Spanish American War Essay-1093 Words - Essay Prowess

Spanish American War Essay-1093 Words


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Spanish American War


The Spanish American War took place in 1898 when the Americans attacked the Spanish colonial empires and overthrew them in the Western hemisphere. The United States secured the position as the strongest power in the Pacific (Dolan, 2001, p. 2). In addition, after they defeated the Spanish, a peace treaty was formulated that forced Spain to surrender powers on Cuba, and relinquish sovereignty to the United States over Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. Moreover, in the process of this conflict, the United States annexed Hawaii which was an independent state (Hernández, 2010, p. 10). In this respect, the victory of the United States enabled it to develop its dominance in the Caribbean territory and to seek its economic and strategic interests in Asia.

The war that emerged in 1898 between Spain and the United States following three years of fighting by revolutionary leaders in Cuba to acquire independence from Spanish colonial rule. Between 1895 and 1898, there was a violent conflict, especially in Cuba (Hernández, 2010, p. 22). Because of geographical closeness to the United States, Cuba posed political and economic instability in the region. In addition, huge public dissatisfaction in the USA against brutal tactics that the Spanish used against the Cuban revolutionary acted as a source of sympathy (Hendrickson, 2003, p. 13). Furthermore, for a long period the United States held interest of political dominance in the Western hemisphere over European colonial powers. For a short period prior to 1898, tension between the United States and Spain escalated. Under unclear circumstances, the Maine Battleship exploded and sank on February 1898 in Havana Harbor (Dolan, 2001, p. 55). The incident prompted the U.S. to initiate military intervention in Cuba against the Spanish.

President William McKinley sought authorization from the Congress in order to launch military intervention in Cuba that would restore peace and security of Cuban and American citizens living in the island (Hernández, 2010, p. 31). The congress passed a joint resolution that permitted President William McKinley to seek Cuban independence. Therefore, he demanded Spanish to cede their authority in the island. However, Spanish administration ignored the U.S. ultimatum and suddenly violated diplomatic agreements with the United States (Hendrickson, 2003, p. 15). Consequently, McKinley executed a naval blockade on April 22 in Cuba. Besides, he used more than 125 000 military personnel against the naval forces of the Spanish (Dolan, 2001, p. 33). Spain declared war on the forces which led the U.S. congress to decide to go for war on April 25, 1898.

In order to win in Cuba, the U.S. forces had to overcome the Spanish Navy. The initial battles took place on May 1 when the Spanish naval forces suffered defeats on the hands of American forces led by Commodore George Dewy (Hernández, 2010, p. 33). Therefore, they were able to secure Philippines. The U.S. forces also launched offensive at Guantanamo bay on June 10 in Cuba, where extra forces landed on Santiago city harbor (Dolan, 2001, p. 49). Spanish Cervera decided to concentrate his small squadron to defend the forts in Santiago bay. Commodore Winfield Scott led the U.S. navy to trap the squadron after it blockaded Santiago Bay and other major ports in Cuba (Hendrickson, 2003, p. 16). All Cervera ships were ruined one after another by the Americans navy on July 3.

In the land battles in Cuba, Americans forces concentrated on attacking Santiago. Therefore, they first decided to attack Juan heights near Santiago. Using these two centers, the United States forces easily defeated Spanish forces in Cuba (Hendrickson, 2003, p. 17). Additionally, they also defeated and ruined Caribbean squadron on July 3, 1898 as it tried to avoid naval blockade in Santiago (Dolan, 2001, p. 72). In Philippines, Americans launched naval war from Hong Kong. The Asiatic squadron fired on the fleet belonging to Spanish in Manila Bay (Hernández, 2010, p. 37). They sank and captured Spanish ships in Manila bay without any loss of American life. Later they tried to colonize Philippines. Most notably, the U.S. was involved in another war in Philippines that lasted longer than Spanish American war. The Filipino American war ended in 1905.

Alarmed by these defeats, Spanish government approached French ambassador to initiate peace talks and cease fire to McKinley government. Consequently, peace treaty was signed on August 12, 1898, and this marked the end of Spanish American conflict in the Caribbean (Hernández, 2010, p. 41). The Spanish and the U.S. government agreed on the terms of Treaty of Paris on December 1898. The terms of treaty of Paris forced the Spanish to grant Cuba independence. In addition, the treaty also demanded that Spain should cede Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States (Dolan, 2001, p. 89). Furthermore, Spain also sold Philippines at a sum of approximately $20 million to the United States. The United States senate ratified the treaty of Paris on February 1899.

The United States also used the pre-war tension between itself and Spain to annex the state of Hawaii. The state of Hawaii was independent under the leadership of Queen Liliuokalani (Hernández, 2010, p. 51). However, in 1893, a group of American based businesspersons and planters in Hawaii staged a coup against the queen and ousted her government. The group pursued immediate annexation by the United States of America (Dolan, 2001, p. 89). However, the U.S. president Cleveland Grover refused the demands of the groups. Upon assumption of power, President McKinley welcomed the idea of American public to annex the islands.

Citizens in favor of annexation argued that the islands were important to the United States economy. Hawaii would act as strategic areas for the United States that would enable the country to secure their interest in Asia (Hernández, 2010, p. 101). Other countries intended to annex Hawaii if the United States of America failed. Ultimately, the president requested the Congress to annex Hawaii (Dolan, 2001, p. 112). Fortunately, his request was granted by joint resolution of Senate that allowed Hawaii to be a territory of the United States from August 1898.


The Spanish American war was a crucial turning point in the history of two nations. After they suffered defeat from American forces, Spain focused its attention on its domestic matters. It reduced its attention on its overseas colonial adventures. Consequently, there was literary and cultural renaissance as well as economic development of Spain (Dolan, 2001, p. 132). On the contrary, after the victory over Spain in the Caribbean and Pacific, the United States erupted as a world power with huge possessions in overseas countries (Hendrickson, 2003, p. 29). After the defeat of Spain, its territories, for example, Wake Island, Guam, Samoa and Puerto Rico became Americans territories (Hernández, 2010, p. 145). Furthermore, it acquired new role in international politics that later led to involvement in Europe affairs.




Dolan, E. (2001). The Spanish-American War. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press.

Hendrickson, K. (2003). The Spanish-American War. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Hernández, R. (2010). The Spanish-American War. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.