Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War (April 21, 1898 – August 13, 1898) was fought between the United States and Spain in the Caribbean and the Pacific—in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines. The war resulted in an American victory and the relinquishing of Spanish territories to the US under the Treaty of Paris, signed between the two powers on December 10th, 1898, which ended the Spanish Empire and propelled the US to global power. The utility of naval power proved decisive in the outcome of the war. One of the first battles occurred at Manila Bay in the Philippines on May 1, 1898, which resulted in a decisive American naval victory. The battle’s outcome illuminated much about the role of naval power in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Ground forces were also critical. In the Caribbean, then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt commanded a fighting force known as the “Rough Riders”—the First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Before he joined his unit, he had played a critical role in ensuring the readiness of naval forces to conduct operations in Cuban and Puerto Rican waters. On July 1st, 15,000 American troops, including African-American “Buffalo” soldier regiments and Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders,” attacked Spanish defenses at the Battle of El Caney and the Battle of San Juan Hill outside of Santiago. First Lieutenant John J. Pershing, who would command the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I (1914-1918), fought at San Juan Hill. Yellow fever and typhoid were prevalent in the Caribbean during the war, forcing American withdrawal from Cuba by the end of summer, while African-American units stayed behind under the assumption that African Americans possessed some immunity to yellow fever. Sadly, these men were not immune from these diseases.

For More Information:

Berner, Brad K. The Spanish-American War: A Documentary History with Commentaries. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2014.

Dyal, Donald H., and Brian B. Carpenter, Mark A. Thomas. Historical Dictionary of the Spanish American War. Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Musicant, Ivan. Empire by Default: The Spanish-American War and the Dawn of the American Century. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998.