Information on the Spanish-American War
April 25–August 12, 1898
The Spanish–American War was a conflict between the Kingdom of Spain and the United
States of America that took place from April to August 1898.
The war was mainly caused by American demands that Spain peacefully resolve the
insurrection in Cuba, which Spain was unable to do. Tension among the American people
was raised because of the explosion of the American battleship USS Maine, and "yellow
journalism" that accused Spain of extensive atrocities. The war ended after quick,
decisive naval and military victories for the United States in the Philippines and Cuba.
Only 109 days after the outbreak of war, the Treaty of Paris, which ended the conflict,
gave the United States ownership of the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the
Philippines and Guam. The U.S. took control of Cuba, ended the insurrection, expelled
the Spanish and granted independence there in 1902.
The mysterious sinking of the battleship USS Maine on February 15, 1898, at 9:30 p.m. in
Havana Harbor was attributed, by Spanish scientists, to an internal and accidental explosion;
but the American commission reported that it was caused by submarine mine and a
commission accepted the commission's report and rejected the Spanish report. (An
investigation conducted in 1976 by scientists concluded that the explosion was most
likely the result of an internal combustion in a coal bunker that was situated next to a
powder magazine; a 1999 investigation commissioned by National Geographic Magazine
and carried out by Advanced Marine Enterprises disagreed, concluding that “it appears
more probable than was previously concluded that a mine caused the inward bent bottom
structure and the detonation of the magazines.”) When the Maine blew up, journalists like
William R. Hearst leapt to the conclusion that Spanish officials in Cuba were to blame,
and they widely publicized the conspiracy. Such publications practiced what was called
"yellow journalism," which originated in New York. Yellow journalism fueled American
anger by publishing astonishing "atrocities" committed by Spain in Cuba. Hearst, when
informed that conditions in Cuba were not bad enough to warrant hostilities, allegedly
replied, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." Lashed to fury by the yellow
press, the American cry of the hour became, Remember the Maine, To Hell with Spain!
The decisive event was probably the speech of Republican Senator Redfield Proctor in
mid-March, thoroughly and calmly analyzing the situation and concluding war was the
only answer. The business and religious communities, which had opposed war, switched
sides, leaving President William McKinley and Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett
Reed almost alone. Thus, on April 11, McKinley asked Congress for authority to send
American troops to Cuba for the purpose of ending the civil war there.
On April 19, Congress passed joint resolutions proclaiming Cuba "free and independent"
and disclaiming any intentions in Cuba, demanded Spanish withdrawal, and authorized
the President to use as much military force as he thought necessary to help Cuban
patriots gain freedom from Spain. (This was adopted by Congress from Senator Henry
Teller of Colorado as the Teller Amendment, which passed unanimously.) In response,
Spain broke off diplomatic relations with the United States and declared war on April 23.
On April 25, Congress declared that a state of war between the United States and Spain
had existed since April 20 (later changed to April 21).
Theodore Roosevelt considered his involvement in the Spanish-American War to be one of his
crowning achievements. He desperately wanted a war to prove himself in. Once back, he was
soon after the military decoration to crown his achievement: the Medal of Honor.
He painfully told Lodge on December 6 that "if I didn't earn it, then no commissioned officer
can ever earn it. . . . I don't ask this as a favor--I ask it as a right. . . . I feel rather ugly on this
medal of honor business; and the President and War Dept. may as well understand it. If they
want fighting, they shall have it
The United States had an ally during the Spanish-American War, the island Republic of Hawaii.
The trigger for the Spanish-American War was a false one. Spain did not plant a mine, nor did
anyone else. The Maine was destroyed by 11,190 pounds of its own powder in a magazine for
shells, ignited by fire in a coal bunker separated by a single bulkhead. It was a preventable
accident. Had this been publicly known at the time, as it might have been, it is conceivable
America would not have gone to war; and it might very well not have become an imperialist
Blacks were also military heroes, taking San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt in the
Spanish-American War. It is a little known fact that the all-Black 10th Cavalry should really be
credited with that victory.
During the Spanish-American War (1898), North Carolina provided three infantry regiments
named simply the First, Second, and Third Volunteer Infantry Regiment(s). All of these were
state militia regiments. The First was the only one to see action in Cuba; the Second
disbanded after a short-lived yet infamous term of service in the States, and the Third, an
African American regiment, experienced continuous discrimination whether it was stationed
in eastern North Carolina or Knoxville, Tennessee. Only two North Carolinians, Worth Bagley
and William E. Shipp, died in action.
Most of the white dissenters called Eastern North Carolina home; by and large the blacks
there, however, displayed a more vigorous patriotism and volunteered in greater numbers.
As a result, Piedmont and Western North Carolina boys comprised the majority of the First
and Second Regiments; in the First Regiment, for example, only one company came from
the eastern region.
Many volunteers of the First and Second were sons of Confederate veterans, yet they
responded to the United States’ call for troops. They evinced a patriotism that would
characterize the Southern region throughout the twentieth century.
Back to North Carolina in the Spanish-American War