The Spanish American War


The Spanish American War Essay, Research Paper

The preceding events, battles, and results of the Spanish American war are very important to American s short but lustrous history. American started the war as a new and weak nation. By the end of the war however, we emerged as a great world power to be feared.

There were many reasons for the initiation of the Spanish American War. It started mainly because of a series of resolutions that Congress ratified on April 19, 1898, which virtually ended the friendly relations between the United States and Spain. The reason for passing these resolutions were because of the brutal treatment of Cuba which was reminiscent of the treatment Americans received from the British over one hundred years earlier. It was ordered on January 24 by the Secretary of the Navy that the U.S.S. Maine would be ordered to Havana. Some people wanted the U.S.S. Maine to start the war with Spain, but its intentions while in Cuban waters were harmless. It was a scouting mission to see if any preparations for war were taking place in Cuba. It was believed that a torpedo blew up the ship killing 260 men. On February 8, 1898, the publication of a letter written by Senor Dupuy de Lome, who was Spanish Minister of the United States, speaking disparagingly of President McKinley leads to the Minister s resignation of his post, and the appointment of Senor Luis Polo y Bernabe who orders Cervera to attack the battleship U.S.S. Maine. The U.S.S. Maine s captain, Captain Sigsbee, wrote an account of the explosion. He said it came from the bow of the vessel. He telegraphed his account to Congress who then ruled that it was a Spanish attempt to weaken US forces.

According to the President, he believed that war was necessary in order to preserve the Union. He said that Spain is a direct threat to the Union and it must not be tolerated. President McKinley was empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the US military. In addition to this, he was allowed to call on the militias of states if necessary.

There were also reasons to end the war though. During wartime, food was scarce, and month by month the death rate increased at an alarming rate. By March 1908, the mortality rates among the people who were not in the military exceeded fifty percent.

To prepare for the war, our government had begun to train many men for service in the navy and the army. We had also joined forces with some countries such as France and some aid from England to secure a powerful navy. In the south, the US government had stationed armed forces anticipating that Cuba would be a battleground in the war. Congress also unanimously voted to give a $50,000,000 appropriation to the war efforts, which was used by the navy to purchase hundreds of torpedoes, the enlistment of thousands of new soldiers, and three new battleships. Congressman Sayers of Texas stated that in the presence of a possible threat, this appropriation would be used to defend us. It was to be used as a precaution because the US would not fight an offensive war.

Even after the loss of the U.S.S. Maine, most Americans still wanted peace. War is always a lose-lose situation because war always costs a lot of money and lives. This is why McKinley s conservative acts concerning the war were warmly embraced around the country.

In 1823, James Monroe issued a bold proposal called the Monroe Doctrine that stated one of the goals of the U.S. government was to prevent further European influence in the Western Hemisphere. The Monroe Doctrine proclaimed that the United States would fight rather than to have Europe to obtain more land or interfere in the western world.

At the beginning of any hostilities, Commodore Dewey and a squadron of war vessels was dispatched to Asia to operate against the Philippine Islands. At first, this seemed insignificant to most, but after a while it was obvious that a naval battle would result. Dewey was known as an offensive fighter and an aggressive leader. On the night of May 1, Dewey signaled to his ships in Subic Bay to prepare to follow him. At 4:15 in the morning, the lookout on the masthead of the leading ship saw the Spanish fleet off the port lined up between Cavite and the mouth of Manila harbor. On May 4, Dewey had taken possession of a naval station at Cavite on the Philippine Islands, and destroyed its fortifications. Speculation of what exactly happened in Manila ended when Dewey gave an official report. He stated that they immediately engaged in battle with the following Spanish vessels: Reina Christina, Castilla, Ulloa, Isla de Cuba, General Lezox, Del Duero, Correo, Velasco, Mindanao, Don Juan de Austrian, Isla de Luzon, and the water battery at Cavite.

On May 12, 1898, Admiral Sampson s squadron of the U.S. Navy bombarded the forts at San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was the first battle of the way and was won with the gunboat Nashville. Unlike many other admirals in the navy, Sampson earned his spot not by using connections, but because of his great judgment. He was well respected by his peers and this helped him win so many battles.

