The Spanish-American War
The Spanish-American War
Nationalist rebels in Cuba had been resisting Spanish rule since 1895. Americans became increasingly sympathetic to the rebels’ cause primarily because of sensationalist news reports about Spanish brutality. Embroiled in a vicious circulation war, New York newspapers—especially the New York Journal, owned by William Randolph Hearst, and the New York World, owned by Joseph Pulitzer—exaggerated and even invented accounts of atrocities committed by the Spanish military against the rebels. These inflammatory journalistic practices, called yellow journalism, convinced much of the American public to side with the rebels, and to call for government action against Spain. In April 1898, McKinley got the opening he desired. A U.S. ship, the Maine, exploded in Havana. The cause of the explosion was unknown, but the Spaniards were blamed. McKinley sent a war message to Congress and was authorized to use force in the interest of Cuban independence.
The Spanish-American War lasted only two months. Before the war, Spain, a long-established imperial power, had been feared as a formidable enemy. But Spain’s strength had been overestimated, and the U.S. easily overwhelmed the Spanish forces. One of the most famous battles was the U.S. capture of San Juan Hill in Cuba, an attack led by Theodore Roosevelt, who headed the volunteer Rough Riders unit. America’s easy victory established the U.S. as a significant presence on the world stage, and signaled Spain’s demise as a military powerhouse.
With the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war in December 1898, Cuba achieved independence and Spain ceded the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the U.S. for a payment of $20 million. America’s decisive war victory, coupled with the nation’s economic prosperity, led to an overwhelming reelection win for McKinley in 1900. The victory also encouraged the government to further demonstrate American strength abroad.
The Spanish-American War lasted only two months and ended in a decisive victory for the United States, encouraging the government to further demonstrate its strength abroad.
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