War with Spain - Charles Morris

Events Leading to Intervention

The cruelty with which the war between Spain and the Cuban insurgents was conducted was viewed with intense indignation in the United States, while Spain's seeming inability to suppress the insurrection led to many demands for intervention by the press and people of this country. The inhumanity of the combatants, and particularly of the Spaniards, increased as the war went on, and the government of the United States was strongly urged to interfere. It was variously suggested that the insurgents should be treated as belligerents, that their republic should be recognized, and that Spain should be asked to sell Cuba. But nothing beyond suggestion came of all this; the time was not ripe for action.

Meanwhile the government of this country was kept busy in efforts to enforce its neutrality laws. The revolutionary Cuban Junta in New York was actively at work collecting funds and equipping relief-expeditions, and a considerable number of vessels became engaged in efforts to land men and munitions of war on the shores of Cuba. Both the United States and Spain endeavored to prevent this, but met with indifferent success. Many of the expeditions from American ports succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the authorities and getting away with their contraband cargoes. Many others were stopped, but in very few instances could satisfactory evidence of an intention to break the law be obtained. Only two of the captains of filibustering vessels were convicted, Captain J. H. Wiborg, of the Horsa, and Captain John H. Hart, of the Laurada. The latter, sentenced for a term of imprisonment, was pardoned by President McKinley after the war with Spain began.

In January, 1896, Calixto Garcia sought to take a large quantity of military supplies and three hundred men to Cuba. His vessel, the Hawkins, foundered off Long Island, fortunately losing only five of its men. He made a second attempt on March 15 with the Bermuda, and this time succeeded in reaching Cuba and landing part of his supplies. He was at once given a prominent command in the Cuban army of independence.

Spain, which had the highest interest in checking these expeditions, was singularly unsuccessful in doing so. Of the many vessels which reached the Cuban coast the Spanish patrol-fleet succeeded in capturing only one, the Competitor, which left Key West April 23, 1896, and was taken near Esperanza, on the northern coast. The supplies had been landed before the Spanish patrol-boat appeared; but the bulk of them were abandoned, the men escaping into the interior with the exception of seven, who were taken prisoners. These were Alfred Laborde, captain of the vessel; William Gildea, its sailing-master; Ona Melton, a newspaper correspondent; Dr. Vezia, the physician of the expedition; a Cuban name Moza, and two sailors. None of them except the sailors sought to escape, they not fancying that they had committed any serious crime. The Spanish authorities thought otherwise. All of them except Moza, who volunteered evidence for the crown, were sentenced to death, and would have been summarily executed but for the intervention of Consul-General Lee. They were rigorously imprisoned under incommunicado  conditions for eighteen months, being finally released by General Blanco.

In December, 1896, the war being then nearly two years old, and having seemingly fallen into a state of hopeless decrepitude, while the Weylerian cruelty and incapability had become strikingly evidenced, the first open declaration of the United States government was made in President Cleveland's annual message to Congress. In this he reviewed the situation at considerable length, stating the various propositions which had been made for recognition of Cuban belligerency or independence, or, all other methods failing, of intervention, even at the Cost of a war with Spain. The President did not think that any of these measures was yet demanded by the situation, and stated that this government had intimated to Spain that if a satisfactory system of home rule were offered the islanders the United States would guarantee its execution, since nothing less would overcome the distrust of the insurgents. This offer Spain had failed to accept.

"It should be added," he continued. "that it cannot be reasonably assumed that the hitherto expectant attitude of the United States will be indefinitely maintained. . . .By the course of events we may be driven into such an unusual and unprecedented condition as will fix a limit to our patient waiting for Spain to win the contest, either alone and in her own way or by our friendly co-operation." He remarked further that if nothing remained but useless sacrifice of human life and utter desolation of the subject-matter of the conflict, "a situation will be presented in which our obligations to the sovereignty of Spain will be superseded by higher obligations, which we can hardly hesitate to recognize and discharge."

The scarcely veiled threat under these diplomatic utterances proved anything but palatable to Spain, and Prime-Minister Canovas quickly put himself on record by declaring that Spain would under no circumstances grant Cuba a system of autonomy similar to that of Canada. "No concession of any kind," he said, "will be made until the insurrection in Cuba is put under control. Spain is strong enough to carry on the campaign in Cuba and the Philippine Islands until peace is restored, no matter how long the struggle may last."

This declaration put an end to all hope of an accommodation. Spain, or at least her representatives in Cuba, had shown a marked incapability of doing anything of the kind promised, and the gates of a peaceful settlement were deliberately closed by the hands of the over-confident Spanish premier. The insurrectionary war was left to drift on in its old inconsequential way, with but a single end in view, that of final forced intervention on the part of the United States, since there seemed no hope that Spain would retire of herself from the futile contest.