After defeating the Spanish at San Juan, there were rumors circulating that the some of Admiral Cervera s ships were trapped in Santiago harbor. On June 11, 1898, he sent Lieutenant Blue to investigate. Blue landed on the same day with some local guides to the hills overlooking the Spanish armored cruisers and two torpedo boar destroyers along with three small gunboats. Blue reported to Sampson that he saw no oncoming Spanish fleets, ensuring the safety of Sampson s men.

On June 14, 1898, the U. S. Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Hunnington made their first aggressive movement against the Spanish Guerrillas and surreptitiously approached up on the enemy s camp. Hunnington decided to attack early in the day at eight in the morning. The Americans were within 200 yards when the fist shot was fired from the Spanish. While the Spanish were shooting bullets aimlessly, the Americans had settled down into trenches to avoid the oncoming fire. For awhile, it looked as if there was going to be a stalemate and that a bayonet charge down the hill would be necessary to suppress the enemy. But all of a sudden, the guerrillas attempted to escape. This is when the American fire became the most effective, picking off man after man in the Spanish s futile run for shelter. Although reinforcements were on the way, the camp surrendered within minutes.

It was decided to recruit volunteer troops to swell the ranks, men who would serve in the Army for a limited period of time, generally the duration of the war. These recruits were very different from members of the regular army who were for the most part, career soldiers. This was the start of the first volunteer cavalry in American s history Roosevelt, Under Secretary of the Navy at this time, announced that he intended to resign his post to join the fighting in Cuba. He was offered the command of the 1st Regiment of Volunteer Cavalry by Secretary of War Russel Alger, to be organized in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Indian Territories; President McKinley’s personal physician, Dr. Leonard Wood, who was previously also in the navy as was Roosevelt, was placed in command with Lt. Col. Roosevelt being second in command of the 1st Regiment Volunteer Cavalry.

In late April of 1898, Congress passed a bill authorizing the Secretary of War to organize three regiments of volunteer cavalry units to come from the states and territories of the West where, as Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “the feeling for war was strongest.” The second Regiment was recruited in Wyoming, the 3rd Regiment in the Dakotas. These two regiments remained in the United States during the fighting. Only a portion of the first Regiment, the Rough Riders, saw action in Cuba. They received their nickname from the press in recognition of their superior skill on horseback.

The largest single source of the Rough Riders was from the New Mexico Territory, 358 men, including 168 from Santa Fe. When the call went out across the New Mexico Territory for volunteers to form the first Regiment Volunteer Cavalry the response was overwhelming. In a matter of days, all the men needed had enlisted. New Mexicans were eager to serve for a variety of reasons. Some eastern newspapers suggested that New Mexico might side with Spain because of its high proportion of Spanish-speaking citizens and its first Hispanic-surnamed governor under American rule, Miguel Otero. New Mexicans wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the country that the territory was doing its part on the national level and thus was ready for statehood. Some ambitious men saw participation in the conflict as a vehicle for political advancement because these people believed that New Mexican open range had been tamed and many felt the frontier had vanished and volunteered for the sake of adventure.

The New Mexico volunteers were mustered into the United States Army on May 6, 1898, in a formal ceremony in front of the Palace of the Governors. Of all of the three hundred and fifty-eight volunteer recruits, now had enough to form four companies of the first Regiment, which descended on Santa Fe. They were housed in the barracks of Fort Marcy, a military reservation located in Santa Fe.

Nearly every citizen in Santa Fe attended and all the businesses in town were closed. That same day they boarded a train for San Antonio, Texas, where they were trained and drilled for nineteen days. Roosevelt was in Washington DC foraging for equipment for the troops and arrived late.

In late May the Rough Riders set out by train for Tampa, Florida, where they joined 30,000 other soldiers preparing for the invasion of Cuba. They remained in Tampa for a few weeks, receiving orders to sail for Cuba on June 7. Unfortunately, these orders also indicated that at least one New Mexico company and all horses be left behind because there was a shortage of room on the transport ships.

Approximately 16,000 men boarded 32 transport ships for Cuba. Due to overcrowding, the departure of the ship was delayed for a week. Soldiers who were already on board were ordered to remain so, at anchor, under conditions that quickly became intolerable. They landed in Cuba two weeks after boarding the transports in Tampa and were unloaded at Daiquiri Beach in southeast Cuba, near the landlocked harbor of Santiago. It was here that the United State’s Navy had bottled up the Spanish fleet that was sent to assist their troops.

