On August 12, 1898, representatives for the United States and Spain signed a peace protocol in Washington DC, ending the three-month-long Spanish-American War in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The American victory against the Spanish would result in the collapse of what remained of Spain’s colonial empire and would herald America’s entrance as a major player on the world stage.
The war had formally begun on April 25, 1898, when the United States declared war against Spain. Though the catalyst for America’s declaration of war was the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor (which at the time was blamed on Spain), American public opinion had been turning against Spain for some time, due to atrocities committed against Cubans in their fight for independence. After the sinking of the Maine, the U.S. joined the Cubans in their fight against Spain.
Cuba would prove to be the main stage of the war, though American troops were also sent to the Spanish possessions of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The short war included two main actions in Cuba against the exhausted, ill, and demoralized Spanish army: the Battle of San Juan Hill (with Theodore Roosevelt’s famed Rough Riders) and the sea battle and subsequent land siege at Santiago de Cuba.
Following the American siege on Santiago, the Spanish commander for that city surrendered on July 17, 1898, after being convinced that his situation was hopeless. This surrender essentially signaled the end of the war, though token fighting would occur in Puerto Rico and the Philippines after that date. The peace protocol between Spain and America was finally signed a month later on August 12, with the actual peace treaty not being signed until that December. In all, about 350 Americans died in battle during the war, with far more dying from disease.
American involvement with the former Spanish colonies was far from over at the cessation of hostilities with Spain, however. The U.S. army occupied Cuba until 1902, when the island obtained independence, though it would remain under U.S. supervision until 1934. Puerto Rico and Guam became (and still remain) U.S. territories, and the Philippines soon began a long fight for independence from the U.S. that would last until 1946.
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