United States History: Mid 1898

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

1898

What about this war? At the time, Henry Watterson wrote in his Louisville Courier-Journal: "Whether the war be long or short, it is a war into which this nation will go with a fervor, with a power, with a unanimity that would make it invincible if it were repelling not only the encroachments of Spain, but the assaults of every monarch of Europe who profanes the name of divinity in the cause of kingcraft...This is the right of our might; that is the sign in which we conquer."

From the cooler perspective of time, historian Stewart H. Holbrook reassessed the U.S. role in this war: "History has listed but few cases of plainer military aggression, and even fewer where the aggressor has labored under so profound a conviction of righteousness. We simply had to protect the honest and noble Cubans from their oppressors, and to make certain that all the Cuban virgins, who were said to be many and pretty, remained intact."

May 1 Com. George Dewey, on his flagship Olympia, approached the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. Dewey wrote later: "At 5:40, when we were within 5,000 yards [of the Spanish], I turned to Captain [Charles] Gridley and said, 'You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.'" The result? A tier of 5 headlines in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat proclaimed it:

DEWEY'S VICTORY. NOT A SERIOUS CASUALTY SUSTAINED IN DESTROYING SPANISH FLEET. AMERICANS CONTROL MANILA BAY AND CAN TAKE THE CITY AT ANY TIME. COMMODORE REPORTS TO WASHINGTON AND IS MADE AN ACTING ADMIRAL. SPANISH LOST ELEVEN SHIPS AND 150 MEN KILLED AND 250 WOUNDED.

The U.S. lost no men, suffered 7 or 8 wounded...keeping Cool Note: In the middle of the showdown sea battle, at 7:30 in the morning, Dewey briefly pulled back his ships to give his crews a quiet breakfast, and then returned to the engagement.

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