The Spanish-American War of 1898 was short-lived and successful for those Americans in favor of a Cuba Libre, a free Cuba. Its famous battle cry was �Remember the Maine.� The war itself, however, had antecedents in the United States� desire to widen its control of world markets and to dominate countries considered strategic to its defense.
In the early years of the 19th century many Latin American countries threw off the yoke of Spanish domination and assumed control of their own destinies. Neither Cuba nor the Philippines were among the list of revolutionaries. However, there were forces both within Cuba and the United States that made concerted efforts to instigate such a revolt. In 1895 insurrectionists in Cuba fought Spanish loyalists with arms and money funneled from the United States. However, up until 1898 such efforts failed.
On February 15, 1898, however, all that changed. The American ship, The Maine had been sent into Cuban waters on a �friendly visit� to protect American citizens and interests during Cuba's internal and violent struggles for control of the country. On that fateful day the ship blew up, killing 262 men. Even before a full investigation into the cause of the explosion could be conducted, the American press and Washington's hawks raised a hue and cry that this seeming act of Spanish aggression should be answered in the harshest terms possible. The Navy quickly concluded that a Spanish submarine had destroyed The Maine, but subsequent investigations in 1976 by Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover concluded that The Maine was destroyed by an internal explosion in a coal bunker.
One of the fiercest proponents of retaliation was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt. Under the cautious President McKinley, Roosevelt made preparations to attack both Cuba and the Philippines. He put Admiral George Dewey, stationed in the Far Pacific, on high alert and told him to be prepared to keep the Spanish fleet from leaving Manila Bay. Finally on April 21, 1898, McKinley succumbed to both Congressional and public pressure and authorized an act of war. At the time, the standing Army consisted of only 28,000 men, an insufficient number to fight the Spaniards on two fronts.