Statesman's Year-Book 1899/Spanish War, 1898

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The War With Spain, 1898[1]

The conditions in Cuba resulting from the long-continued civil strife of the Cubans against the Spanish government, were accompanied with a great loss of life, disturbance to commercial and industrial relations between Cuba and the United States, and considerable expense on the part of the latter in various directions. The President had called the attention of Spain to these conditions, pointing out the great injury to American trade and commerce and urging the relief of the Cubans and the granting to them certain privileges which it was thought might secure an improvement.

On the 15th of February, 1898, the United States battleship Maine, while lying in the harbor of Havana on a mission of international courtesy and good will, was destroyed.

At the suggestion of the Executive, Congress, by a unanimous vote, on the 9th of March, 1898, appropriated $50,000,000 "for the national defence and for each and every purpose connected therewith, to be expended at the discretion of the President," who, nevertheless, made every exertion in his power to secure, through diplomatic negotiations, the immediate conclusion of a six months' armistice in Cuba, with the ultimate view of effecting the recognition of her people's right to independence. Nothing came of these negotiations, and on April 11, 1898, the President announced to Congress that he had exhausted diplomatic effort, and that in the name of humanity and in behalf of endangered American interests the war in Cuba should be stopped.

After nine days of earnest deliberation, Congress, on the 19th of April, by a vote of 42 to 35 in the Senate and 311 to 6 in the House of Representatives, passed a joint resolution declaring That the people of the Island of Cuba are, and of right ought to be, free and independent, demanding, that the Government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in the Island of Cuba and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters, empowering the President to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States, and of the several States, to such extent as may be necessary to carry the resolution into effect, and disclaiming any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for the pacification thereof.

This resolution received Executive approval April 20, and a copy was at once communicated to the Spanish Minister at Washington, who asked for his passports, which request was granted. Upon his withdrawal he left the protection of Spanish interests to the French Ambassador and the Austro-Hungarian Minister. General Woodford, the American Minister at Madrid, was informed of the text of the resolution, and directed to communicate it to the Government of Spain, giving Spain until noon of April 23 to reply.

This demand was not delivered to the Spanish Government at Madrid. On the morning of April 21, before General Woodford could present his instructions, the Spanish Minister of State notified him that upon the President's approval of the joint resolution, the Madrid Government had broken off diplomatic relations between the two countries. General Woodford thereupon demanded his passports and left Madrid the same day.

April 22 the President proclaimed a blockade of the north coast of Cuba, and the port of Cienfuegos on the south coast of Cuba, and on the next day, April 23, called for volunteers to execute the purpose of the resolution. On the 25th Congress passed an act declaring the existence of war from and including the 21st day of April, and May 25, a second call for 75,000 additional troops was made. The ranks of the regular army were increased to the limits provided by the act of April 26. 1898.

The first encounter of the war in point of date took place April 27, when a detachment of the blockading squadron made a reconnaissance in force at Matanzas. The next engagement was by the Pacific fleet, under Commodore George Dewey, which had lain some weeks at Hongkong. At daybreak on the 1st of May Dewey's forces entered Manila Bay, and, after a few hours' engagement, effected the total destruction of the Spanish fleet, consisting of 10 warships and a transport, besides capturing the naval station and forts at Cavité, and securing complete control of the bay of Manila. Not a life was lost on the American ships, the wounded numbered only 7, and not a vessel was materially injured. Information of this victory was received on the 7th day of May, and troops were forwarded to support the navy, sailing May 25, and arriving off Manila June 30. Other expeditions were despatched to the Philippines, the total force consisting of 641 officers and 15,058 enlisted men.

May 11 the cruiser Wilmington and torpedo boat Winslow were unsuccessful in an attempt to silence the batteries at Cardenas. In this action Worth Bagley, an ensign, and 4 seamen were killed.

Meanwhile a powerful Spanish squadron under Admiral Cervera, which had assembled at the Cape Verde Islands before the outbreak of hostilities, crossed the ocean, and took refuge in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba about May 19.

