By the end of the 19th century, the United States was seeking to flex its international muscle, and acquire an overseas empire as had most of the industrial European powers. Cuba's desire for independence from Spain in the 1890s eventually provoked the United States to declare war on Spain, and after a few short months of fighting in 1898, the US had acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines as a result of the Spanish-American War.
The Spanish American War began on April 25, 1898 when the United States declared war on Spain, the first time, the country had declared war on another.This war did not last long; in fact, it was ended on December 10, 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.Though the war did not last long, the effects on the United States would propel the nation into the next century, eventually leading to the superpower that it is today. For Spain, the war ended any control that Spain had on its overseas empire including Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.
This war had been in the making for centuries since Spain became the first European country to land anywhere within the Americas.Spain's initial exploration extended from Virginia to the tip of South America and westward to California and Alaska.By 1825, most of the territory which had previously belonged to Spain within the Americas had changed hands, either becoming independent or being incorporated by other countries.The grip which Spain had originally was had completely dissolved and in 1825, Spain finally acknowledged the independence of Mexico, including parts which now lie within the boundary of the United States leaving only the islands surrounding the Americas under Spanish rule.
The battle cry of the Spanish-American War was "remember the Maine." President William McKinley had sent the nation's newest battleship, the USS Maine, to Havana harbor to protect American interests in the region. On February 15, 1898, the Maine exploded and sank. At the time, the US accused Spain of deliberately attacking the ship. However, later historians have determined that an internal explosion caused the disaster.
Within day, McKinley had declared war on Spain. Fighting took place in Cuba, famously characterized by Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. Their victory at San Juan Hill helped cement Roosevelt's popular image in America. In the Pacific, the following was the notable elements of Spanish-American War:
- Commodore George Dewey led the navy.
- The major battle was the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898.
- Guam surrendered in June, with a single shot being fired in anger.
The Spanish-American War may have been a brief war, but it shaped the United States into an empire, indicating the arrival of a new industrial power on the world stage.