Spanish-American War

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Spanish-American War
Attack of the Rough Riders on San Juan Hill, painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington
Attack of the Rough Riders on San Juan Hill, painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington
date April 23 to August 12, 1898
place Caribbean Sea : Cuba , Puerto Rico ; Pacific Ocean : Guam , Philippines
output United States victory
Territorial changes Spain gave up all claims regarding Cuba's sovereignty and ceded Guam, Puerto Rico including the Spanish Virgin Islands and the Philippines to the United States for US $ 20 million.
Peace treaty Peace of Paris
Parties to the conflict

United States 45United States United States

Spain 1875Spain Spain


Nelson Appleton Miles
William Rufus Shafter
George Dewey
Máximo Gómez
Emilio Aguinaldo

Patricio Montojo
Pascual Cervera
Arsenio Linares
Ramón Blanco


400 American soldiers killed in action (plus around 5,000 killed by illness),
around 20,000 casualties by Cuban and Filipino allies

10,000 soldiers killed in action (plus approx.50,000 killed by illness since 1895)

The Spanish-American War was a military-economic conflict between the United States and the Kingdom of Spain from April 23 to August 12, 1898. It ended with the USA taking possession of Cuba , Puerto Rico , Guams and the Philippines , which meant the United States Loss of his last major overseas colonies . The US war goal was control of the overseas territories of Spain and access to Asian markets via the Philippines.

The Spanish-American War represents an important turning point in the history of Spain , the history of the United States , the history of Cuba and the history of the Philippines . For the United States it means a first, successful confrontation in the context of their new, extending beyond the North American mainland Interest politics and marks the transformation of the Monroe Doctrine from a defensive to an expansive strategy as an openly imperialist colonial power . The Harvard historian John T. Bethell describes the war in this context as a preemptive strike to forestall the colonial aspirations of Russia , Germany and other major European powers in the Far East . For Spain, the defeat meant the farewell to all restorative attempts of the 19th century to build on earlier colonial greatness. Spain finally sank to a third level in world politics and the defeat had far-reaching psychological consequences for the internal political and cultural structure of the country. For Cuba, the war means the end of the decades-long wars of independence against Spain and the birth as an independent nation. In the history of the Philippines it stands for the temporary failure of the aspirations for independence and the beginning of the conflict with the new colonial power USA.

Prehistory of the war

The Spanish colonial empire

Spain had become a major European power after the discovery of America . But as early as the 18th century the influence of the Spanish empire waned. After the entire Iberian Peninsula was subjugated by Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century , the emerging independence movements reached their goal in almost all of Latin America (see also Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín ). What remained were possessions in the Caribbean (especially Cuba), in the Pacific (especially Philippines) and on the west and north African coasts.

However, in these last colonies, too, efforts to achieve independence emerged, due to a high and unjust tax burden and the lack of opportunities for the population to participate in politics and administration. However, the Spain of the Restauración refused to take urgently needed reform steps. In addition, there were political and economic interests of the USA, which encouraged the local population to rebel against the colonial power .

US interests in Cuba

The annexation or the purchase of Cuba have repeatedly been considered by US presidents. After Jefferson and Madison , John Quincy Adams also assessed the annexation of Cuba as an indispensable task in 1823 . In the 1850s, Spain rejected the US proposal to sell Cuba ( Ostend Manifesto ). Before the civil war , politicians from the southern states in particular were interested in integrating another slave- holding state into the Union , Cuba . On the other hand, however, racist concerns contradicted the aim of integrating Cuba (where many people of African origin lived) into the USA on an equal footing. This view also influenced the US stance on Cuban independence, with the government under US President Cleveland voicing concerns that a Cuban victory could lead to a white and black republic without white supremacy. The Spanish government tried to use this view and warned the US Secretary of State in a letter regarding the independence movement: "In this revolution, the black (negro) element is the most important part". The US government viewed both Cuban independence and Spanish rule over Cuba as detrimental to the interests of US companies.

