The Spanish-American War. April 1898 To August 1898

The Spanish-American War of 1898 has multiple causations. Expansionism, American exceptionalism, economic stagnation, and media manipulation played their roles in the lead up to, and eventual conflict, between Spain and America. Cuba’s struggle for independence was cited as a key factor regarding Americas final decision to declare war. Their fight for independence had been marked by guerrilla warfare and citizen revolts, all of which had proved unsuccessful.

(Photo: United States, 1890's)

By 1895 another attempt for independence was made in Cuba. This attempt came with reports of civilians being detained, and even taken to detention camps. Information of such actions were spread through the United States media and information sources in a propagandist manner. It was with these reports that United States compassion for the Cuban people, and their struggle began to garner the interest of the American people. It can be argued that American business interest in Cuba, which received almost half of its imports from the United States and send an almost equal amount of exports to the nation, played a primary role in the action taken by congress to declare war.

(Photo: Havana, Cuba, 1890's)

On February 15th, 1898, the explosion of the U.S.S Maine, an American battle ship, occurred. Although it was eventually deemed an accident, wide spread calls for action came from United States Citizens. The media coverage of the Maine's explosion utilized methods of yellow journalism to augment the stories received by American citizens. By over sensationalizing the possibility of the Maine’s demise as intentional, news outlets compelled citizens to believe a false narrative. The explosion of the U.S.S Maine killed 207 people, and left the citizens of the United Sates on edge, with no help from media coverage.

(Photo: U.S.S.S Maine, 1898)

With Spain rejecting a United States call for an end to fighting, along with Cuban freedom, the nation’s government moved to act. In April of 1898 President McKinley petitioned congress for a deceleration of war against Spain. A senator form Colorado, Henry Teller, stated the purpose of the declaration of be a means of adding Cuban’s in their fight for freedom, as other nations, and even citizens of the United States feared imperialistic motivations to be the cause of the war.

(Photo: The Daily Republican News Paper, 1989 )

With notions of American expansion and imperialism in mind, steps were taken to make the nations intentions with Cuba clear. To prove, and maintain, the humanitarian motivations for their involvement Congress passed the Teller Amendment. This amendment, enacted on April 20th, 1898, declared America’s lack of intent regarding control of, or annexation, of Cuba.

(Photo: American Political Cartoon , 1890's)

The secretary of state, John Hay, said that the war was a ‘splendid little’ one. His description seemed relatively accurate, as only 400 deaths occurred for the United States in the conflict, which lasted only four months. With such as short duration to the war, it came as a surprise that Cuba was not the only location of conflict during the war. Despite Cuba being the area of concern, the primary battle of the war did not occur there. Due to Spain’s multiple colonies, the United States came into conflict with them in the Philippines.

(Photo: John Hay, United States Secretary of State 1898–1905)

1) on May 1st, at Manila Bay, in the Philippines a naval battel occurred. The Philippines This bay was a strategic point in the Pacific Ocean, as it was centrally located relative to the East Indies, China and French Indochina. Additionally, the presence of Spanish naval forces relative to the west coast of the United States gave concern, as there were limited ships protecting the area. Under Admiral George Dewy, a fleet of the American navy engaged in conflict with Spanish Ships in the early morning hours. This conflict ended with an American victory, and marked the first-time United States troops engaged in conflict outside of the Western hemisphere.

(Photo: Painting, Battle of Manila Bay)

1) Media played an important role in the war, as it allowed for efficient, fast, information to be conveyed. This was an issue as the information given was manipulated for gains, and to compel specified reactions from viewers. Of all the battles that occurred, the Charge of San Juan Hill was the most publicized. This conflict occurred out-side of Santiago, involving Spanish Troops and Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders. Roosevelt believed a war would bring national unity. And stepped won as secretary of the Navy to raze a cavalry unit at the start of the war. This battle became the most violent of the war, and the largest victory for Roosevelt and his men. Despite active participation in the battle, the Infantry regiments and cavalry, aside from the Rough Riders were overlooked by American media. This was done to show the heroic actions for future president Theodore Roosevelt.

(Photo: Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, 1989)

The use of propaganda, and media manipulation, helped morph the intent of the conflict. Quickly moving it form persevered humanitarianism, to imperialism on the part of the United States. This occurred with the United Stat’s newfound control of the Philippines, which President McKinley felt cud not be given back to Spain, or freed from imperial control. McKinley felt that the Filipino people were unprepared for their independence, and that America had a duty to civilize and raze up the people of the nation.

(Photo: Painting, American troops in the Philippines)

The Paris treaty 1989, between the United States and Spain marked the end of the war. This treaty resulted in Spain yielding almost all its remaining territories, and the United States paying Spain twenty million dollars. At the end of the war resulted in an American victory, in which the nation acquired the: Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Cuba with its newly formed government, was coerced into approving the Platt agreement. This agreement was tied into their constitution, and authorized American military intervention at their discretion, and allocated a permanent naval lease in Cuba. These newly acquired territories held promises regarding trade, and the possibility of settlements. The success of the United States in this conflict marked the nations rise to a world power, with its possession of: strategic territories, abundant resources and growing population.

(Photo: Signing of the Treaty of Paris, December 10th 1898)


Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty, Fourth Edition, Volume II. W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.

The Spanish-American War: First Intervention. Films Media Group, 2007, Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.

Zimmerman, Todd. The Spanish-American War Lecture. 2016. Web:


Created with images by Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL - "Mittel-America und Westindien"

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