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The Spanish-American War of 1898

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Introduction

The Spanish-American War was a military conflict between the two mighty nations that started in April 1898 (Hendrickson 4). It was the first imperialist war that aimed to reallot the Spanish colonial possessions. The war lasted for approximately four months. A number of significant battles were fought during the period of the conflict. Those battles exhausted the Spanish army. As a result, a peace treaty was signed between the two sides in Paris in December 1898.

The Reasons for the War

At the end of 19th century, the vast site of the western part of the world was under the control of Spain. The territory of Spanish colonies spread from Virginia to South America (“The world of 1898: The Spanish American War”). A number of islands, especially Cuba, were burdened by such dominance of Spain. As a result, the Cuban revolutionary groups called for their independence from the Spanish rule. Since Spain did not intend to satisfy their demands, the United States intervened in the conflict, supporting the rebels. America had its own reasons for that intervention. The Cuban War for independence had already lasted for more than 2 years weakening the American economic affairs. The US trade firms suffered losses because of the unresolved conflict. Thus, the American President sent his Ambassador to Madrid for negotiations (Hendrickson 15). As a result, the Spanish side promised that the Cuban autonomy would be set in January 1898.

However, the explosion on the US battleship Maine was set off a few weeks later. The explosion led to the sinking of the cruiser in Havana harbor (Dolan 9). The American newspapers put the blame on Spain over that event. Two journalists, William Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, exaggerated the Spanish cruelty to catch the readers’ interest.  Thus, the media provoked the American citizens to demand actions against Spain.

Moreover, the American Democratic Party put pressure on the Administration of President William McKinley. The party claimed to enter in a war with Spain. Despite the vain attempts of President to avoid the war, the United States sent an ultimatum to Spanish government. The Americans demanded from Spain to decline the control over Cuba (Dolan 21). However, the Spanish government refused to comply with their claim. Spain considered that Cuba was a significant trade zone for Spanish goods and comfortable training ground for the Spanish army. Thus, two sides broke off their diplomatic relations and declared war to each other. The Spanish-American War began on April 25, 1898. 

The Major Battles

The first major battle of the Spanish-American War took place in the Philippines on May 1, 1898 (Dolan 42).  The Spanish fleet expected that American forces would start the battle in the morning. However, the American military leader George Dewey, knowing about the weak preparedness of the Spanish fleet, entered into the bay at midnight. It allowed the US squadron to fire Spanish ships from the best positions. Spanish soldiers tried to withstand the firing. However, their attempts were defied. The Spanish squadron suffered great losses, whereas the Americans had only one dead man (McCaffrey 152). Thus, the Asiatic Squadron, led by Dewey defeated the Spanish Pacific Squadron under the command of Admiral Patricio Montojo. The Americans weakened the Spanish army and captured the harbor of Manila.

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Another military campaign was launched in Cuba in May, 1898. The American army blocked the harbor in order to prevent the Spanish side from obtaining any supplies. After two months of standoff, the Spanish squadron tried to leave the harbor in July, 1898. However, their efforts were not successful. The US forces destroyed almost all Spanish battleships. Five ships were crushed by the Americans. The only Spanish cruiser, Cristobal Colon, had survived (Dolan 73). However, the captain of the cruiser scuttled it when the Americans drew closer. Thus, the American fleet destroyed the Spanish Squadron at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba.

There were also fights in Puerto Rico. However, they did not improve the weak position of the Spanish army.

After the battle at Santiago, the Spanish forces were largely exhausted. Having sustained a defeat at two crucial battles, the Spanish side laid down arms and clamored for peace.

The Peace Treaty

The American and Spanish diplomats held negotiations for signing a peace treaty in Paris. The treaty was signed on December 10, 1898. The United States ratified the treaty in February 1899 (Hendrickson 64).

According to the agreement, the United States took complete control over many overseas territories, including Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. It meant that America could build its economy using the additional natural resources obtained from its new colonies. As regards Cuba, it gained independence from Spain, but remained under the jurisdiction of the United States.  Being under the authority of the Americans, Cuba formed its own government. However, the US imposed different restrictions on the new government, including alliances with other countries. Moreover, the United States preserved the right to intervene when needed (Hendrickson 68). Thus, Cuba gained its complete independence only in 1902.

Due to the Spanish-American War, the United States proved their status of one of the most powerful countries in the world.  Since then, the position of America was significant in various international affairs. As regards Spain, the war undermined the political stability in the country that led to the end of the Spanish Empire.

Conclusion

The Spanish-American War was a significant military event in the history of the United States. The war began in April, 1898. The Americans gained the victory in such hostings as the battle of Manila Bay and the battle of Santiago de Cuba. It helped the United States to eliminate the Spanish control over the most of its western colonies. In addition, the war events proved that the American army was stronger and military wiser than Spanish army. The numerous defeats of the Spanish fleet led to the signing of a peace treaty that took place in Paris in December 1898.

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