But after the USA had completed the consolidation and development of its continental territory in 1890 and the Indian Wars had come to an end, the US policy, which was aimed at opening up new markets, also with aggressive means, took hold of the remaining overseas property of the old world and colonial power Spain over.

The Cuban War of Independence 1868–1898

In Cuba, the landowner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes published the Grito de Yara , the first declaration of independence, in 1868 . A ten-year war began, which contributed significantly to the emergence of a Cuban national feeling, but had a devastating effect on the country's economy. In the Peace of Zanjón in 1878, the Cubans were given only minor concessions, which were felt to be inadequate. The independence movement was not appeased, but rather strengthened. In particular, the writer José Martí campaigned for the liberation of all of Latin America with his essay Nuestra América (“Our America”) .

Economic problems and the unwillingness of the Spanish colonial administration led to a renewed uprising in 1895 under the leadership of Martí, who had founded the Revolutionary Party of Cuba in 1892. He had managed to unite the two most important military leaders of the independence movement, Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo , in a resumption of the war of independence. José Martí fell in battle and became a national hero . The guerrilla war against Spain continued, however, and brought the colonial power to the limits of its economic capabilities.

Causes and Reason

Since neither Spain nor the independence fighters could bring about a military decision in Cuba, the powerful neighboring state in the north took advantage of the situation to intervene.

In addition, the Asian market has long seemed attractive to the USA. The Philippines were of great strategic value as Manila had become a hub of trade between East Asia and Latin America under the Spanish . The US had already shown clear interest in the Pacific islands of Hawaii ( Territory of Hawaii ) and Samoa . The interests in the Pacific were not sufficient to induce the US government to launch a war of aggression against Spain, but the conquest of Manila was already part of the war scenarios the US government had been playing out since 1896 .

The majority of the US population sympathized with the insurgents in Cuba. The rebellion against a representative of the old world has been compared in the press to the US struggle for independence. On the other hand, the Spanish-Cuban administration acted with all violence against insurgents, which was emphasized in the US press. The position on the question of whether the US should intervene militarily was more inconsistent. For example, the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor (AFL) unions supported the uprisings in Cuba. A resolution for a US intervention suffered a defeat within the AFL, however, as permanent US expansion (replacement of Spanish colonialism) was feared. Due to the euphoric media coverage, however, a clearly visible majority developed in favor of a declaration of war, against which only the socialists now turned a majority.

President Grover Cleveland declared in December 1896 that the US would not show unlimited patience with Spain, and President William McKinley finally stated in his Annual Message 1897 that the US could be forced to intervene in the face of the ongoing Spanish extermination campaign. In March 1898, several politicians and advisers, including Henry Cabot Lodge Sr. , informed President McKinley that many US businessmen were pressing for a quick solution to the Cuban question because of the economic losses. On March 27, 1898 McKinley issued an ultimatum to Spain demanding an armistice.

The USS Maine in Havana Harbor

Against Spanish protests, the United States sent the USS Maine under Captain Charles Dwight Sigsbee, a battleship, on a “friendship visit” to the port of Havana , where it arrived on January 25, 1898. At the same time, the US fleet was concentrated at Key West , and preparations were underway for a blockade of the island in order to cut off the Spanish troops from supplies and to prevent further reinforcements.

In order not to be branded as an aggressor, the Maine commander forbade the crew to go ashore. On February 15, 1898, however, a devastating explosion occurred on his ship, in which 268 American sailors and soldiers were killed. The US accused Spain of carrying out an attack; the American public, as expected, was outraged. Among other things, the publicists William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer fueled the mood against Spain. The rallying cry of the Hearst press was: Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain! ("Think of Maine! To hell with Spain!"), A reason for war was found. Hearst instructed his correspondent Remington to stay in Havana and bring pictures so that he, Hearst, could bring the war to life: “You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war. "

The wreck of the USS Maine has been the subject of much research. Among other things, an investigation in 1976 came to the conclusion that not a mine detonated under the ship, as the US government said at the time, but that the explosion took place inside the USS Maine. So could quite possibly an undiscovered smoldering in a coal bunker, which spread to a neighboring magazine, the disaster triggered (s. A. Coal fire ). A recent study, in the form of a simulation, by National Geographic Magazine (1999) does not rule out an externally caused mine explosion without sufficient evidence to support this thesis.

