Spanish American War

This war was immensely popular with the American people. For the first time since the Civil War, men from the north and the south closed ranks and marched to war, as the bands played the marches of John Philip Sousa. The conflict lasted less than 100 days, only 289 Americans lost their lives in battle, and the United States scored a triumphant victory over Spain. This “splendid little war,” as Secretary of State John Hay called it, changed the course of American history.

After 400 years, Spain was no longer a power in North or South America; the only power of importance in the Western Hemisphere was now, without doubt, the United States.

The U.S. Navy’s Asiatic squadron, under the command of Commodore George Dewey, defeated the ramshackle Spanish fleet in the battle of Manila Bay — in less than a morning, without losing a single man. The navy gained great popular support and every schoolboy knew the names and specifications of the major ships of the line. After a two-decade effort to build a modern “steel navy,” the United States was a great naval power.

The United States became an imperialist power with the taking of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and the later annexation of Hawaii. As a new player in Asia, America would now confront the ambitions of the Japanese Empire, a confrontation that would not be played out until World War II.

By annexing the Philippines, the United States took up the so-called “White Man’s Burden,” as urged by poet Rudyard Kipling. It would be our purpose, said McKinley, “to take them all and to

educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them.” They were “our little brown brothers,” Governor General William Howard Taft later said, displaying something of the racial attitudes of the time. This sense of the superiority of the white race and thus the inferiority of the colored races helps explain the rise of Jim Crow segregation laws within the United States during this period.

Having led his cavalry troop of cowboys, the “Rough Riders,” up San Juan Hill in a skirmish with the Spanish in Cuba, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt became a national hero and, as fate would have it, McKinley’s successor as president of the United States.

Source: The Spanish American

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