American Perspective toward the War

Washington would sympathize with Cuban revolt leaders including Jose Marti, Maximo Gomez, and Antonio Maceo as they devoted their lives to the cause of independence, similar to struggles during the American Revolution. President Mckinley, hoped to expand U.S. territory and viewed the Cuban struggle as a result of Spanish oppression/misrule. Unfortunately, the US War Department had to deal with major issues to adequately prepare the army for war. In April 1898, the US army numbered only 28,000 officers and men scattered in small contingents all over the country. In addition, approximately, 114,000 officers and men were in the various state militias. These forces were poorly trained and badly equipped. On April 11th, 1898 President Mckinley asked Congress for war, eight days later Congress declared Cuba independent and on April 25th, the U.S. would officially declare war against Spain. Two events propelled this decision including the desire to annex new lands. These events were the public discovery of the de Lome Letter and the sinking of the USS Maine. The lesser known of the two, the de Lome Letter, was a document sent by Dupuy de Lome, the Spanish minister in the United States. In his letter De Lome did not trust President Mckinley and feared that he would give in to the pressures of more aggressive tactics in Cuba and Puerto Rico. The letter was intercepted and made its way to journalist, William R. Hearst, who utilized yellow journalism to entice an outraged American public into accepting a war with Spain.

The U.S. War Department had no strategic plan at first for, but soon developed¬† one. General William R. Shafter, was told to prepare for a brief expedition to Cuba with the main purpose being to resupply General Maximo Gomez, leader of the Cuban rebels. This plan was dropped immediately once it became clear that Admiral Pascual Cervera was on his way to the West Indies in command of a Spanish naval squadron. The War Department would continue to change plans until one became applicable. President McKinley wanted to inflict heavy losses on the Spanish forces that their government would sue for peace. Finally Mckinley and his military advisors agreed to attack Santiago. The army would embark from Tampa with General William R. Shafter commanding. Unfortunately, Admiral Cervera’s squadron had arrived in Santiago. Because the U.S. had no troopships when the war began, the vessels used were leased from private owners, most being cramped and run-down. After much confusion and incompetence, the U.S. would gain the upper hand over Cervera’s squadron with the help of Admiral William T. Sampson’s American naval squadron. Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders would showoff American determination as they would dismount from their horses to charge up enemy strong holds up on hills, such was the case for San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill. Roosevelt forces would experience heavy casualties, but eventually forced the Spanish forces to withdraw to a deeper defensive position. This would result in a standoff that would last for weeks resulting in a Spanish surrender. Though the war turned out to be an American victory, it would the valor of the men who fought combined with sheer luck, not leadership, that produced results. The U.S. would continue its war efforts with campaigns in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. The U.S. would achieve victory on August 1898 with the a signed peace protocol (truce) with Spain. An official end would come in December with the Treaty of Paris.

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