Tensions were growing between Spain and the United States
The small island country of Cuba, which is south of Florida, had been suffering under Spanish rule. During the Cuban War of Independence, the USS Maine was sent to the harbor in Havana, the capital of Cuba.
USS Maine was sent to Havana to offer protection to Cubans who were fighting Spain for independence. Less than a month after anchoring in Havana harbor, on February 15, 1898, there was an explosion and the battleship sank.
Newspapers in the United States blamed the Spanish for the ship’s sinking.
Cuba was a colony of Spain, but no longer wanted to be ruled by Spain. Like the colonies from the British, they wanted to be independent from the Spanish.
April 20, 1898
On April 20, 1898, President McKinley signed a resolution demanding that Spain leave Cuba and had his military forces help Cuba gain independence.
April 21, 1898
On April 21, 1898, Spain ended communications with the United States and declared war.
Future President Roosevelt
The Spanish-American war began in May of 1898, and rather than stay in the comfort of his office… future President Teddy Roosevelt lead soldiers from the front lines to fight for liberty. In doing so, he formed the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry to help fight the war. Alongside his friend Leonard Wood, an American war hero, Teddy looked through nearly 25,000 applications to create the group that came to be known as the “Rough Riders.”
The Rough Riders
The Rough Riders were led by future President Theodore Roosevelt. They were a rag-tag group of hunters, cowboys, polo players, sheriffs, glee-club singers, Native Americans, and athletic college buddies. But the group was key to winning two important battles against the Spanish in Cuba.
The Battle of Las Guasimas on June 24, 1898, and the Battle of San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898.
This cemented Roosevelt’s reputation as a war hero and decided the outcome of the Spanish-American War. This was the ‘Rough Riders’ greatest victory and Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001, long after his death, for his bravery in the Battle of San Juan Hill, the only United States President to achieve this honor.
The Americans also defeated the Spanish at the Battle of El Caney on the same day. Soon after, the U.S. Navy defeated the Spanish Royal Navy at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, effectively ending the Spanish-American War, leading to the Spanish asking for peace and the United States taking Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine islands from Spain.