Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Spanish-American War

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Spanish-American War

Wars can be long, bloody, and have little impact on the world. Other times, they can be the complete opposite—the Spanish-American War was swift and with relatively low human casualties. However, its effects changed the status of the two world powers entirely. This article provides a summary of the Spanish-American War, examining the causes and effects and including a helpful war timeline of events. It will review the causes of the Spanish-American War, its key battles, related wars of independence, and an overview of the importance of this war.

Spanish-American War Summary

The Spanish-American War erupted in 1898 between the United States and Spain. Spain was an established empire with colonies around the world. By contrast, the United States was a little more than 100 years old with less international experience and few overseas territories. In under four months, the US military defeated the Spanish military forces in the Caribbean and the Pacific. As a result, the United States acquired major territorial gains, while the Spanish lost significant power and prestige. From 1868 to 1898, the Cuban people struggled for independence from Spain for many years until the US joined the fight. This aid was considered one of the causes of the war, but not the only one. Various economic, political, and military factors contributed to the armed conflict.

Spanish-American War Causes

Many factors caused the Spanish-American War, with one specific incident triggering the war. US interests in Cuba included a $50 million investment in sugarcane production and a telegraph network, trade, and protection of U.S. citizens residing on the small, Spanish-controlled island. With instability increasing, US President William McKinley sent the USS Maine, a battleship, to Havana. The peaceful mission was to protect US interests and citizens in the middle of conflict on the island. On February 15, 1898, the ship blew up in the harbor killing over 250 of the less than 400 member crew. American newspapers immediately labeled the incident as Spanish sabotage, and the American public demanded revenge. The US Navy determined in March that a mine destroyed the ship. Although decades later, it was concluded that an accidental boiler explosion was the cause of the blast that rocked the gunpowder-filled vessel.

Yellow Journalism and the Spanish-American War

American newspapers such as the New York Journal and New York World ran bold, sensational stories portraying the Cuban situation as a struggle against brutal Spanish tyranny. Stories often based on false information were designed to increase newspaper sales between the two dueling newspapers run by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, respectively. The Maine incident escalated the news battle with drastic consequences. Immediate reporting that a Spanish mine sunk the ship and took hundreds of US lives angered the readers. Average citizens and leaders in Washington echoed the call for war against Spain.

What is yellow journalism?

A reporting that relies on sensational, biased, and often untrue information with shocking and lurid details

Spanish-American War, spanish american war causes, StudySmarter

Newspaper Example of Yellow Journalism after the USS Maine sinking. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Major Battles of the Spanish-American War

What were some of the major battles of the Spanish-American War?

The Spanish-American War in the Atlantic-Caribbean Region

The US war against Spain was focused on Cuba since over 120,000 Spanish troops were stationed less than 100 miles from Florida. After the destruction of the USS Maine, a diplomatic solution to the crisis was sought but was ineffective. Spain eventually declared war on the United States as it would rather fight than grant independence to Cuba. War preparations in both countries and a US desire for vengeance and the liberation of Cuba dominated the public sentiment. A subsequent US naval blockade around Cuba and the call-up of over 125,000 service members led up to a full declaration of war in April. The naval battle against the weaker Spanish Navy at Santiago Bay was a clear success for the US forces.

In a series of land battles in a tropical environment, US forces experienced more casualties due to tropical disease than Spanish weapons. While a small invasion easily took control of the Spanish defenders of Puerto Rico, the island of Cuba was a greater challenge. The more numerous and better equipped Spanish infantry troops famously defended the island in battles such as San Juan (and Kettle) Hill. The former US Assistant of Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, resigned his position to lead the US 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment known as the Rough Riders in battle. This secured his war record and led to the presidency a few years later. The American troops prevailed against the Spanish Army under General José Toral y Velázquez during the summer of 1898.

