May 27, 2024

Spanish-American War: Causes, Battles & Timeline

4 min read

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The Spanish-American War was a significant turning point in both American and world history. It marked the emergence of the United States as a global power. Fought between April and August 1898, the conflict stemmed from America’s intervention in Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. This brief but impactful war saw key battles taking place in various locations, resulting in significant changes in territories under U.S. control. This document aims to shed light on the causes leading up to the war, the significant battles, and the consequential timeline of events.

Causes of the Spanish-American War

The causes of the Spanish-American War can be attributed to several factors:

  1. Cuban Struggle for Independence: The war originated from Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain, which began in February 1895. Spain’s repressive measures to quell the rebellion garnered attention and sympathy from the United States.
  2. The sinking of the USS Maine: The explosion and sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, played a significant role in escalating tensions between the United States and Spain. Although the cause of the explosion remains disputed, it was widely sensationalized by the American press, fueling anti-Spanish sentiment.
  3. Yellow Journalism: Newspapers in the United States, particularly those employing yellow journalism, exaggerated and sensationalized stories about the conflict in Cuba. This biased reporting targeted public sentiment against Spain and influenced public opinion in favor of intervention.

These causes, combined with other factors such as imperialism, manifest destiny, and isolationism, led to the declaration of war by the United States against Spain on April 25, 1898.

Battles of the Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War was marked by several significant battles:

  1. Battle of Manila Bay (May 1, 1898): This was the first major battle of the war. The U.S. Pacific Fleet, commanded by Commodore George Dewey, destroyed the Spanish Pacific fleet at Manila Bay in the Philippines. This decisive victory marked the beginning of the United States’ ascendancy as a global naval power.
  2. Battle of Santiago de Cuba (July 3, 1898): The U.S. Navy’s decisive victory in this naval battle led to the destruction of the Spanish Caribbean fleet. The battle also played a crucial role in the American capture of Santiago in late July.
  3. Siege of Santiago (July 3-17, 1898): Following the naval victory at Santiago de Cuba, U.S. ground forces, including the Rough Riders led by Theodore Roosevelt, began a siege that led to the surrender of the city and marked a turning point in the war.
  4. Battle of San Juan Hill (July 1, 1898): This was the most significant and bloodiest battle of the war. The U.S. Army’s Fifth Corps captured the San Juan Heights near Santiago de Cuba, a pivotal victory that contributed to the end of the war.

These battles led to a swift conclusion of the war, underscoring the growing global might of the United States.

Timeline of the Spanish-American War

The timeline of the Spanish-American War provides a clear chronology of significant events:

  • February 24, 1895: The Cuban War of Independence from Spain begins.
  • February 15, 1898: The USS Maine explodes and sinks in Havana Harbor, escalating tensions between the U.S. and Spain.
  • April 25, 1898: The U.S. declares war on Spain.
  • May 1, 1898: The Battle of Manila Bay takes place. The U.S. Pacific Fleet, led by Commodore George Dewey, destroys the Spanish Pacific fleet.
  • July 1, 1898: The Battle of San Juan Hill occurs, proving to be the most significant and bloodiest battle of the war.
  • July 3, 1898: The Battle of Santiago de Cuba happened. The U.S. Navy’s victory led to the destruction of the Spanish Caribbean fleet.
  • July 3-17, 1898: The Siege of Santiago takes place. The city’s surrender marks a turning point in the war.
  • August 12, 1898: The U.S. and Spain signed a peace protocol, effectively ending the war.
  • December 10, 1898: The Treaty of Paris is signed, marking the formal end of the Spanish-American War. The U.S. acquired various territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.


In conclusion, the Spanish-American War was a pivotal event that marked the rise of the United States as a global power. The war was influenced by a multitude of factors, from sympathy for Cuba’s struggle for independence to the explosion of the USS Maine, all further amplified by yellow journalism. The rapid succession of battles underscored the might of American forces, leading to a swift end to the conflict. The consequences of the war were far-reaching, with the Treaty of Paris signifying the end of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas and the dawn of U.S. imperialism. Despite its brief duration, the Spanish-American War had a profound and lasting impact on the geopolitical landscape, the echoes of which are still discernible today.

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