May 13 the North Atlantic Squadron shelled San Juan, Porto Rico. On May 30 Commodore Schley's squadron bombarded the fort guarding the mouth of Santiago harbor. These attacks had no material results. The next decisive act in the war was the exploit of Lieutenant Hobson, who, on the 3d of June, with the assistance of seven volunteers, attempted to block the narrow outlet from Santiago harbor by sinking the collier Merrimac in the channel.

On June 10, under a heavy protecting fire, the landing of 600 marines from the Oregon, Marblehead, and Yankee was effected in Guantanamo Bay. Additional forces were landed and strongly intrenched by June 16, and on the 22d the advance army under Major-General Shafter landed at Daiquiri, about 15 miles east of Santiago, and the movement against Santiago began on the 23d. On the 24th the first serious engagement took place, in which the First and Tenth Cavalry and the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, General Young's brigade of General Wheeler's division, participated, losing heavily. By nightfall, however, they were within five miles of Santiago. July 1 a severe battle took place, and the American forces gained the outworks of Santiago. On the 2d El Caney and San Juan were taken after a desperate charge, thus completing the investment of the city. The navy coöperated with the army by shelling the town and the coast forts.

On the following day, July 3, the decisive naval combat of the war occurred. The Spanish fleet attempted to leave the harbor of Santiago, but was met by the American squadron, which, in less than three hours, destroyed all the Spanish ships and sank three torpedo boats, driving the Maria Teresa, Almirante Oquendo, Vizcaya, and Cristobal Colon ashore. The Spanish admiral and over 1300 men were taken prisoners, while the Spanish loss of life was very large, some 600 perishing. On the American side but one man was killed, on the Brooklyn, and one man seriously wounded.

The capitulation of Santiago followed. Negotiations continued from July 3 to July 15, when the preliminaries of surrender were agreed upon, and on the 17th of July General Shafter occupied the city. The capitulation embraced the entire eastern end of Cuba. The Spanish surrendered 22,000 men.

With the fall of Santiago the occupation of Porto Rico was begun, and General Miles, by previous assignment, organized an expedition for that purpose. He was already at Santiago, where he had arrived on the 11th of July with reënforcements for General Shafter's army. With these troops, consisting of 3415 infantry and artillery, two companies of engineers, and one company of the signal corps. General Miles left Guantanamo on July 21. This expedition landed at Guanica July 25 with but little opposition. General Miles was subsequently reënforced by General Schwan's brigade of the Third Army Corps, by General Wilson with a part of his division, and also by General Brooke with a part of his troops, the whole force numbering 16,973 officers and men.

General Miles entered Ponce July 27; the campaign was prosecuted with vigor, and on the 12th of August most of the island was in his possession.

The last scene of the war was enacted at Manila. Aug. 15, after a brief assault on the works by the land forces, in which the squadron assisted, Manila was surrendered unconditionally, the casualties being few. The total casualties in killed and wounded in the army and navy during the war with Spain have been given under "Army" and "Navy."

On the 26th of July M. Cambon presented a communication signed by the Duke of Almodóvar, the Spanish Minister of State, inviting the United States to state the terms upon which it would be willing to make peace. After various delays, M. Cambon, Aug. 12, announced his receipt of full powers to sign a protocol, and on the afternoon of the same day he, as the plenipotentiary of Spain, with the Secretary of State as the plenipotentiary of the United States, agreed to the protocol.

Immediately upon the conclusion of the protocol the President issued a proclamation suspending hostilities on the part of the United States.

Pursuant to the 5th article of the protocol William R. Day, late Secretary of State, Cushman K. Davis, William P. Frye, and George Gray, Senators of the United States, and Whitelaw Reid, were appointed peace commissioners on the part of the United States. On the 1st of October they met in Paris five commissioners similarly appointed on the part of Spain. Their negotiations resulted in the treaty of peace which was signed at Paris on the 10th day of December, 1898, transmitted to the Senate Jan. 4, 1899, and ratified by that body Feb. 6, and by the Queen Regent of Spain, Mar, 17, 1899.

  1. This statement relative to the war with Spain is in the main condensed from the message of the President to the Congress, Dec. 5, 1898.