Logo Homeschool World ® Official Web Site of Practical Homeschooling Magazine Practical Homeschooling Magazine
Practical Homeschooling® :

Forgotten American History: The Spanish-American War

By Sam Blumenfeld
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #55, 2003.

Pin It

Sam Blumenfeld


One of the most important events in American history, the Spanish-American War, has been virtually erased from our national memory by the more spectacular events of the 20th century. But anyone who wants to know about our ongoing problems with Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, the Panama Canal, etc., would have to know their origin in what Secretary of State Hay called that "splendid little war." It might have been a little war, but it had a big impact on our sense of "manifest destiny," a phrase used to suggest the inevitability of American expansion. By the 1870s, the United States covered the continent from coast to coast, had acquired Alaska from the Russians in 1867, and in 1875 ratified a treaty with Hawaii, which would lead to its eventual statehood.

Our war against Spain was ignited by the latter's harsh suppression of the Cuban insurrection against Spanish rule which began in February 1895. As a result of the fighting, American investments in Cuba suffered. Meanwhile, the American press reported the cruelty of Spain's methods of warfare, and built up among Americans considerable sympathy for the Cubans fighting for their freedom. The press urged American intervention to stop the atrocities.

President Cleveland (1893-97) resisted such pressure for intervention, and so did his successor, President McKinley (1897-1901). In fact, Spain, with a new liberal government, abandoned its objectionable military methods and offered the Cubans limited autonomy. But on February 15, 1898, the U. S. battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor, killing two officers and 258 sailors. It created a huge outburst of anti-Spanish sentiment, fanned by the press, which wanted war.

President McKinley then asked Congress for the authority to use U.S. forces to end the civil war in Cuba. Congress promptly passed resolutions recognizing the independence of Cuba, demanding that Spain withdraw from the island, which the Spanish had ruled for hundreds of years. On April 25, 1898, Spain severed diplomatic relations with the U.S., and Congress declared war retroactive to April 21st.

A blockade of Cuban ports was begun on April 22, but the first dramatic event of the war took place in the Far East. On May 1, Commodore George Dewey, in command of the U.S. Asiatic Squadron, entered Manila Bay in the Philippine Islands and destroyed the antiquated Spanish fleet which defended it. The City of Manila itself was occupied by American troops on August 13th.

While events in the Philippines were proceeding victoriously, Cuba posed a different problem. Spain's Atlantic fleet, under Admiral Cevera, had entered the harbor at Santiago, at the far eastern end of Cuba, on May 19th. There, they were blockaded by an American fleet under Rear Admiral W.T. Sampson. The object of the U.S. was to destroy the Spanish fleet.

An army of 18,000 regulars and volunteers assembled at Tampa, Florida. They were transported to the Cuban coast east of Santiago in June. Commanded by Gen. W.R. Shafter, the American army stormed the heights overlooking Santiago in the battles of El Caney and San Juan Hill, the famous battle in which Lt. Col. Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders achieved their great reputation for bravery and courage which would be used later to propel Roosevelt to the Presidency.

With the Spanish position in Santiago rendered untenable, Cevera was ordered by Capt. Gen. Blanco to lead his fleet out of the harbor. As the fleet tried to leave Santiago on July 3rd, the Americans attacked and destroyed it. The destruction of Cevera's fleet practically ended the war. The city of Santiago was surrendered on July 16th. Nine days later, Gen. Nelson A. Miles landed virtually unopposed in Puerto Rico and occupied the island.

The Spanish government then sued for peace, and on August 12th hostilities were terminated. Under the protocol, Spain gave up Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and the Ladrone Islands (Guam) to the U.S., and agreed to the U.S. occupation of Manila. The treaty of peace was signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, and approved by the Senate on February 6, 1899. A sum of $20 million was paid to Spain for its cession of the Philippines to the U.S.

Thus, at a cost of $250 million and over 5,000 lives, of which fewer than 400 actually were killed in battle, the United States, in a war lasting six months, had acquired a colonial empire and had risen to a position of prominence in world affairs. And now you know how we got to own Puerto Rico and Guam.

All of this took place while America was growing into a formidable industrial power. We were on the threshold of an economic expansion beyond our wildest dreams. The automobile had just been invented and was destined to revolutionize the globe. American missionaries had gone into all parts of the world to bring the message of the Gospel to people who needed to hear it. Thus, America's forgotten little war should be remembered in the context of our great manifest destiny.