Previous to the date of Cleveland's message he had sent General Fitzhugh Lee to Havana as United States consul-general, largely with the purpose of observing and reporting upon the state of affairs. A resolution recognizing the Cubans as belligerents had passed Congress, and at that time lay before the President. It was his doubt what action to take' in this contingency that induced him to despatch Lee upon his errand. A week's observation enabled the quick-sighted Virginian to decide that there was no immediate prospect of either party's winning, and that meanwhile the island was being reduced to an ash-heap, property widely destroyed, commerce extinguished, and life taken on both sides under circumstances of great aggravation. The injury to commerce was causing great loss to American mercantile interests and to the people of the United States.

He found in the state of the country and the people much to provoke the Cubans and little evidence that judicious measures were being taken for their subjugation. While less than half a century before Cubans had owned most of the property and wealth of the country, now the Spaniards were the wealthy class,—doubtless in consequence of the supremacy given them by the government. Public enterprise was sadly lacking. There were no highways, scarcely any country roads, no canals, and no telegraphs except along some of the railroads. Of the latter none had been built by Spanish enterprise. The soldiers were as ill fitted for effective operations as the country was ill adapted to military movements. They were poorly drilled, disciplined, and organized; their pay was small and often failed to reach them; their clothing was poor; their officers exposed them heedlessly to all conditions of temperature and weather. As a result they had become feeble, listless, liable to disease, and unfit for active campaigning. Such was the state of affairs which gave its tone to President Cleveland's message.



Early in his administration President McKinley took similar steps to ascertain the state of affairs on the island, special reports being ordered from the consuls at the several cities. These confirmed the unofficial advices of the terrible lack of sanitary conditions under which the reconcentrados dwelt and the misery and starvation to which they were exposed, and the absence of effort on the part of Governor-General Weyler for their relief. Among the sufferers were many naturalized citizens of the United States, for whose relief the President sent a special message to Congress, asking for an appropriation of $50,000 to provide them with food and medicine or to transport them to this country. Fewer American citizens were found than had been reported, and the food provided did not reach them without difficulty, as Spanish jealousy threw obstacles in the way of its distribution.

On June 16, 1897, General Stewart L. Woodford was appointed United States minister to Spain, with instructions from the executive to inform that country that, in the opinion of the United States, the war ought to have ended, and asking it to name a date before the month of December, 1897, when it would end. The reply of the Spanish cabinet was that no such date could be named, but that they would spare no efforts to bring the war to a speedy termination. They said further, that it would have ended long before but for aid given by filibusters from the United States. This statement, with its implication of disregard of neutral obligations, created considerable irritation in American official circles, in view of the fact that this country had spent some $2,000,000 in the effort to check Cuban expeditions, and had in no sense failed in its duty.

Roman Blanco


The coming of General Blanco with his scheme of reform created a temporary hope that peace might result, a hope which vanished when the insurgents utterly refused to accept autonomy or amnesty from Spain and shot the tempters who came to them bribe in hand. The scheme of autonomy did not propose to abolish the autocratic office of governor-general, under which no true liberty could exist, and it would have left Cuba saddled with a war-debt far beyond her power to sustain. The rebels in arms refused to have anything to do with so feeble and colorless a system of home government, and the autonomous administration attempted by Blanco proved a weak and futile expedient, its officials being mere puppets, with no influence outside of Spanish garrisons. The effort, indeed, to establish a democracy under the shadow of an autocracy must have proved useless under any circumstances, and the Cubans had no intention of trusting a second time to the good faith of Spain.

In his message to Congress of December, 1897, President McKinley stated in impressive words the record of our relations with Cuba, spoke of the horrors of the war then raging in the island, and indicated that the time might come when we would be obliged to interfere. That time was much nearer at hand than he dreamed of. In truth, matters on the island were not improving, and the weakness of the ruling powers was becoming daily more declared. General Blanco had withdrawn Weyler's concentration order, but his action came too late. The evil was past remedy. In the words of General Lee, "In the first place, these people have no place to go to; their houses have been burned down; there is nothing but the bare land left, and it would take them two months before they could raise the first crop. In the next place, they are afraid to go out from the lines of the towns, because the roving bands of Spanish guerrillas, as they are called, would kill them. So they stick right in the edges of the town, just like they did, with nothing to eat except what they can get from charity."

This condition of affairs gave rise to President McKinley's next action, which was an intervention in the form of charity. He proposed now to extend aid to all the sufferers, not to limit it to American citizens, as before. On December 24, 1897, he issued an appeal to the American people, inviting contributions for the succor of the starving sufferers, and on the 8th of January, 1898, announced the formation of a Central Cuban Relief Committee under the auspices of the American National Red Cross Society. Clara Barton, president of this society, just returned from her relief-work in Armenia, made her way to Cuba to control this new duty of benevolence, and a vast quantity of supplies was sent to relieve the needs of the sufferers. Goods and money to the value of more than $200,000 were donated, and the relief, at first confined to Havana and the other large cities, gradually extended to all the towns where suffering existed. Thousands of lives were saved by this late but welcome charitable aid.

