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U.S. History/Spanish-American War


I had written previously regarding an interview my son is required to do with an expert on the Spanish-American War for a research paper he is doing on this subject. Here are the questions he would like you to answer:

1.  When did the Spanish-American War begin?
2.  How many American soldiers died in the Spanish-American War?
3.  Why did the Spanish-American War start?
4.  How many Spanish soldiers died in the Spanish-American War?
5.  Who won the Spanish-American War?
6.  How long did the Spanish-American War last?
7.  Who do you feel had the better military in the Spanish-American War?
8.  Why do you feel their military was better?
9.  Who was in command of the American soldiers in the Spanish-American War?
10.  Who was in command of the Spanish soldiers in the Spanish-American War?

Thank you for assisting my son with his school assignment.

1. The Spanish American War began in 1898.  The event that sparked the outbreak of war was the sinking of the USS Maine, a naval vessel docked in Havana harbor on Feb. 15.

The US sent an ultimatum to Spain which, among other things, demanded Spain pull out of Cuba and threatened US military action if Spain refused.  On April 21, Spain severed diplomatic relations with the US and the US began a blockade of Cuba (an act of war).  On April 23, Spain declared war on the US.  On April 25, the US declared that a state of war had existed between the two countries since April 21.

2. The US military lost on 332 men killed in battle.  But as with most wars of that era, many more soldiers and sailors were lost due to disease caused by poor conditions of combat and inability to combat tropical diseases.  As a result, US military deaths from disease totaled 2957, for a total death rate of 3289.  If you also count the 260 men who died in the sinking of the USS Maine (which happened before the declaration of war) the total would be 3549.

3. As I mentioned above, the flash point for the war was when a USS ship was sunk in the Havana Harbor.  The US blamed Spain for the sinking through sabotage, although many suspect the sinking may have been caused by something else.  No definitive reason has ever been proven.  But the sinking of the Maine aside, the trouble had been brewing for some time.  US business interests in Cuba were unhappy with Spanish rule there.  Many in the US wanted to bring Cuba under US control.  There had been a rebellion or revolution against the Spanish government for many years.  Many Americans supported that rebellion.

4.  There are not good records of Spanish Casualties from the war, but estimates are that between 55,000 and 60,000 men died.  As with the US death,s about 90% died from malaria, dysentery and other diseases.  About 10% (550 - 600) died during the battles or later as a result of battle injuries.

5.  By pretty much any measure, the US won the war.  Spain had control over many colonies at this time, but did not have a military powerful enough to retain control.  The US took control of Cuba as a result of the war and allowed it to become an independent country.  The US also took possession of Puerto Rico and Guam, which remain US protectorates to this day, and also the Philippines, which remained under US control until it decided to become independent after WWII.

6. Hostilities ended on Aug. 12, 1898 which was a temporary measure.  A formal treaty was signed on December 10, 1898 and ratified by the Senate on Feb. 6, 1899.  But the actual period of active fighting lasted less than four months.

7. The US military was much better.

8. The US navy had much more modern ships and better trained officers and men.  The Spanish military had poor discipline and training.  Although it was larger, its ships were not as good and its men were not as well trained or motivated.

9. There were multiple military commanders in different areas.  Gen. Nelson Miles was the Commanding General of the US Army at the time of the War.  Gen. William Shafter commanded US army forces in Cuba.  Admiral William Sampson was in command of US Naval forces it the waters around Cuba.  Admiral Thomas Dewey was in charge of the Pacific fleet which took the Philippines.  

10. On the Spanish side, Adm. Patricio Montojo was defeated by Dewey in the Philippines.  Adm. Pascual Cervera y Topete commanded the Caribbean squadron.  Gen. Manuel Macías y Casado commanded forces at Puerto Rico for Spain.  Ramón Blanco y Erenas commanded Spanish forces in Cuba.

If you care to learn more about some of the key people and what they did during the War, you may find this site helpful:

I hope this helps!
- Mike  

U.S. History

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Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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