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The Spanish-American War
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Part 1: Prelude
By the end of the 19th Century, the long era of European colonialism in the Americas was coming to a close. Spain had been declining in power since the mid-seventeenth Century, while the United States has been growing in power since the close of the American Civil War. Although President Monroe had issued his Monroe Doctrine in 1823, it had little weight for its first 75 years while the United States was still a fledgling military power. That would change in 1898, when the United States arrived on the
"Spanish Misrule," Puck, 1890s
"Spanish Misrule," Puck, 1890s, by Louis Dalrymple
international scene with a sound defeat of Spain; a war that ushered in the American century and projected American power deep into the Pacific with the country's first foray into imperialism. The conflict erupted over Cuba's attempt to gain independence from Spain via rebellion. Located less than one hundred miles from Florida, the Spanish-ruled island had been heading toward independence for over thirty years. By 1896, when Marshal Campos had failed to pacify the Cuban rebellion, the Conservative government of Antonio Cánovas del Castillo sent general Valeriano Weyler to crush the rebels. Weyler's experience in controlling rebels in the Philippines made him the logical choice. Weyler was made a governor of Cuba with full powers to suppress the insurgency and to restore political stability to facilitate greater sugar production.
Weyler was frustrated by the insurgent hit-and-run tactics and their ability to live off the land while blending in with the noncombatant population. His solution was to physically separate the rebels from the civilians by putting the latter in safe havens, protected by loyal Spanish troops. Weyler began moving Cuban civilians to centralized prison locations. Ultimately he would move about 300,000 civilians. Although the intention was to keep them alive, the conditions at these "reconcentration" camps were abysmal and many starved. Several hundred thousand died in these concentration camps, earning the Spanish general the nickname "Butcher Weyler". Additionally, the Spanish put the entire island under martial law and lynched Cubans suspected of guerilla activities.
Cuban civilians in the reconcentrados
Cuban civilians in the reconcentrados
Starving Cuban Civilian
Starving Cuban Civilian
Photograph labeled, "Spain's Work"
Photograph labeled, "Spain's Work"
Pro-Cuban Pop Culture: 1896-1898
Anti-Spain in Cuba Cover, postmarked July 29, 1896
Anti-Spain in Cuba Cover, postmarked July 29, 1896
Sheet Music: "Get Off of Cuba's Toes" (1896)
Sheet Music: "Get Off of Cuba's Toes" (1896)
Sheet Music: "Cuba Libre" (1897)
Sheet Music: "Cuba Libre" (1897)
Sheet Music: "Cuban Independence" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Cuban Independence" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Cuban Star" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Cuban Star" (1898)
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Yellow Journalism
William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst
Joseph Pulitzer
William Randolph Hearst
The Yellow Kid
For several years, the Cuban situation was had been growing as a topic of interest among Americans. It became the backdrop for a New York City circulation war between two of America's prominent newspaper publishers, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. These journalists vied for readership, money, and power with a sensationalized reporting style that became known as "yellow journalism," a reference to the first newspaper cartoon character to be printed with color, called The Yellow Kid. By 1897 both Hearst's New York Journal and Pulitzer's The World had competing versions of the comic strip. They were soon referred to as, "the Yellow Kid papers," and their work became known
as yellow journalism. Much credit has been given to yellow journalism for its role in influencing public opinion and government policy, which culminated in a declaration of war against Spain in 1898. How large a role these papers played is debatable. For some time Hearst and Pulitzer had turned up the anti-Spanish rhetoric, often ignoring some of the anti-American actions of Cuban nationals. In January 1896, for example, a riot had broken out in Havana by Cuban Spanish loyalists who were also anti-American. They destroyed the printing presses of four local newspapers that had been critical of Spanish Army atrocities. Most famous of the Anti-Spanish yellow journalism was the "Olivette Incident." On February 12,1897, the Journal reported that as the American steamship Olivette was about to leave Havana Harbor for the United States, it was boarded by Spanish police officers who searched three young Cuban women, one of whom was suspected of carrying messages from the rebels. The Journal ran the story with the headline, “Does Our Flag Protect Women?”
Remington strip-search sketch
Remington strip-search sketch

It was accompanied by a dramatic sketch by Frederic Remington across one half a page showing Spanish plainclothes men searching a nude woman. The Journal went on to editorialize, “War is a dreadful thing, but there are things more dreadful than even war, and one of them is dishonor.” This report shocked the country and prompted Congressman Amos Cummings to announce intentions to launch a congressional inquiry into the incident. Soon, however, the story unraveled. The World quickly produced one of the young women who contested the Journal’s version of the incident. Eventually the Journal was forced to correct the story. The search had been appropriately conducted by a police matron with no men present. Among the most popular stories often cited as evidence of the meddling influence of Hearst and Pulitzer is the story of Remington's attempt to return from Cuba because there seemed to be not much going on. As the story goes, when Remington telegraphed to his boss to report that conditions in Cuba were not bad enough to warrant hostilities, Hearst allegedly cabled back , "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." In reality, yellow journalism probably had little influence outside of New York. Much of the pro-war reporting came out of the American Midwest.

