United States History: Early 1898 Remember the Maine

About the history of the United States in 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine sinks prompting war with Spain regarding Cuba.

1898

-The U.S. Government annexed Hawaii because it was considered vital to Asian trade and because the Navy desired it as a station to block foreign invasion.

Mr. President, we want those islands.

We want them because they are the stepping way across the sea...Necessary to our safety, they are necessary to our commerce."

-Sen. Henry M. Teller (Rep.-Colo.)

Feb. 15 At 9:40 in the evening, the 6,000 ton U.S. battleship Maine, moored in Havana harbor, commanded by 53-year-old Civil War veteran Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee, suddenly blew up and sank to the bottom of the sea. Two of the 26 officers and 250 out of the 329 sailors and marines abroad, were immediately killed by explosion, fire, or drowning. Of the 103 rescued, 8 died of injuries.

The Maine had come to Spain's colony of Cuba on a supposed goodwill tour, but actually was sent to protect American property during a period of revolution. The Spanish Government had clearly resented this show of marine muscle. The question to this day remains: What caused the explosion? A Spanish Broad of Investigation, although not allowed by the U.S. to visit the wreckage, called it accidental, blaming it on spontaneous combustion. The U.S. Naval Board of Inquiry blamed it on a Spanish mine. William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal, alone, had the answer and bannerlined it on February 17.

1st Headline: DESTRUCTION OF THE WAR SHIP MAINE WAS THE WORK OF AN ENEMY.

2ND HEADLINE: ASSISTANT SECRETARY ROOSEVELT CONVINCED THE EXPLOSION OF THE WAR SHIP WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT.

3RD HEADLINE: THE JOURNAL OF FERS $50,000 REWARD FOR THE CONVICTION OF THE CRIMINALS WHO SENT 258 AMERICAN SAILORS TO THEIR DEATH. NAVAL OFFICERS UNANIMOUS THAT THE SHIP WAS DESTROYED ON PURPOSE.

In a Broadway bar, an unknown man lifted his drink and intoned to the other partrons, "Gentlemen, remember the Maine!" At once, Hearst and the Yellow Press had their battle cry.

Feb. 25 Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Pacific fleet, under Com. George Dewey, to the Spanish-ruled Philippine Islands.

Apr. 11 President McKinley was against a war with Spain. But politicians and the press-manipulated public wanted war. At last, McKinley gave in, asked Congress to support an ultimatum that Spain clear out of Cuba and allow Cuba to be independent. Nine days after Congress passed such a resolution, McKinley signed it, and then broke off all diplomatic relations with Spain.

Apr. 22 U.S. blockaded all Cuban ports, captured a Spanish ship, Buena Ventura. Also, the Volunteer Army Act was passed, allowing the 1st Volunteer Cavalry, the colorful "Rough Riders," to be formed under the leadership of Col. Leonard Wood and Lieut. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, who had resigned from the Navy Dept.

Apr. 24 Spain refused to buckle under to the ultimatum that it give Cuba independence. Instead, Spain declared war on the U.S. At once, the U.S. declared war right back-but made its declaration retroactive to April 21.

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