President McKinley, who had initially opposed war, asked Congress under public pressure on April 11, 1898 for permission to send troops to Cuba to take action against the Spanish. The mention of the question of independence and of rebels as participants in the war was cleverly avoided in the request. On April 19, the House of Representatives and the Senate jointly passed a joint resolution calling on Spain to withdraw from Cuba and authorizing President McKinley to use all military means necessary to secure Cuba's independence from Spain. The Teller Amendment, named after Senator Henry M. Teller ( Colorado ), added the condition that the US would not be allowed to annex Cuba once it gained independence. This amendment was well received by the Cuban rebels and, despite concerns previously expressed by some rebels that the US government might overturn Spain's kingdom as colonial ruler, the rebels welcomed the US troops. The decision to intervene by military means in the internal affairs of Spanish Cuba was sent to Spain on April 20. Thereupon Spain broke off all diplomatic relations with the USA and declared war against the USA on April 23.

Course of war

Contemporary depiction of the battle in Manila Bay
The Spanish cruiser Cristóbal Colón , which was sunk near Santiago de Cuba in July 1898

The war of expansion long prepared by the USA was not started in Cuba, but in the Philippine archipelago . The US Asia fleet defeated the outdated Spanish squadron under Patricio Montojo y Pasarón on May 1, 1898 in the battle in the Bay of Manila . The Spaniards were not prepared for a multi-front war. In order to attack the fortified garrison of the capital, the US commander George Dewey had to wait for reinforcements from the USA. The Spaniards were also kept in check by Filipino nationalists under Emilio Aguinaldo , who initially saw the USA as an ally and relied on its vague promises without seeing the US's economic interests.

In June, the war in the Caribbean began with the landing of US units in Cuba near Daiquiri and Siboney. There the US conquered Puerto Rico on July 25th. Ultimately, the militarily unprepared Spaniards could not do anything to oppose the vastly superior US troops. US ships blocked all Cuban ports and thus provoked a breakthrough attempt by the Spanish fleet. On a single day, July 3, 1898, the entire Spanish Atlantic fleet under Pascual Cervera was destroyed by the numerically and technically superior US Navy under William T. Sampson (→ Battle of Santiago de Cuba ). On the Cuban mainland, the United States won on June 24th at Las Guásimas and on July 1st at El Caney , Kettle Hill and on the San Juan Hill . However, the US Army had significant problems with the supply organization and logistical supply of the landing forces. For example, the legendary Rough Riders , who besieged San Juan Hill under the command of Theodore Roosevelt , had to fight unmounted because their horses were standing in the port of Tampa and could not be transferred to the island. Of the approximately 5,000 US soldiers who lost their lives in the Spanish-American War, 4,600 died of tropical diseases, particularly yellow fever .

After the defeat in the Caribbean theater of war, the situation of the Spaniards in the Philippines was hopeless. The garrison in Manila therefore agreed with the US commander George Dewey to surrender .

During the war, the German Empire tried to win over European powers to intervene on the Spanish side. In Germany, efforts by colonial politicians had been going on for some time to seek the formation of a German South Sea colony with a focus on the Philippines. “We have to have Manila!” Said the German Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898. There were German arms deliveries to Spain and in the Bay of Manila there were near-clashes between a German South Sea squadron that had demonstratively gathered off the coast of the Philippines the ships of the American Asian fleet ( Manila incident ) . However, the German department withdrew after threats from the US Navy.

The end of the war was achieved with the signing of the so-called pre-peace protocol with the mediation of the French ambassador Jules Cambon in Washington on August 12, 1898. Manila was occupied by the US Army on August 13th. The Filipino insurgents were not allowed to enter the city. In Santiago de Cuba, the Cuban independence fighters were not granted access either. The USA wanted to prevent independence fighters from negotiating with the Spaniards over their surrender conditions.

