Compared to Europe and Asia, America is a young country, yet it gained prosperity and power very quickly. During the 1800s, the United States, for the most part, kept out of foreign affairs. But when the U.S. came to the aid of Cuba in the Spanish-American war, it suddenly became a strong military presence in the world.
- Spain colonized Central and South America during the 1500s, including Cuba. In 1985, the Cubans demanded independence from Cuba, resulting in a bloody rebellion.
- The Spanish General ValerianoWeyler was sent from Spain to crush the Cubans. He was a ruthless leader, torturing Cubans without mercy. American newspapers published stories about his deeds; the American people demanded that the U.S. help the Cuban people.
- European powers had sought to colonize Asia, Africa, and Central and South America since the 1700s. During the late 1800s, a few American leaders thought America should join the quest to take other lands. They thought the United States’ victory in the Spanish-American War might help America conquer other places.
- On February 15, 1898, the American battleship, The Maine, exploded in the Havana, Cuba harbor, killing 266 officers and crew. To this day, no one knows why the ship blew up or who caused it, but many Americans blamed the Spanish.
- President William McKinley asked Congress to declare war on Spain. Six days later, an American fleet of new, steel ships easily defeated an older Spanish fleet in Manila Bay in the Philippines.
- American soldiers arrived in Cuba in June, 1898. On July 1, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt led his troops, known as the Rough Riders, into battle. These Rough Riders were made up mostly of African-American soldiers and Roosevelt’s old college friends. These Rough Riders easily overcame the Spanish and the war ended in less than a week. Spain, which had held a position of power for centuries, had fallen.
- The Spanish-American War only lasted four months. During that time, 375 Americans were killed in battle, but over 5,000 died from tropical diseases, mainly yellow fever, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.
- Prosperity: abundance
- Foreign affairs: events in other countries
- Fleet: a group
Questions and Answers
Question: Did the U.S. gain anything in the Spanish-American War?
Answer: The U.S. navy and army gained confidence in the strength of their ships, weapons, and skill. The world took notice of their military power for the first time. The U.S. gained the Philippines, Guam and Wake Island as colonies; Puerto Rico became a U.S. Commonwealth. Hawaii was annexed as a part of the U.S.
Question: Was colonization good or bad?
Answer: That depends on who you ask. European countries gained tremendous power and wealth by colonizing countries around the world, but at a high cost to the native people living in those countries, who often lost their land, their property, their freedom, and sometimes their lives in the process.
Watch a Crash Course video on the Spanish-American War.
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