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The Spanish American War began just like many other wars in the sense that opposing forces were competing for dominance or independence on different grounds. The Spanish American War began officially on the 25th of April 1898 and came to an end on the 10th of December 1898 (Graves, 2000). The main issue behind the war was that Cuban revolutionary groups that had been firmly established wanted independence from Spain. It is arguably true that Spain had dominated most of the west since it was the first European nation that set its eyes on the western part of the world. This is to say that Spain was the first European nation to sail westwards across the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, Spain had taken bigger part of the west, extending its territories from Virginia (the United States of America) to South America (Brazil, Alaska, and California) and to the southernmost tip of the South American mainland (Tierra del Fuego) (Library of Congress, 2011). This dominance of Spain made the Cuban revolutionary groups demand their independence. Since there was no agreement over this demand, the United States supported the rebels, thus, prompting a war between the United States and Spain.
Commence of the War
A war against Spain began on February 18th after a battle ship Maine exploded at Havana, one of Cuba’s main harbours. This prompted president McKinley to declare war against Spain after local newspapers blamed Spain over this event (Hendrickson, 2003). The American media led to a lot of public pressure, whereby many American citizens demanded action against Spain. Therefore, the American authorities had no option but to declare the war that had different consequences. In this regard, the sinking of the United States ship in Havana is truly one of the main catalysts of the war. Military aggressiveness is one of the most viable ways to provoke another country into war because it is the main way a country can illustrate its dominance over the other.
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The pressure piled upon the United States government was actively supported by journalists who were determined to use visual evidence on how the situation developed between the two countries after the sinking of the battle ship. This effect of journalism is commonly known as yellow journalism. According to Dolan (15), journalists usually choose to use circumstantial evidence to tell their stories with an aim of maximizing on their sales. In this regard, two journalists, Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst, were at the centre stage of yellow journalism that led to the American Spanish war. Dolan (21) posits that the two men were extraordinarily influential through their journalism career, making the work of the president of that time terribly difficult. Both Hearst and Pulitzer used their New York journal, and the New York world newspapers respectively to win the mind of many readers using non-researched publications, a fat tactic that was able to convince many Americans that the Spanish American war was necessary and called for. Unfortunately, this method could be fallacious because it is not research based. For instance, yellow journalism at that time relied on the Cuban patriots for information (23). This means that facts, as presented by the journalist, could not be accurate, hence, pushing the government into a war that was not necessary. However, the yellow journalism effect was successful since the war was started. On the other hand, the facts could be correct since the Spanish rule was dictatorial, especially in Cuba and in other colonies.
The effect of yellow journalism also provoked America into war. Before the war begun, President William McKinley was keen to use negotiation as a means to secure the much-needed independence. This portrayed him as a nonaggressive president who would make enough efforts to avoid war. Hendrickson (8) asserts that the most conspicuous step that the president took in this attempt was sending his personal representative Stewart Woodford to Spain in 1887. Although this was in an attempt to give dialogue a chance, it was thwarted by the so-called De Lome letter. Enrique Dupuy de Lome, the Spanish minister to the United States, had written the infamous letter. According to the minister, American politicians preferred an aggressive policy towards Spain. However, this assertion was contrary to McKinley’s preference. Therefore, the minister wrote the letter expressing his reservations that the president could fall for the politicians' views and disadvantage Spain. This letter leaked to William Radolph Hearst who published it in February 1898, leading to recalling of the Spanish minister to the United States (8). This letter provoked many Americans who were outraged by the minister’s comments, hence, pushing their government to take military actions against Spain. This culminated into a full-blown war.
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The Cuban junta played a singularly critical role in ensuring that the letter was published to the public. According to Trask (2011), Cuban junta first received the letter. They forwarded it to Radolph for straight away publication. In addition, the juntas were tremendously helpful to the military activities. This is because they provided leadership skills to the military groupings that were fighting the Spanish. Similarly, the junta provided funds in support of the preparations for war. Barnes (66) reveals that the Cuban junta was the political wing of the Cuban revolutionary party that established in 1895 in New York under Thomas Estrada Palmas, a Cuban dictator. This group was established to seek support from Americans against the Spanish.
The Spanish American War presented a number of fierce battles that led to the defeat of the Spanish. The Battle of Manila Bay was one of these battles. It occurred on May 1, 1898, when Spanish fleet that was near a place called Cavite was destroyed by American forces under the command of George Dewey. This battle is purported to be one sided since the United States emerged superbly victorious. The battle was particularly decisive since it frustrated Spanish naval efforts as its ships were destroyed. The battle left many Spanish soldiers dead and only two Americans dying indirectly (Dolan, 38). This battle destroyed most, if not all, Spanish naval power, thus, enabling America to protect its pacific coast. In addition, Spanish forces in Cuba could not be reinforced, hence, weakening them.
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In May 1898, American soldiers launched another battle at Santiago, blocking the harbour and preventing the Spanish from using it for supplies. George Dewey used this strategy to weaken the Spanish army even further. The Spanish army was based in Santiago under the leadership of Pascual Cervera, meaning that the capture of the harbour was detrimental to the Spanish. Invasion of the eastern shore in 1898 via Santiago was facilitated by a coordinated effort between General William Shafter and Theodore Roosevelt who was commanding his cavalry (rough riders) that was the first volunteer into the battle. The Spanish forces in Santiago surrendered as American forces took over Puerto Rico (Graves, 2000). San Juan was under the United States control when the Spanish attempted to take over. However, the battle saw the Spanish troops fail to capture it while the American continued controlling the blockade. Again, the Spanish lost heavily in the battle of San Juan, which took place on the 22nd of June, 1898.
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After the battle of Santiago at Santiago de Cuba, the Spanish army was weakened largely. When Cervera discovered this, he tried to escape westwards on July 3rd, 1898 (Trask, 2011). However, his ships were attacked by the United States, leaving them burning and in terrible conditions to continue with the war. This led to the ultimate surrender on July 17, thus, marking the end of the war.
The Peace Treaty
Following the defeat of the Spanish by the United States, the Spanish and American diplomats met in Paris, France, to negotiate a peace treaty. According to Graves (41), the treaty was signed on December 10, 1898. By then, the United States were controlling many overseas colonies, following the subsequent elimination of the Spanish. These colonies included the islands of Puerto Rico, Guam, and Philippines. In this event, the treaty, signed in France, allowed the United States to buy the Philippines from Spain for 40 million dollars. On the other hand, Cuba gained its independence from the Spanish. This is clear evidence that the pioneers of the war alongside the United States benefited in different ways. The urge by Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot top had the United States have a significant influence on other parts of the world, especially Asia.This was because the United States owned the mentioned islands fully. This position meant that the United States could build its economy from the additional natural resources it was controlling, just as it was with any other colonial authority.
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The Spanish American war is one of the most outstanding military events in the history of the United States. This is, perhaps, because Americans had indisputably emerged stronger than the Spaniards, who had a strong presence in the west. Therefore, the United States occupied an influential position in the world, implying that it could influence more issues that are global. The war events prooved the United States army was stronger and military wiser. This became evident after the Spaniards were defeated in virtually all key battles. This is probably the main reason why the peace treaty was signed in Paris, France, in December, 1898.
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