The peace treaty

The French ambassador to the USA, Jules Cambon , signed the declaration of ratification of the treaty on May 1, 1899 on behalf of Spain

After two months of negotiations, the Paris Peace of 1898 (also the Treaty of Paris ) between Spain and the USA was concluded and signed on December 10, 1898. The treaty was ratified by the US Senate on February 6, 1899, and by Spain on March 19, 1899.

Spain had to cede Puerto Rico (including the Spanish Virgin Islands), Guam and the Philippines to the USA and received from the USA 20 million US dollars (which, adjusted for inflation, would correspond to around 570 million US dollars in 2014). As laid down in the Teller Amendment , Cuba was formally independent from Spain, but initially remained under US occupation. The inclusion of the Platt Amendment in the Cuban constitution of 1901 sealed Cuba's de facto economic, political and military dependence on the USA.

Spain was also given ten years' permission to call at Philippine ports with ships and to trade on the same terms as the USA.


Cuba and Puerto Rico

Cuba was declared a republic in 1902. Until 1934, sovereignty was restricted by the Platt Amendment, which gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba at any time if American interests were impaired. When Cuban workers struck to reduce working hours in September 1899, the US Army was deployed to secure the buildings in order to prevent an effective strike. The share of US companies in the Cuban economy increased, for example the United Fruit Company bought 1.9 million acres (around 8,000 km²) of land for around 20 cents / acre .

Puerto Rico (including the Spanish Virgin Islands ) became a US overseas possession and colonized by US Americans. In 1900 the Foraker Act ended the military occupation, in 1917 the Puerto Ricans became citizens (Jones-Shafroth Act), in 1941 the island was granted associated status in the federal structure of the United States. On November 6, 2012, the majority of the Puerto Ricans voted in a referendum on the status of Puerto Rico, parallel to the US presidential election, in which they were not allowed to participate as they do not live in a US state , for the status as (51 .) State to apply for. This must be approved by the US Congress. Since both the Democratic and Republican parties of the United States announced their support in advance, this seems only a matter of time.

Political cartoon from 1898: The wings of the American eagle span "ten thousand miles" from the Philippines to Puerto Rico


The Philippines became an American overseas possession as a further consequence of the Spanish-American War. President William McKinley called the conquest of the archipelago a "gift from God" and Senator Albert J. Beveridge saw it as a "stepping stone to China," whose gigantic markets are now open to Americans. In the Philippine-American War from 1899 to 1902 , the old independence movement tried unsuccessfully to achieve independence from the USA without outside support. The Philippines were under direct American administration until the Japanese occupation in 1941 and did not gain formal independence until the end of World War II in 1946.


In defeated Spain, the "disaster of 1898" and with it the decline in national and economic size triggered an intellectual movement that gave rise to the so-called " Generation of 1898 ", which advocated a new political rethinking of the country. In addition, there was an increased cultural and political reorientation in the Basque Country and Catalonia . From then on, autonomy or national independence from the Spanish central state was increasingly sought. In the traditionally ruling classes, the loss of international importance was seen as a national disgrace.

United States

For the USA, the Spanish-American War formed the starting point for a coordinated military administration in the USA, which culminated in the Joint Chiefs of Staff . The model for this was the Prussian-German army with its general staff .

With its victory, the USA entered the circle of imperialist powers despite domestic isolationist movements ( Monroe doctrine ) . Several islands and archipelagos, which became outer areas or colonies of the USA during the war, are still so today. This applies to Puerto Rico and Guam, which were ceded by Spain by the peace treaty, as well as to Hawaii, which had previously been an independent republic (before that, a kingdom) since 1894.

German Empire

With the German-Spanish Treaty on the South Sea Regions of February 12, 1899, the German Empire was able to acquire the Caroline Islands , the Palau Islands and the Mariana Islands from Spain. The German Reich had previously shown interest in the Philippines (for example, the German envoy in Manila, Friedrich Krüger, proposed the establishment of a Philippine monarchy under a German prince) and in the summer of 1898 a strong squadron under the command of Otto von Diederichs ' sent to Manila. This squadron was there ready to fight against the US squadron under George Dewey (→ Manila incident ). There are reports that warning shots were even fired by the US.