Weyler's policies met with some opposition in Spain. Although the Conservatives supported him, the Liberals denounced the inhumanity of the reconcentrados. When Weyler's main supporter, Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo was assassinated in June 1897, Weyler resigned his post and returned to Spain.

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The Destruction of the USS Maine
Meanwhile, the US Consul-General, Fitzhugh Lee (the nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee), cabled Washington with fears for the lives of Americans living in Havana. The U.S.S. Maine under the command of Captain Charles Sigsbee was sent to Havana Harbor as a show of force and to protect American citizens and American interests. Then, on the evening of February 15, 1898, the Maine exploded, killing 268 American sailors. Not waiting for the results of official inquiries, Hearst and Pulitzer reported that Spanish officials in Cuba were to blame, and they widely publicized the conspiracy. The pro-war reporting and
Photograph: The U.S.S. Maine
Photograph: The U.S.S. Maine
Photograph: The Maine entering Havana Harbor, January 1898
Photograph: The Maine entering Havana Harbor, January 1898
Painting of the Maine exploding
Painting of the Maine exploding
editorializing across the country soon had its effect on American public opinion. Memorial images of the Maine, and the anti-Spanish slogan, "Remember the Maine!" (sometimes accompanied with "To Hell with Spain!") soon graced popular culture items as diverse as buttons, plates, and tobacco pipes. Popular music also reflected the tragedy of Maine explosion with such songs as, "My Sweetheart Went Down With The Maine."
 
Remember The Maine! Artifacts
New York Journal newspaper about the Maine explosion
New York Journal newspaper about the Maine explosion, 2/98
The World newspaper about the Maine explosion
The World newspaper about the Maine explosion, 2/18/98
Maine button
Maine button
Maine Stickpin
Maine Stickpin ( 2 views)
Maine Tobacco Pipe
Maine Tobacco Pipe (4 views)
Maine Spoon
Maine Spoon (3 views)
Maine Napkin Holder
Maine Napkin Holder (2 views)
Maine Plate
Maine Plate
Remember The Maine Button
Remember The Maine Button
Remember The Maine Button
Remember The Maine Button
Remember The Maine Pin
Remember The Maine Pin
Remember The Maine Bookmark
Remember The Maine Bookmark
Remember The Maine Tin Plate
Remember The Maine Tin Plate
Remember The Maine Wooden Bowl
Remember The Maine Wooden Bowl
Remember The Maine Candy Dish
Remember The Maine Candy Dish
Remember The Maine Bell
Remember The Maine Bell (3 views)
Remember The Maine Cover
Remember The Maine Cover
Remember The Maine Tapestry
Remember The Maine Tapestry
Stereoview Card featuring Maine wreckage
Stereoview Card featuring Maine wreckage (2 views)
Photograph of Maine wreckage
Photograph of Maine wreckage
 
Songs About the Maine (written before the investigation & declaration of war)
Sheet Music: "He Was a Sailor On Board The 'Maine'"
Sheet Music: "He Was a Sailor On Board The 'Maine'"
Sheet Music: "My Sweeheart Went Down With The Maine"
Sheet Music: "My Sweetheart Went Down With The Maine"
Sheet Music: "Before The Maine Went Down" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Before The Maine Went Down" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Before The Maine Went Down" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Before The Maine Went Down" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Heroes Who Sank With the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Heroes Who Sank With the Maine" (1898) version 1
The Heroes Who Sank With The Maine
Sheet Music: "The Heroes Who Sank With The Maine (1898) version 2
Sheet Music: "Wreck of the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Wreck of the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "On The Shores of Havana Far Away" (1898)
Sheet Music: "On The Shores of Havana Far Away" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Our Gallant Warship Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Our Gallant Warship Maine" (1898)
 
 
Songs demanding war
Sheet Music: "There's Room For One More Star" (April 17, 1898)
Sheet Music: "There's Room For One More Star" (April 17, 1898)
Sheet Music: "Columbia Make Cuba Free" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Columbia Make Cuba Free" (1898)
Sheet Music: "My Son Went Down With the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "My Son Went Down With the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Song of Our Nation," or, "Fight For The Right and Free Cuba" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Song of Our Nation," or, "Fight For The Right and Free Cuba" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Cuba and the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Cuba and the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "For Old Glory" (1898)
Sheet Music: "For Old Glory" (1898) version 1
Sheet Music: "For Old Glory" (1898)
Sheet Music: "For Old Glory" (1898) version 2
"Uncle Sam, Tell Us Why Are You Waiting?"
sound "Uncle Sam, Tell Us Why Are You Waiting?"
"Uncle Sam, Tell Us Why Are You Waiting?"
"Uncle Sam, Tell Us Why Are You Waiting?"
 
