Spanish American War

The Spanish American war was a brief armed conflict between Spain and the United States in 1898. The war pitted the new battleships of the American navy against the decrepit and outclassed vessels of Spain. In the result, the United States crushed Spain and acquired most of Spain’s remaining colonial empire including the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

The American Battleship U. S. S. MAINE.

The American Battleship U. S. S. MAINE.

The war between Spain and the United States began as a result of the explosion of the American battleship the Maine, while it was docked at Havana harbour, in Cuba, which was then still a Spanish colony. Many Americans blamed the explosion on sabotage by the Spaniards, though this was never conclusively proven.

This is a newsreel documenting the funeral procession of the victims of the U.S.S. Maine.

As tensions escalated between the two nations, US newspapers whipped up anti-Spanish hysteria and urged American intervention on the side of Cuban and Fillipino rebels who were then fighting against the Spanish empire.

Some historians have charged that the newspaper barons promoted the war as a way to increase circulation for their newspapers. Many government leaders saw the war as an opportunity to rid the western hemisphere of a colonial power and also acquire possessions for the United States.

Artist's rendering of American troops storming El Canay

Artist's rendering of American troops storming El Canay

The war was fought primarily in Cuba and the Philippines, with some particularly hard fighting taking place in Cuba where the Spanish put up effective resistance. In the United States, popular support for the war was high. President McKinley called for a declaration of war which Congress soon granted.

The President of the United States During The Spanish American War

The President of the United States During The Spanish American War

“In view of the measures so taken, and other measures as may be necessary to enable me to carry out the express will of the Congress of the United States in the premises, I now recommend to your honourable body the adoption of a joint resolution declaring that a state of war exists between the United States of America and the kingdom of Spain, and I urge speedy action thereon to the end that the definition of the international status of the United States as a belligerent power may be made known, and the assertion of all its rights and the maintenance of all its duties in the conduct of a public war may be assured.

(Signed) “William McKinley.
Executive Mansion, Washington, April 25, 1898.
The Queen Regent, who was the head of the Spanish Kingdom while her son was a minor.
The Queen Regent, who was the head of the Spanish Kingdom while her son was a minor.

Popular sentiment was also high in Spain, which regarded the United States as the aggressor. The Spanish king was still an infant, and his government was entrusted to his mother and ministers. In Havana, the Spanish Captain-General Blanco called for volunteers and addressed a cheering crowd:

“Do you swear to give the last drop of blood in your veins before letting a foreigner step his foot on the land we discovered, and place his yoke upon the people we civilised?”

“Yes, yes, we do!”

“The enemy’s fleet is almost at Morro Castle, almost at the doors of Havana,” General Blanco added. “They have money; but we have blood to shed, and we are ready to shed it. We will throw them into the sea!”

The people interrupted him with cries of applause, and he finished his speech by shouting Viva Espana! Viva el Rey! “Long live the army, the navy, and the volunteers!”

One of the Spanish Commanders in Cuba

One of the Spanish Commanders in Cuba

Admiral Dewey

One of the first blows of the war was struck by the Americans against the Spanish colony of the Philippines. The islands had been a Spanish possession since the great days of exploration and empire when the Spanish galleons had ruled the oceans. Now the islands were poorly defended and threatened by a native uprising.

The American fleet crushed the Spanish fleet defending the islands in the battle of Manila Bay. Here are photographs of some of the American ships that took part in the Battle of Manila Bay.

U. S. S. OLYMPIA

U. S. S. OLYMPIA

U. S. S. BALTIMORE.

U. S. S. BALTIMORE.

THE BATTLE OF MANILA BAY.

THE BATTLE OF MANILA BAY.

U. S. S. BOSTON.

U. S. S. BOSTON.

Naval actions also took place off Cuba and Puerto Rico. These are some of the ships of the American squadron.

