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Singing the Dream: American Sheet Music at the British Library: Part 6

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

The Spanish American War, 1898

The Spanish American War of 1898 played a vital role in establishing the United States as a world power and in securing for the country a foreign empire. The path to war was accelerated by sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbour on 15 February 1898. On 25 April, the United States formally declared war on Spain.
Despite once being the world's greatest power, Spain's colonies at this time had been reduced to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and the Carolina, Marshall and Mariana Islands. Yet for even these few, Spain seemed to lack the resources to govern, and in both the Philippines and Cuba local guerrilla forces had been pressing for independence.
In the United States several factors combined to make intervention (particularly in Cuba), inevitable. First, American business interests were eager for entrance into these markets. Second, newspaper magnates such a Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst relentlessly sensationalised tales of Spanish atrocities in order to boost the papers circulation. Third, an underlying sense of America's 'manifest destiny' made expansion a natural option.
The War itself lasted for eight months and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. This treaty established the independence of Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States, and allowed the United States to purchase the Philippines Islands from Spain for $20 million. The War cost the United States $250 million and 3000 troops, ninety percent of whom died from infectious diseases.

Flag of the Free

Flag of the Free (12kb)
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Zabriskie, John G. Flag of the Free. New York: Howley, Haviland & Co., [1898]. H.1798.pp.(64)
Copyright © The British Library

Four weeks after the sinking of the USS Maine, a U.S. Navy Department board of inquiry announced that a mine had detonated under the ship: in other words, the Spanish were not directly to blame. This conclusion was met with outrage. The "yellow press" had already labelled the Spanish government as the guilty party, and this report did nothing to change public opinion. Although President McKinley continued to press for a diplomatic solution to the Cuban problem, he also increased military preparations since Spanish resistance to Cuban independence appeared to be hardening. On 21 April, the United States began a blockade of Cuba. On 23 April Spain declared war on the United States, and Congress responded likewise two days later.

 

Admiral Dewey's March

Admiral Dewey\'s March (11kb)
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Cary, E.C. Admiral Dewey's March.Boston: Cary Brothers, 1898. h.3281.x.(57)
Copyright © The British Library

Following the destruction of the USS Maine, Commodore George Dewey received orders to take the USS Olympia to the Philippines where it was to attack the Spanish at Manila Bay. The Olympia arrived at the mouth of the bay on the night of April 30. By the following afternoon, Dewey's troops had sunk or captured the entire Spanish fleet. Not a single American life was lost. News of this victory quickly reached the United States, and Dewey became a national hero. Many marches were written to celebrate his achievement - this is just one of them.

 

American Marines. March. Piano Solo

American Marines. March. Piano Solo (11kb)
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Tocoben, Louis. American Marines. March. Piano SoloNew York: Howley, Haviland & Co., 1898. h.3282.n.(2)
Copyright © The British Library

Among those on the USS Maine on 15 February 1898 were forty US Marines, a quarter of whom were foreign born. The Marine Corps traces its institutional roots to the Continental Marines, which were formed by a resolution passed by the Continental Congress in 1775. In 1834, Congress passed the Act for the Better Organization of the Marine Corps, stipulating that the Corps was part of the Department of the Navy and a sister service to the U.S. Navy itself. During the Spanish American War the Marines led U.S. forces ashore in the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. At Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they seized a naval base that remains in use today.

 

Our Sailor Boys at Santiago: A Battle Song.

Our Sailor Boys at Santiago: A Battle Song (10kb)
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Sidwell, K. Our Sailor Boys at Santiago: A Battle Song. Chicago: S. Brainard's Sons, 1898. H.1799.p.(51)
Copyright © The British Library

The largest navel battle between Spain and the United States took place around Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second port, on 3 July 1898. It was a decisive victory for the Americans, who lost only two men compared to the nearly 500 troops lost by Spain. Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete had had grave misgivings about this encounter long before it happened and had urged his government to take on the United States near the Canary Islands. The Spanish government refused to consider such a plan, insisting, to Cervera's consternation, that his fleet sail to the Americas. In the battle that ensued, the entire Spanish Caribbean squadron was destroyed.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10


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