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The Declaration of War
Despite the public outcry, President William McKinley, Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed and the business community opposed the growing public demand for war, fearing it would disrupt the recent upward turn in the economy. One song, "Uncle Sam, Why Are You Waiting?" reflected the frustration about what the public perceived as McKinley's inaction on the issue. The turning point came when Senator Redfield Proctor (R-VT) delivered a speech before the Senate on March 17, 1898. In this speech, Proctor carefully analyzed the situation on the ground in Cuba, and concluded that war was the only answer. The business and religious communities, which had opposed war, switched sides, leaving President William McKinley and Thomas Brackett Reed almost alone in their opposition to the war. On April 11, McKinley asked Congress for authority to send American troops to Cuba for the purpose of ending the civil war there. On April 19, Congress passed joint
President McKinleyPresident McKinley
Anti-Yellow Journalism Cartoon
Anti-Yellow Journalism Cartoon, by Louis Dalrymple
McKinley Weighs His Options, Judge, 1898
Cartoon: McKinley Weighs His Options, Judge, 1898, by Victor Gillam
Yellow Kid Button, demanding war with Cuba
Yellow Kid Button, demanding war with Cuba
resolutions supporting Cuban independence, disclaiming any intentions in Cuba, demanding Spanish withdrawal, and authorizing the president to use as much military force as he thought necessary to help Cuban patriots gain independence from Spain. Included in the resolution was an amendment proposed by Senator Henry Teller (D-CO), guaranteeing that Cuba would remain in the control of its people. The Senate passed the amendment, 42 to 35, on April 19, 1898, and the House concurred the
same day, 311 to 6. President McKinley signed the joint resolution on April 20, 1898, and the ultimatum was forwarded to Spain. In response, Spain broke off diplomatic relations with the United States and declared war on April 23. On April 25, Congress declared that a state of war between the United States and Spain had existed since April 20 (later changed to April 21).
 
Songs About the Maine (written after the investigation & declaration of war)
Sheet Music: "The Sinking of the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Sinking of the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Boys 'Remember The Maine'" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Boys 'Remember The Maine'" (1898)
Down at the station ev'ry thing was gay,
Sheet Music: "My Father Was a Sailor on the Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Remember The Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Remember The Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Remember The Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Remember The Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Remember The Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Remember The Maine" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Bring Our Boys Home" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Bring Our Boys Home" (1898)
     
 
Off to War Songs & Other Pop Culture
Sheet Music: "Say Goodbye To Mother", or, "I'll Remember The Maine and Brother Jack" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Say Goodbye To Mother", or, "I'll Remember The Maine and Brother Jack" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Blue and Gray Together" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Blue and Gray Together" (1898)
Sheet Music: "They Are Going to March to Cuba Under Major General Lee" (1898)
Sheet Music: "They Are Going to March to Cuba Under Major General Lee" (1898)
Sheet Music: "We Are Marching On To Glory For The Flag" (1898)
Sheet Music: "We Are Marching On To Glory For The Flag" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Yankee Volunteers" (1898)
Sheet Music: "The Yankee Volunteers" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Freedom's Battle Cry" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Freedom's Battle Cry" (1898)
Stereoview: The Soldier's Farewell (1898)
Stereoview: The Soldier's Farewell (1898)
"Our Flag."
"Our Flag."
"One Grand Wave of Patriotism Answers Uncle Sam's Call to Arms," Judge Magazine, by Victor Gillam
Tone Pictures of the 71st Regiment Leaving For Cuba
sound Tone Pictures of the 71st Regiment Leaving For Cuba
"Yankee Doodle", Judge, 1898
"Yankee Doodle", Judge, 1898, by Victor Gillam
"Ready For Duty," Puck, May 4, 1898
"Ready For Duty," Puck, May 4, 1898, by Louis Dalrymple
Hearst & Pulitzer cartoon
Hearst & Pulitzer cartoon, Vim Magazine, June 29, 1898, by Leon Barrit
     
 
More Patriotism
In addition to the popular culture above, there was a notable increase in the general level of patriotism, including songs emphasizing how the war with Spain was helping to set aside the old wounds of the Civil War. A march composed two years earlier by John Philip Sousa, The Stars and Stripes Forever (1896) quickly became an anthem for the war, and many other patriotic marches and songs were quickly penned and published.
Sheet Music: "Stars and Stripes Forever" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Stars and Stripes Forever" (1898)
Stars and Stripes Forever, Brunswick Military Band (1920)
sound Stars and Stripes Forever, Brunswick Military Band (1920)
Sheet Music: "Brass Buttons, or, The Naval Cadet" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Brass Buttons, or, The Naval Cadet" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Defend The Dear Old Flag" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Defend The Dear Old Flag" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Our Army and Navy" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Our Army and Navy" (1898)
Sheet Music: "America and Old Glory" (1898)
Sheet Music: "America and Old Glory" (1898)
Sheet Music: "America Forever! March" (1898)
Sheet Music: "America Forever! March" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (1898)
Sheet Music: "Columbia Gem of the Ocean" (1898 edition)
Sheet Music: "Columbia Gem of the Ocean" (1898 edition)
Sheet Music: "There's a Hero on Ev'ry Ship" (1898)
Sheet Music: "There's a Hero on Ev'ry Ship" (1898)
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Last modified July 21, 2012