The Manila incident in particular led to alienation between the German Reich and the USA (see Samoa crisis ). As a result, the US Navy drew up the " War Plan Black ", which dealt with the possibility of a German-American war.


Monument dedicated to the heroes of Cavite in Cartagena for the approximately 5,000 Spanish seamen and marines who died in the battle of Manila Bay and in the defense of Cuba and the Philippines against the USA

On the San Juan Hill on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, the historic site of the decisive battle, there has been a memorial park with several monuments since the late 1920s. The so-called peace tree marks the place of the signing of the armistice between Spanish and American troops on July 16, 1898.

Outside Santiago de Cuba, a museum dedicated to the war was inaugurated in 1998. It is on the highway that runs from the US troops' landing point, Siboney Beach, to San Juan Hill. Furthermore, an underwater archaeological reserve extends from the Bay of Santiago along the coast to the west , in which guided dives are carried out to the ships that sank there during the sea battle.

Movie and TV


  • Sebastian Balfour: The End of the Spanish Empire, 1898-1923. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1997, ISBN 0-19-820507-4 .
  • Benjamin R. Beede: The War of 1898 and US interventions 1898-1934. To encyclopedia . (Garland), New York a. a. 1994, ISBN 0-8240-5624-8 .
  • W. Joseph Campbell: The Spanish-American War. American wars and the media in primary documents , Westport, Conn et al. a. (Greenwood Press) 2005. ISBN 0-313-33054-9 .
  • Sean Dennis Cashman: America in the Gilded Age: From the Death of Lincoln to the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. 3. Edition. New York University Press, New York / London 1993, ISBN 0-8147-1495-1 .
  • Richard D. Challener: Admirals, Generals, and American Foreign Policy 1898 1914. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1973, ISBN 0-691-06916-6 .
  • Marek Czaja: The USA and its rise to a world power at the turn of the century: The American perception of the parties in the German Empire. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-428-11814-6 (extensive study of the perception of the USA in the German Empire with special consideration of the Spanish-American War).
  • Robert Dallek : 1898. McKinley's Decision. The United States Declares War on Spain. Chelsea House, New York 1969.
  • Ragnhild Fiebig-von Hase: Latin America as a source of conflict in German-American relations 1890–1903: From the beginning of Pan American policy to the Venezuelan crisis of 1902/03. 2 volumes. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1986, ISBN 3-525-35924-1 (extensive treatise on German-American relations and their susceptibility to crises, which also describes German interests during the Spanish-American War).
  • Ragnhild Fiebig-von Hase, Jürgen Heideking (Hrsg.): Two ways into the modern age: Aspects of the German-American relations 1900-1918. WTV, Trier 1998, ISBN 3-88476-246-X (smaller collection on the German-American relationship).
  • Philip Sheldon Foner: The Spanish-Cuban-American War and the Birth of American Imperialism 1895–1902 . 2 volumes. New York / London 1972 (detailed study with many sources, especially from American archives, but partly outdated)
  • Frank Freidel: The Splendid Little War. Galley Press, London 1958 (out of date, but very good photo material)
  • José Girón Garrote (ed.): España y Estados Unidos en 1898. La guerra a través de la prensa europea . Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo 2019.
  • Ib S. Hansen, Dana M. Wegner: Centenary of the Destruction of USS Maine. A Technical Historical Review. In: Naval Engineers Journal , Vol. CX, March 1998, pp. 93-104.
  • Holger H. Herwig: Politics of frustration. The United States in German Naval Planning, 1898–1941. Little, Brown and Company, Boston / Toronto 1976. (gives an overview of the beginning of the maritime conflict between the USA and the German Reich)
  • Sylvia L. Hilton, Steve JS Ickringill (eds.): European Perceptions of the Spanish-American War of 1898. Peter Lang, Bern u. a. 1999 (anthology on the European view of the war)
  • Lester D. Langley: The Banana wars. United States intervention in the Caribbean, 1898-1934. Dorsey Press, Chicago IL 1988, ISBN 0-256-07020-2 .
  • Edward J. Marolda (Ed.): Theodore Roosevelt, the US Navy, and the Spanish-American War. New York / Houndmills 2001.
  • Richard H. Miller (Ed.): American Imperialism in 1898. The Quest for National Fulfillment. John Wiley and Sons, New York / London / Sydney / Toronto 1970.
  • Max Plüddemann: The war in Cuba in the summer of 1898 . Berlin 1899. (contemporary presentation of the events from a German perspective)
  • Thomas D. Schoonover: Uncle Sam's War of 1898 and the origins of globalization. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington 2003. (universal historical approach, consideration of international economic interests and strategies)
  • Angel Smith, Emma Dávila-Cox (Eds.): The Crisis of 1898. Colonial Redistribution and Nationalist Mobilization. St. Martin's Press, New York 1999 (anthology with perspectives from all participating nations)
  • Joseph Smith: The Spanish-American War. Conflict in the Caribbean and the Pacific, 1895-1902. Longman, London / New York 1994 (compact synthesis with a focus on political and military history)
  • Anne Cipriano Venzon: The Spanish-American War: an annotated bibliography. Garland Publishing, New York / London 1990 (extensive bibliography annotated, unfortunately relatively old)
  • GA Zimmermann: Our war with Spain. Represented from the best sources. Brumder, Milwaukee WI 1900 (from an American perspective in German)