Maps of Spanish-American War Battle Locations

Spanish-American War, Spanish-American wars of independence, StudySmarter

Map of Western Hemisphere showing Cuba and the Puerto Rico Area of Operations during the Spanish-American War. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Spanish-American War in the Pacific Region

The US war against Spain in the Philippines was marked by a dramatic naval battle followed by a small, land campaign. The most famous component of this part of the war was the legendary defeat of the Spanish Fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. US modern vessels commanded by Commodore George Dewey sunk the entire Spanish fleet under the charge of Admiral Patricio Montojo. The engagement resulted in no American losses. This sealed the Spanish fate in the Pacific. In one naval encounter, the US Navy became a modern, capable sea force. While the outdated Spanish Navy lost its status as a great navy. The United States would join the Filipino revolutionaries in routing the Spanish forces, bringing about surrender and US occupation on the land. Ironically, after the Spanish defeat, the United States would resume the war in the Philippines against its former Filipino allies as it took on the role of colonizing imperialist. In particular, the Filipino military and political leader Emilio Aguinaldo shifted from military ally to bitter adversary.

Spanish-American War, US versus Spain in the pacific, StudySmarter

Map of Eastern Hemisphere showing the Philippines area of operations during the Spanish-American War. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Effects of the Spanish-American War

The United States benefitted from its role in the Spanish-American War. Since America entered the war in the noble pursuit of liberating the Cuban people, its positive image was enhanced by the outcome. Even though the Paris Peace Treaty denied the Cuban revolutionaries a say in the process, the result was the independent Cuban Republic. America's sugar industry and assorted commercial industries benefitted from the Spanish withdrawal. The US military established a permanent US naval base at Guantanamo Bay (still in possession by the United States). Cuba was a legal US protectorate until 1934, under which American politics guided its policy and maintained its security. Many praised the new power the United States gained after a relatively short war as evidenced in this famous quote:

Splendid little war"—U.S. Secretary of State John Hay in a letter to Theodore Roosevelt.

With the decline of the Spanish Navy and the success of the US Navy, US foreign goals had increased in naval support. The relatively small US Army proved its ability to fight in challenging environments and against a better equipped and more experienced enemy. With less than 400 combat US deaths across two oceans, military leadership minimized thousands of deaths due to tropical diseases and the limits of moving and supplying US forces overseas. The new roles of America as a colonial leader and military victor were effects of this turning point in US History.

Spanish-American War Territorial Losses

The loss of the Philippines and Guam in the Pacific and Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean were steep losses for Spain. With the majority of the already obsolete Spanish naval squadron destroyed and valuable naval bases lost, Spain was weakened and threatened with further colonial rebellion in Latin America. During the hostilities, America also annexed the Hawaiian islands, subduing resistance from the Hawaiian monarchy. In December 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed, officially ending the war. The United States agreed to pay Spain's King Alfonso XIII $20 million dollars for the Philippines and received the islands of Puerto Rico and Guam in the settlement. These new territories increased U.S. power internationally and resulted in peaceful control of Guam and Puerto Rico that continues today. The Philippines soon turned into a new battleground with U.S. forces battling Filipinos seeking full independence from colonial control.

Spanish-American Wars of Independence

Throughout Latin America and the Pacific, independence movements in the 19th century expanded. European nations had solid economic and military control over their colonies but political control was harder to maintain. The Spanish government had the most extensive arrangement of colonies in Latin America and rebellion was common. Throughout the early 1800s, country by country in Latin America fought for independence. Spain steadily lost its colonies in the Western Hemisphere, culminating with the loss of Cuba in 1898.

Spanish-American War Timeline

  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus begins Spanish control of Cuba.

  • 1823 – US President James Monroe issues the Monroe Doctrine, cautioning Europeans to leave control of the region to 'Americans'.

  • 1868 – 1898 - Multiple unsuccessful Cuban rebellions against Spanish rule.

  • January 1898 – US battleship USS Maine was sent to Cuba to protect the US economic and political interests.

  • February 1898 – US battleship USS Maine explodes, killing the majority of the crew.

