cuba and four days later the U.S. declares war. Two days later, Commodore Dewey sailed to the Philippine Islands where he destroyed the Spanish fleet. However, Dewey did not have enough manpower to capture Manila and so Filipino guerrillas maintained their operations until 15,000 U.S. troops arrived at the end of July.

War in Cuba actually began for the U.S. in June, 1989, when the Marines captured Guantanamo Bay and 17,000 troops landed near Santiago de Cuba. Spanish troops stationed on the island included 150,000 regulars and 40,000 irregulars while rebels inside Cuba numbered as many as 50,000. Total U.S. army strength at the time was 26,000, requiring the passage of the Mobilization Act of April 22, 1898 that allowed for an army of 125,000 volunteers (later increased to 200,000) and a regular army of 65,000. On June 22, U.S. troops landed at Daiquiri. U.S. troops and the "Rough Riders" commanded by Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt went up against Kettle Hill while forces of General Kent charged up San Juan Hill, pushing Spanish troops further inland.

Representatives of Spain and the United States signed a peace treaty on December 10, 1898 establishing the independence of Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the U.S. and allowed the U.S. to purchase the Philippine Islands for $20 million dollars. The war had cost the United States $250 million dollars and 3,000 lives, of which 90% had perished from infectious diseases.

Last Modified: 05/07/2008 sc