The United States easily defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The war forced Spain to give up control of Cuba, the last of its colonies in the Americas. It also helped to make the United States a world power.
Path to War
Cuba is an island in the Caribbean Sea, close to the U.S. state of Florida. Spain ruled Cuba harshly. The people of Cuba rebelled against the Spanish in 1895. Many people in the United States wanted their government to help the Cubans. Owners of U.S. companies that did business in Cuba also wanted their government to act. They were afraid that a long revolution would hurt their companies.
William McKinley became president of the United States in 1897. At first he wanted to stay out of Cuba. Even so, he sent a warship called the Maine to Cuba to protect U.S. citizens. On February 15, 1898, an explosion sank the ship Maine. No one knew who set off the blast, but it made people in the United States even angrier at Spain.
Fighting the War
- In April 1898 the U.S. Congress threatened Spain. Spain declared war on April 24. The United States declared war one day later.
- The war was fought both in the Caribbean and in the Philippines. The Philippines is an island group in the Pacific Ocean that Spain then ruled as a colony. On May 1 the U.S. Navy, led by George Dewey, destroyed all the Spanish warships in the Philippines. By August U.S. forces controlled Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces attacked Spanish troops in Cuba. Among the U.S. forces were Theodore Roosevelt and his group of volunteer soldiers, called the Rough Riders. As they pushed into the city of Santiago, the Spanish ships in the city's harbor had to move out to sea. Then the U.S. Navy quickly defeated them. The Spanish surrendered on July 17.
The End of the War
- The United States and Spain signed a peace treaty in Paris, France, in December 1898. Spain gave up Cuba, which became an independent country. Spain gave the United States control of Puerto Rico (another Caribbean island) and the Pacific Ocean island of Guam. The United States paid Spain 20 million dollars for control of the Philippines.
- The war made Theodore Roosevelt a national hero. He was elected vice president in 1900. He became president when President McKinley was assassinated (murdered) in 1901.