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Spanish American War Essentials

Top Facts You Should Know About the Spanish American War


The Spanish American War began in 1898 as a direct result of an incident that occurred in Havana harbor. On February 15, 1898, an explosion occurred on the USS Maine that caused the deaths of over 250 American sailors. Even though later investigations have shown that the explosion was an accident in the boiler room of the ship, public furor arose and pushed the country to war because of what was believed at the time to be Spanish sabotage. Here are the essentials of the war that ensued.

1. Yellow Journalism

Wreck Of The USS Maine
Interim Archives / Contributor/ Archive Photos/ Getty Images
Yellow journalism was a term coined by the New York Times that referred to the sensationalism that had become common in the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. In terms of the Spanish-American War, the press had been sensationalizing the Cuban revolutionary war that had been occurring for some time. The press exaggerated what was happening and how the Spanish were treating the Cuban prisoners. The stories were based on truth but written with incendiary language causing emotional and often heated responses amongst readers. This would become very important as the United States moved towards war.

2. Remember the Maine!

On February 15, 1898, an explosion occurred on the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. At that time, Cuba was ruled by Spain and Cuban rebels were engaged in a war for independence. Relations between America and Spain were strained. When 266 Americans were killed in the explosion, many Americans, especially in the press, started claiming that the event was a sign of sabotage on the part of Spain. "Remember the Maine!" was a popular cry. President William McKinley reacted by demanding that among other things Spain give Cuba its independence. When they did not comply, McKinley bent to popular pressure in light of the impending presidential election and went to Congress to ask for a declaration of war.

3. Teller Amendment

When William McKinley approached Congress to declare war against Spain, they agreed only if Cuba was promised independence. The Teller Amendment was passed with this in mind and helped to justify the war.

4. Fighting in the Philippines

The Assistant Secretary of the Navy under McKinley was Theodore Roosevelt. He went beyond his orders and had Commodore George Dewey take the Philippines from Spain. Dewey was able to surprise the Spanish fleet and take Manila Bay without a fight. Meanwhile, Filipino rebel forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo had been attempting to defeat the Spanish and continued their fight on land. Once America won against the Spanish, and the Philippines were ceded to the U.S., Aguinaldo continued to fight against the U.S.

5. San Juan Hill and the Rough Riders

Theodore Roosevelt volunteered to be part of the military and commanded the "Rough Riders." He and his men led the charge up San Juan Hill which was located outside of Santiago. This and other fighting resulted in the taking of Cuba from the Spanish.

6. Treaty of Paris Ends the Spanish American War

The Treaty of Paris officially ended the Spanish American War in 1898. The war had lasted six months. The treaty resulted in Puerto Rico and Guam falling under American control, Cuba gaining its independence, and America controlling the Philippines in exchange for 20 million dollars.

7. Platt Amendment

At the end of the Spanish-American War, the Teller Amendment demanded that the U.S. would give Cuba its independence. The Platt Amendment, however, was passed as part of the Cuban constitution. This gave the U. S. Guantanamo Bay as a permanent military base.
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