Once in Cuba they distinguished themselves in several of the most important battles of the war. The Battle of Las Guasimas, two days after their arrival, was the battle in which Roosevelt, riding on his horse Little Texas he was the only one riding — led the troops up a steep hill in the face of enemy fire.

Kettle Hill was one of a series of hills or ridges called the San Juan Hills that surrounded Santiago. The plan was to take these ridges enabling the artillery to bomb the city and the Spanish navy. The Battle of Kettle Hill was the greatest accomplishment of the Rough Riders. There were twenty American casualties. It is frequently referred to as the “Battle of San Juan Hill.” However, it was regular troops, including African-American Buffalo Soldiers, who actually took San Juan Hill at the same time as Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were ordered to take Kettle Hill.

El Morro Castle at the entrance to the harbor of Santiago de Cuba the fighting was fierce, but the San Juan Hills were taken by U.S. troops and the Spanish surrendered Santiago on July 17. The Spanish fleet made a run for it, but was destroyed by the U.S. Navy that was waiting at the mouth of the harbor.

In the land engagements 270 New Mexico Rough Riders saw combat, thirty-one were wounded and ten died, but it was the heat and humidity of the Cuban summer which proved to be the more formidable enemy. It rained daily and the wool uniforms of the Rough Riders were totally inappropriate. By the end of July, nearly every New Mexican was suffering from illnesses such as malaria, dysentery and typhoid. Seven of the ten deaths of the New Mexico Rough Riders were from disease.

The Rough Riders returned to the United States in mid-August. The first Regiment reassembled at Montauk Point, Long Island, where they all received medical care. They were mustered out of the service in mid-September, 1898, following an emotional farewell speech by Roosevelt. They returned to New Mexico by train arriving in late September and were welcomed as heroes.

Roosevelt did not possess many the skills people think he did. He was never a crack shot, great with the rope, or an excellent horseman. However, he was very courageous and this inspired his men in of the cavalry. A good way to describe Roosevelt s part in the Rough Riders is that he was like the “ranch-man” that employed the cowboys.

The writings of the Rough Riders are the first by the press to have national significance. On April 21, the Tucson Arizona Star coined the name Rough Riders, which has remained until present. They also informed the public what exactly was going on with their boys and the victories of the Rough Riders.

At the present time of 1898, President William McKinley was proclaimed an imperialist for the attack on Cuba against the Spanish. This left one to suspect that the Spanish only wanted to cause some reaction by the unexplained explosion of the battleship U.S.S. Maine. Revealed later in 1969 that the U.S.S. Maine exploded due to a defective boiler.

The Spanish American War had many results that are important even today. The Spanish American War cost over 4,000 American lives, 400 in battle and the remaining to disease. The Philippine Insurrection that followed too about another 4,000 additional lives, but Filipino losses were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. The Spanish American War also marked the clear emergence of the US as both a world and imperialistic power. The US defeated Spain, a major European power, on land and at sea. Therefore, the US acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, as well as the right of intervention in the affairs of Cuba.

The war also demonstrated the enormous influence of the press in shaping of public opinion and, indirectly, government policy. The press brought large numbers of Americans together by keeping them informed of what s going on overseas. The press showed blacks and whites fighting side by side against a common foe, helping to ease the wounds still left from the Civil War.

The war had major consequences on the Filipinos. Led by Emilio Aquinaldo, the Filipinos had fought for independence from Spain, but after the Americans occupied the Philippines, it had become clear that independence was to be denied. The US waged a three year military campaign against Filipino nationalists, and some charged that the American methods were little different from those used by hated Spanish general Valeriano Weyler to suppress the Cuban independence movement.

Thanks to all the attention he received from his exploits with the Rough Riders, Theodore Roosevelt became a national hero. This catapulted his social standing and allowed him to become a senator and eventually the twenty-sixth president of the US.

The victories by naval forces at Santiago and Manila Bay helped to convince Congress of the influence of sea power. Congress began to authorize construction of larger and larger battleships, until America soon possessed the world s second largest navy.

Thanks to the heroics of our men, America was victorious in the Spanish American War. Due to our victory, we are now recognized as a world power that instills fear into many lesser nations. As Americans, we pride ourselves on having the highest standards of living. In this war, we showed the war that we were willing to fight to keep our standards where they are.

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