Was this article helpful to you?
Subscribe to Practical Homeschooling today, and you'll get this quality of information and encouragement five times per year, delivered to your door. To start, click on the link below that describes you:

USA Individual
USA Librarian (purchasing for a library)
Outside USA Individual
Outside USA Library

Time4Learning University of Nebraska High School

Articles by Sam Blumenfeld

The Whole-Language Boondoggle

High School for Freedom!

Dyslexia: The Man-Made Disease

Teach Reading to the “Learning Disabled”

Uncle Sam Wants Your Child on his National Database

Why the Internet will Never Replace Books

Teach Reading to the "Learning Disabled"

Homeschooling and Charter Schools

Homeschoolers and Vouchers

The History of Public Education

College At Home

Learning from The "Old Dead Guys"

The Meaning of Educational Freedom

The Importance of Rote Learning

The Exodus Continues

A World Without Public School

The Benefits of Teaching History at Home

How to Tell Real from Phony Phonics?

Getting Started in Arithmetic

Teaching Arithmetic

Teaching the Alphabet

Teaching the Alphabet Sounds

Teaching Blends

Teaching Long Vowels

The History of Geometry Education

Never Bored Again

Learning Greek

How and Why to Teach Shakespeare

How to Get the Most Out of Homeschool Conventions

Forgotten American History: The Barbary Wars

Forgotten American History: God's Providence in the American Revolution

Forgotten American History: The Spanish-American War

Forgotten American History: The Great Awakening

Forgotten American History: Puritan Education

Colonial Education: The Free Market in Action

America Started with Educational Freedom

How Harvard Became Liberal

The Glory of the Alphabet

19th Century Communists & the Origin of American Public Education

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

It Pays to Know Your Legislator

Intelligent by Design

Teaching Kids to Enjoy Classical Music

Before Compulsory Education: The Private Academies

What Schools Teach: Then and Now

The Real Meaning of Easter

The Truth About Independence Day

The Benefits of Reading Biographies

Why We Celebrate Veterans Day

The Purposes of Education

Why Homeschoolers Should be Book Collectors

How History Was Taught Back Then

The American Almanac: A Great Learning Tool

The Fun of Going to an Antiques Auction

Politics and Homeschoolers: A Primer

A Novel Suggestion

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Why Homeschoolers Should Learn Public Speaking

The Presidency

Party Politics in the United States

The Road to an American Independent Nation

George Washington: Our First President's First Term

George Washington: Our First President's Second Term

Popular Articles

Getting Organized Part 3

Discover Your Child's Learning Style

Phonics the Montessori Way

Can Homeschoolers Participate In Public School Programs?

What We Can Learn from the Homeschooled 2002 National Geography Bee Winners

Montessori Language Arts at Home, Part 1

What Does My Preschooler Need to Know?

I Was an Accelerated Child

University Model Schools

Columbus and the Flat Earth...

Bears in the House

Classical Education

Getting Organized Part 1 - Tips & Tricks

Myth of the Teenager

A Reason for Reading

Character Matters for Kids

Getting Started in Homeschooling: The First Ten Steps

Combining Work and Homeschool

How to Win the Geography Bee

Why the Internet will Never Replace Books

Who Needs the Prom?

Critical Thinking and Logic

Interview with John Taylor Gatto

A Homeschooler Wins the Heisman

Whole-Language Boondoggle

The Charlote Mason Approach to Poetry

How to "Bee" a Spelling Success

The Benefits of Debate

Joyce Swann's Homeschool Tips

Montessori Math

The Charlotte Mason Method

The Equal Sign - Symbol, Name, Meaning

The History of Public Education

Start a Nature Notebook

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

Teaching Blends

The Gift of a Mentor

Narration Beats Tests

Teach Your Children to Work

Saxon Math: Facts vs. Rumors

Give Yourself a "CLEP Scholarship"

Top Jobs for the College Graduate

Laptop Homeschool

Don't Give Up on Your Late Bloomers

Patriarchy, Meet Matriarchy

Advanced Math: Trig, PreCalc, and more!

AP Courses At Home

Top Tips for Teaching Toddlers

Art Appreciation the Charlotte Mason Way

Shakespeare Camp