U. S. S. AMPHITRITE.

U. S. S. AMPHITRITE.

Bombardment of San Juan, Porto Rico by the American fleet

Bombardment of San Juan, Porto Rico by the American fleet

U. S. S. MONTEREY

U. S. S. MONTEREY

U. S. S. MASSACHUSETTS.

U. S. S. MASSACHUSETTS.

U. S. S. NEW YORK.

U. S. S. NEW YORK.

U. S. S. MARBLEHEAD

U. S. S. MARBLEHEAD

U. S. S. VESUVIUS.

U. S. S. VESUVIUS.

U. S. S. TEXAS.

U. S. S. TEXAS.

After the Spanish naval resistance had been broken, the Americans were free to land troops throughout the island of Cuba. One contingent, the Rough Riders, was led by Theodore Roosevelt, a former American President:

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

The Attack on San Juan Hill During the Spanish-American War

The Attack on San Juan Hill During the Spanish-American War

The end of Spanish resistance came when their last effective naval force was completely annihilated.

THE DESTRUCTION OF CERVERA’S FLEET

THE DESTRUCTION OF CERVERA’S FLEET

U. S. S. INDIANA

U. S. S. INDIANA

U. S. S. OREGON.

U. S. S. OREGON.

U. S. S. BROOKLYN

U. S. S. BROOKLYN

Cuba

These photos capture a Cuba that does not exist anymore; a Cuba caught between its Spanish colonial heritage and the beginning of the 20th century. The photographs were taken by Charles Berchon, a Frenchman who wrote a book called “Six Months in Cuba” published in 1908.

In his preface Berchon wrote,

I am delighted with the land that I  have come to know, Cuba, the largest and most beautiful island of the Antilles, with its beneficent sunshine and glorious blue skies


The interior of a Cuban home belonging to well-to-do people.

The interior of a Cuban home belonging to well-to-do people.

In this picture we are given a glimpse into the sitting room of  a Havana home which clearly belongs to some well-to-do Cubans, likely belonging to the cultural and political elite that proudly traced its pedigree to Spain.

One of the things that I find interesting about this picture is the way the house is decorated. Notice that the paintings or wall hangings are angled about 45 degrees away from the wall. Also interesting are the foot rests.

In contrast to the genteel comfort of this house, are the following pictures which depict what life was like for persons of the lower classes.

A street hawker selling pots and pans on a Havana street

A street hawker selling pots and pans on a Havana street

This picture depicts a traveling street salesman. His entire stock of goods consisting of various pots and pans is balanced ingeniously on a hand-pushed cart.

In this picture we see a large number of foundling and orphan children at a Havana hospital. Most institutions like these were funded by private donations rather than public funds.

Children are laid out like cord wood in a Havana hospital. Did they use any sort of ID bracelets to keep them straight?

Children are laid out like cord wood in a Havana hospital. Did they use any sort of ID bracelets to keep them straight?

A private Havana club.  Its members enjoy a good cigar.

Enjoying a cigar at an exclusive Havana social club.

Enjoying a cigar at an exclusive Havana social club.

As now, the production of tobacco and cigars was a mainstay of the Cuban economy. In the picture below workers are seen preparing bales of tobacco by moistening it.

Preparing the Tobacco Leaves for Market, Havana, Cuba 1908

Preparing the Tobacco Leaves for Market, Havana, Cuba 1908

A picture of a tobacco merchant:

Tobacco Salesman, Cuba 1908

Tobacco Salesman, Cuba 1908

Workers at a Cigar Factory

Workers at a Cigar Factory

In this photograph you can see some of the workers who rolled the cigars. Then as now, it was a labor intensive process that required each cigar to be rolled by hand. What I find interesting about this picture is how the manager or foreman is seated on a raised seat from which vantage point he can survey the entire shop floor. One can imagine the kind of dictatorial management style that must have been employed.

A Cuban Farm Family

A Cuban Farm Family

In this picture a Cuban farm family is depicted. Not the baby on the right of the picture: he appears to be suckling milk directly from the family goat’s teat.

A High Society Cuban Lady

A High Society Cuban Lady

A Young Cuban Beauty

A Young Cuban Beauty

And so now we have reached the end of our six month’s stay in Cuba and we must say goodbye forever to the Cuba of 1908.

1 40 41 42 43