Spanish- American War
By: Nat McCabe
On February 9, 1898, Hearst's New York Journal published a letter written by Enrique Dupuy de Lôme, the Spanish ambassador to Washington. The de Lôme letter was addressed to a friend in Cuba but was somehow stolen from the mail and sent to the Journal for publication. In the letter, de Lôme called President McKinley "weak and catering to the rabble and, besides, a low politician." Americans were offended by this criticism of their president. De Lôme offered his resignation, but the damage was done. The publishing of this letter intensified anti-Spanish feelings in the United States and underscored the power of the press to inflame public opinion.
Not long after the de Lôme affair, a much more alarming incident occurred: the sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana harbor. Newspapers around the country responded with calls for vengeance.The Maine had sailed to Cuba in January after riots broke out in the streets of Havana. Spaniards who opposed government reforms in Cuba led the riots. Fearing harm to American citizens and property, President McKinley had sent the Maine to Cuba to protect American interests.
The U.S. Army in Cuba consisted of various forces. Among them were four regiments of African American soldiers, many of whom had fought in the Indian Wars in the American West. The army also relied on volunteer regiments, including one led by Theodore Roosevelt. When the war began, Roosevelt quit his post as assistant secretary of the navy so that he could join the fighting. Together with Colonel Leonard Wood, he helped form the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the rough riders. Handpicked by Roosevelt, this regiment was a mix of college athletes and western cowboys. General Shafter launched his assault on Santiago, moving against Spanish troops dug in along a ridge. Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charged up Kettle Hill, while other U.S. forces fought the even tougher battle for San Juan Hill. By nightfall, the U.S. Army had taken the ridge.
Leading opponents were the members of the Anti-Imperialist League an organization formed during the war to oppose the establishment of U.S. colonies. Its membership was diverse, ranging from union leader Samuel Gompers to millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Social worker Jane Addams joined, as did author Mark Twain. Although the motives and political views of league members varied widely, they all believed that imperialism violated the country's founding principles of freedom and democracy. These provisions, called the Platt Amendment allowed the United States to intervene in Cuban affairs and to buy or lease land for naval bases. In the years to come, U.S. troops reoccupied Cuba on several occasions.