The 1898 Spanish America war was a conflict between Spain and US. In the text, For the common defense: A military history of the United States from 1607 to 2012, Millet and Malowski (2012) note that the war was caused by Cuban rebels who demanded freedom from Spain in 1989. The rebels were commanded by Maximo Gomez, whose leadership was based on guerrilla warfare and the devastation of the island economy to remove the Spanish colonial masters. The demand for US intervention escalated after the sinking of US Maine in Havana harbor, which had been designated to protect Americans following anti-Spain rioting. Spain announced a truce and established measures to grant Cuba limited powers of self-governance. She suspended reconcentration policy and granted amnesty to political prisoners. However, the rebels rejected the scheme and the war the continued threatened American investments and resulted in humanitarian concerns. Initially, President McKinley favored interventions based on domestic economic affairs and concentrated on tariff reforms and sound currency. The US Congress insisted Cuba's right to independence and demanded that Spain withdrawal armed forces and authorized the use of force to ensure withdrawal.
The war was triggered when Maine was sunk after a massive explosion, leading to the death of 250 on board. $ 50 million was committed to defense, and public uproar in favor of the war meant the war was inevitable. The US Threated military action and demanded that Spain grant Cuba independence. As a consequence, Spain retaliated by declaring war on the US. The war that followed favored US, since Spain lacked a mighty army and a well-prepared navy for a distant battle to fight the formidable power of US. McKinley controlled war strategy through the White House and devised a limited war plan that used force to compel Spain to grant Cuba independence. The US plan for war operations and battles involved a peripheral strategy, direct attacks of many small victories far from the enemy homeland. The president further acted as the link between the army and navy and took a critical role in army operations. Under the command George Dewey, US Navy destroyed the Spanish fleet and later occupied Manila. A regularly US troop with notable figures like Theodore Roosevelt in a Volunteer Calvary advanced in Santiago to smoke out Cervera's fleet of the harbor. US Naval supremacy was proven by its successful expeditions that took advantage of insurgent facing Cuba and yellow fever.
US war strategy was based on the principal that the war would be a navy conflict. The navy was, therefore, positioned to destroy enemy squadrons, merchant shipping and block Spanish cities and colonies. The rest of the army was to man the coastal fortifications against attack. The US war plans can be reflected by the allocation of $50 million of military appropriation by the Congress. This plan was based on a text called War with Spain written by Lieutenant William Kimball. The plan focused on Spanish force in Cuba, and the navy would only shift attention to the Iberian Peninsula if assault against Spanish empire failed. Spain began by keeping its navy at Cadiz under the leadership of Admiral Pascual de Cervera at Cape Verde islands and another squadron commanded by Admiral Patricio Montojo. The war was effectively ended when Cervera ships came under heavy fire from US guns, leading to the surrender of Santiago on July 17. The conflict was further resolved by the Treaty of Paris (1898) where Spain renounced all claims to Cuba. The US received Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
What were the strength and weakness of the U.S. war effort?
While the US had all it took to win the war, it had some weaknesses that threatened its chances of victory. Russell Alger and John Long, secretary of War and Navy respectively, organized an army-navy board made of officers from both sides. However, this plan proved to be ineffective in the Spain -US war. The mobilization of the army was poorly done partly due to diffusion of responsibilities in the war department. The military also lacked money and well-defined procedures for the war and sent most of its share of the $50 billion on improving coastal fortifications. The army had a wrong belief that 100 000 men were enough to engage the enemy for the overseas mission, and the war department believed that a small force to attack Spanish resources was enough after navy took control of the Caribbean. The Spanish, on the other hand, was armed with four cruisers and three destroyers.
Initially, the Spanish government used a reconcentration policy initiated by Governor General Valeriano, which entailed herding rural population into towns as the army devastated the countryside to deprive rebels' food, access in weapons and information. This act culminated to humanitarian crisis and drew the US public into Cuban problems. Without a diplomatic option, Spain appealed to European powers for support but was urged to accept US terms to avoid the war. Germany proposed a united European stand against the US although it took no action. Roosevelt's Rough Riders regiment, composed of regulars and volunteers and buffalo soldiers operated on the Cuban coast to trap Cervera and engage him. Spain had a vast army of 300 000 regulars in Cuba and at home, 20 000 in Philippines and 8000 in Puerto Rico. It was also poorly prepared for the war. The colonial force had been drained by wars with rebels and Filipino revolutionaries, coupled with tropical diseases. Also, home forces could not be used unless Spain had control of the seas, and its nay was considerably small and lacked sufficient training compared to American navy.
After the victory of Dewey, Spain sent admiral Camara towards the Philippines. This created a dilemma of whether to save Dewey or maintain superiority in the war. Camara's force posed a threat to Asiatic Squadron due to its armored cruisers and battleship. However, the Spanish government believed that the recall of Admiral Manuel's squadron would be a strategic plan, it the recall resulted in Cervera' defeat. The result of the war was based mainly on navy supremacy. Spain was ill-prepared against the US battleships- Iowa, Oregon, Indiana, and Massachusetts, coupled with the more superior Asiatic Squadron. Roosevelt was experienced in navy maneuvers and was well prepared with ammunition and supply. Madrid surrendered when US navy forces sunk two Spanish squadrons in Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay. The war ended in the Spanish loss of colonial Americas and US acquisition of territories in western Pacific and Latin America. The US also emerged as an imperial force with a lasting legacy.
Millett, A. R., & Maslowski, P. (2012). For the Common Defense. Simon and Schuster.
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