Web links

Commons : Spanish-American War  - Pictures, Videos and Audio Files Collection



Individual evidence

  1. Francisco J. Romero Salvadó: Arriba España Twentieth-Century Spain Politics and Society in Spain, 1898-1998. MacMillan Distribution, 1999, ISBN 0-333-71694-9 , p. 19.
  2. Pedro Pascual Martínez: Combatientes, muertos y prófugos del ejército español en la guerra de la independencia de Cuba (1895–1898). (PDF; 437 kB) 1996.
  3. America's acquisition of the Philippines was a preemptive move against Russia, Germany, and other European powers with colonial aims in the Far East ( Harvard magazine ).
  4. ^ Ana Belén León Prieto, Raúl Sánchez: [A hundred years ago - The Spanish catastrophe]. In: Quetzal. Summer 1998.
  5. ^ Johannes Beck: Cuba's War of Independence 1895–1898 . (PDF; 70 kB) Lecture notes with timetable, University of Cologne , p. 99.
  6. ^ Howard Zinn : A People's History of the United States . Harper Perennial, New York 2005, ISBN 0-06-083865-5 , p. 303.
  7. ^ Howard Zinn: A People's History of the United States. Harper Perennial, New York 2005, pp. 303, 306 and 308.
  8. ^ A b Howard Zinn: A People's History of the United States. Harper Perennial, New York 2005, pp. 305 f.
  9. Louis Fisher: Destruction of the Maine (1898). (PDF) Law Library of Congress, 2009. (PDF file; 53 kB)
  10. Protocol of Peace Embodying the terms of a basis for the establishment of Peace Between the Two Countries; 1898-08-12. Retrieved October 11, 2010 .
  11. ^ Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain; December 10, 1898; Documents Yale Law School. Retrieved October 11, 2010 .
  12. The article about the annexation of Hawaii was removed from the pages of the US State Department "for the purpose of revision": Annexation of Hawaii, 1898 ( Memento of February 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  13. Parque Histórico de San Juan y Árbol de Paz In the official Cuban online encyclopedia EcuRed (Spanish).
  14. Museo de la Guerra Hispano Cubano Norteamericana In the official Cuban online encyclopedia EcuRed (Spanish)
  15. Cautiva Museo sobre Guerra Hispano-Cuban-Americana Norte ( Memento of 10 November 2013, Internet Archive ) In: Televisión Camagüey. July 17, 2013 (Spanish).
  16. Safeguarding of underwater cultural heritage promoted in Santiago de Cuba press release of the UNESCO of July 9, 2013, accessed on November 10, 2013 (English).
  17. Un historiador nacido en las profundidades del mar In: Excelencias. No. 118/2013, accessed November 10, 2013 (Spanish).