  • April 1898 – US Naval blockade; military call-up, and Congressional declaration of war on Spain.

  • May 1898 – US Navy defeats Spanish Navy in Manila Bay, Philippines.

  • June 1898 – US troops land in Cuba and begin fighting.

  • July 1898 – US Navy defeats Spanish Navy around Cuba.

  • August 1898 – US military victories lead to a cease-fire; concurrently, Hawaii becomes a US territory.

  • December 1898 – The treaty of Paris was signed, officially ending the war.

  • February 1899 – US Senate ratifies the Treaty of Paris, making Cuba independent and Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines territories of the US.

Spanish-American War - Key takeaways

  • The Spanish-American War was fought in 1898 between the United States and Spain.
  • The U.S. supported a decades-long Cuban independence struggle against Spain.
  • On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine blew up in Havana Harbor, Cuba killing much of the crew.
  • US newspapers used yellow journalism to create support for a war against Spain.
  • Yellow journalism is a type of reporting that relies on sensational, biased, and often untrue

    information with shocking and lurid details.

  • The US Congress declared war after Spain refused to free Cuba and declared war on the United States.

  • The US Navy easily won battles around Cuba and the Philippines at Manila Bay.

  • The US beat the Spanish, gaining the islands of Puerto Rico and Guam as US territories.

  • The Treaty of Paris settled the war and finalized the sale of the Philippines to the United States for $20 million.

  • The Spanish-American War highlighted America's new role as a world power and protector of Latin America.

Frequently Asked Questions about Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War was a brief war in 1898 fought in the Caribbean and Pacific between the US and Spain. The independence of Cuba and the role of the US in Latin America were at stake. 

The US won the war in less than four months. 

The sinking of the USS Maine, the naval battles at Santiago and Manila, and battles such as San Juan Hill are considered the main events in the Spanish-American War. 

Cuba became independent of Spain but remained as a US Protectorate until 1934. The US remained as a security and commercial force on the island. 

William McKinley was the US President and Commander-in-Chief during the Spanish-American War.

Final Spanish-American War Quiz

Question

In which year was the Spanish-American War fought?

Show answer

Answer

1865

Show question

Question

Which country was blamed for the destruction of the battleship Maine?

Show answer

Answer

Cuba

Show question

Question

Which of the following WAS NOT an area where this war was fought?

Show answer

Answer

Hawaii

Show question

Question

Who was the U.S. President during the Spanish-American War?

Show answer

Answer

William McKinley

Show question

Question

This small Caribbean island was the site of small battles and became a U.S. territory after the war?

Show answer

Answer

Puerto Rico

Show question

Question

This ship blew up in Havana Harbor causing the U.S. to blame Spain?

Show answer

Answer

U.S.S. Texas

Show question

Question

What is a type of reporting that relies on sensational, biased, and often untrue information with shocking and lurid details? 

Show answer

Answer

yellow journalism

Show question

Question

On which island did U.S. troops face over 100,000 Spanish soldiers?

Show answer

Answer

Philippines

Show question

Question

Which of the following was not a reason the U.S. went to war with Spain?

Show answer

Answer

Revenge for the Maine

Show question

Question

Which of the following territory did America receive from Spain at the end of the war?

Show answer

Answer

Guam

Show question

Question

What happened in the Philippines after the U.S. defeated Spain?

Show answer

Answer

The U.S. purchased the Philippines from Spain for $20 million

Show question

Question

Did the Cubans and Filipinos both become independent nations after the war?

Show answer

Answer

No.  Cuba, while free remained a U.S. protectorate and the Philippines became a U.S. territory.

Show question

Question

What was the peace treaty that ended the Spanish--American war?

Show answer

Answer

Treaty of Ghent

Show question

Question

Where did the U.S. Navy fight in the Spanish-American War?

Show answer

Answer

Cuba

Show question

Question

Which of the following was NOT a result of the Spanish-American War?

Show answer

Answer

The U.S. military was stronger and experienced

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Spanish-American War quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.