The Definition of the Spanish–American War

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The Spanish-American War was a conflict between Spain and the United States in 1898. It was primarily fought over the independence of Cuba, which was then a Spanish colony. The war lasted for about four months and resulted in a decisive victory for the United States. The American victory led to the end of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas and the acquisition of several territories by the United States, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The war also marked the emergence of the United States as a global power and had significant implications for American foreign policy.

In the 15th century, European adventurers embarked on voyages across the seas in search of alternative trade routes. They set sail from nations such as Portugal and England. Upon reaching distant lands, they encountered indigenous populations who were already inhabiting those areas. Frequently, these explorers subjugated these people and claimed their territories as colonies for the countries that funded their expeditions.

You may be aware that the United States used to be under British control. Americans fought against the British in the Revolutionary War, ultimately achieving independence in 1783.

Were you aware that Spain also had numerous colonies, including Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines? In 1895, the people of Cuba were engaged in a struggle against Spanish rule. The Cubans desired self-governance. One of their leaders was Jose Marti, a Cuban writer. The Spanish attempted to suppress the Cuban rebels, resulting in numerous casualties, including Marti. Riots erupted in Havana, the capital of Cuba. Many Americans wished to assist the Cubans.

The United States dispatched a warship to safeguard American citizens in Cuba. On February 15, 1898, an unexplained explosion destroyed that ship—the U.S.S. Maine. More than 260 American sailors perished. The Spanish were held responsible. People believed that America should join the war and fight alongside the Cubans against Spain. They employed the slogan, “Remember the Maine!” to rally support for the war.

President McKinley requested that Spain withdraw and grant Cuba independence. However, Spain declared war on the United States on April 24, 1898. The United States Congress declared war on Spain on April 25. Battles were fought in both Cuba and the Philippines, another Spanish colony.

One of the most renowned battles occurred at San Juan Hill near Santiago, Cuba. Theodore Roosevelt, who would later become president, led a group of volunteer fighters known as the Rough Riders. At the time, the United States military was racially segregated, with separate units for Black and white soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers were all-Black army units that played a crucial role in the victory at San Juan Hill.

On July 1, 1898, the Spaniards surrendered to the Americans. The conflict lasted just ten weeks, making it the shortest war in U.S. history. Nevertheless, its significance should not be underestimated. Cuba became an independent nation, and the United States gained greater power. In a peace treaty, Spain ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to America, which remain U.S. territories to this day.

Can you recall any other significant battles from history? Why were they important? How have they impacted your life today?

Give It a Try

Are you ready to delve deeper into the Spanish–American War?

  • Jose Marti had a deep love for Cuba, which he expressed through his poetry, highlighting the beauty of the mountains and oceans. Is there a place that you adore? Compose a poem to convey your feelings about it.

  • During the Spanish–American War, historical events were documented using motion picture cameras—a groundbreaking invention at the time. Explore the Library of Congress’ collection of motion pictures from the war. What insights can you gather from these films? How was life different during this period? Share one of the videos with a family member or friend and discuss what you learned or noticed.

  • Buffalo Soldiers’ units frequently provided protection for towns in the American West. Their name is believed to have originated from American Indians living in those regions. Gain further knowledge about the Buffalo Soldiers by referring to History. You have the option to either read about them or watch a documentary. Utilize Canva or any other available resource to create a presentation that educates others about the Buffalo Soldiers.

  • Valuable Sources

    • (accessed on April 20, 2023)
    • (accessed on October 5, 2022)
    • (accessed on October 5, 2022)
    • (accessed on October 19, 2022)
    • (Accessed on October 19, 2022)


    1. What was the Spanish-American War?

    The Spanish-American War was a conflict that took place in 1898 between the United States and Spain. It was triggered by the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, which led to a public outcry for war against Spain. The war lasted only a few months and resulted in the United States emerging as a world power.

    2. What were the main causes of the Spanish-American War?

    The main causes of the Spanish-American War were the sinking of the USS Maine, which was believed to be the result of Spanish sabotage, and American support for Cuban independence. The United States had economic interests in Cuba and wanted to protect its investments. Additionally, the yellow journalism of the time played a significant role in fueling public sentiment and pushing the United States towards war.

    3. How did the Spanish-American War impact the United States?

    The Spanish-American War had a significant impact on the United States. It marked the country’s emergence as a global power and established it as a major player in international affairs. The United States gained control over former Spanish colonies, including the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The war also led to the construction of the Panama Canal, which greatly facilitated trade and transportation between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

    4. What were the outcomes of the Spanish-American War?

    The outcomes of the Spanish-American War were the end of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas, with Spain losing control over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The United States gained new territories and established itself as a dominant power in the Western Hemisphere. The war also had lasting effects on the relationship between the United States and Latin America, with the United States becoming more involved in the region’s politics and affairs.

    5. How did the Spanish-American War impact the relationship between the United States and Spain?

    The Spanish-American War strained the relationship between the United States and Spain. The defeat of Spain and the loss of its colonies marked a significant blow to Spain’s status as a global power. The war also led to a period of American occupation in Cuba and the establishment of a military government. However, over time, the relationship between the two countries improved, and they eventually became allies during World War II.

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