Spain, however, in her usual manner, threw difficulties in the way, objecting to the fact that some of the smaller war-vessels of the United States were employed in carrying relief-supplies, and rendering it necessary to employ other vessels for that purpose. She also showed her animus by requesting that Consul-General Lee, whose plain truth-telling had ~ven offence, should be recalled. To this the United States government declined to accede, and Spain withdrew the request. The activity of the Americans in their work of mercy had its effect upon the dulled moral consciousness of Spain. All American citizens in prison were released, and mercy was granted to certain Cuban prisoners who lay under sentence of death. Blanco had been authorized to sign a credit of $100,000 for the relief of the suffering. An equal sum was granted at a later date, and pacificos were sent to rebuild the small towns that had been destroyed. But the suffering people seem to have derived little benefit from the tardy benevolence of Spain.

Meanwhile the Spanish home government was as energetic as ever in its efforts to end the war,—and as unsuccessful. Money was borrowed freely from anyone who would lend, until the country reached the verge of bankruptcy and the money-lords of Europe closed their purses against appeals from Spain. In addition to her funded debt of $1,200,000,000, one-third of which was due to foreign capitalists, she had a floating debt of $200,000,000, and a Cuban guarantee debt of $35,000,000, bearing interest at five and six percent, yet very greatly depreciated in value. These $55,000,000 had been spent in the Cuban war, and the weight of this debt would have been laid upon Cuba in the event of subjugation. It would have constituted an overwhelming burden.

Spain was not only bankrupt in money, but was becoming so in men. The youth of the land had been sent, sorely against their will, across the ocean to feed the army in Cuba until exhaustion in this direction was at hand. And the discouraging feature of it all was that this proved to be largely waste effort. The degree of activity under Campos and Weyler, falsely directed as it had been, vanished under Blanco, who suffered the war to lag in his efforts to induce the insurgents to accept his measures of autonomy and amnesty.

The positive rejection of these by the insurgents left Spain in a hopeless state. Of the great army which she had sent to Cuba, many thousands had been swept away by the dread scourge of yellow fever, and thousands more were in a condition of unfitness for service. Of those who had escaped the hospital and the grave fully one-half were distributed among the multitudes of little forts that covered the island, and were useless for any effective operation. Of the remainder, many were needed for duties that rendered them unavailable for field operations, —such as guarding the railroads and the sugar-plantations. On the other hand, the insurgents seemed capable of continuing the war indefinitely. They needed no money, and the swift-growing roots supplied them with food. Arms and ammunition were their most pressing needs.

"Whatever may be said about old General Gomez," remarked General Lee, "he is, in my humble opinion, fighting the war in the only way it can be fought, scattering his troops out; because to concentrate would be to starve, having no commissary-train and no way to get supplies. They come in sometimes for the purpose of making some little raid where he thinks it will do something; but he has given orders, so I have always been informed, not to fight in masses, not to lose their cartridges; and sometimes, when he gets into a fight, each man is ordered not to fire more than two cartridges. The way the insurgents do is this: they have little patches of sweet potatoes—everything grows there abundantly in a short time—and Irish potatoes and fruits. They drive their pigs and cattle into the valleys and hill-sides, and they use those and scatter out. The insurgents plant crops in many parts of the island."

Their system of warfare was to keep out of the reach of Spanish bullets and to save their own, so far as was consistent with their policy of incessantly annoying the enemy. This method, in common with the destruction of the resources of the island, must in the end have forced Spain to give up the fight through utter exhaustion. The trocha and the fort had failed. Reconcentration had done far more harm than good. The horrors of the firing-party and the military fusillade had no effect on the enemy in arms. The power of Spain had been frittered away in piecemeal operations, and, as there was no indication of the adoption of more effective methods, the strife in Cuba in the beginning of the year 1898 seemed in a stage of absolute hopelessness so far as Spain was concerned.

Meanwhile the irritation between Spain and the United States was daily increasing. The two governments seemed on the surface in accord, but the very evident sympathy for the insurgents among the people of the United States aroused hot indignation in Spain, and threats of war with this country were freely uttered by the populace and the papers. This feeling extended to Cuba. There were three parties in that island, —the revolutionary separatists, who desired complete independence; the autonomists, who wished for home rule; and the Spanish party, who opposed changes in the existing condition of affairs, bitterly objected to Blanco and his reforms, and looked upon the recall of Weyler as a fatal confession of weakness by Spain.

With the incoming of 1898 affairs rapidly approached a crisis. Early in the year the Spanish government, through its minister, De Lome, intimated that it would be agreeable to Spain if the charitable people of the United States should contribute for Cuban relief, and if money and supplies were sent to the American consuls to be forwarded and distributed under their charge. But this relief proposition was not kindly received by the people of Spain, and was furiously objected to by the conservative party in Cuba, who looked upon it as the entering-wedge for American intervention. The dissatisfaction grew so great that it gave rise on January 12 to a riotous outbreak in the streets of Havana. Though this seemed chiefly directed against two newspapers that favored autonomy, Blanco deemed it necessary to send a strong body of troops to protect the American consulate. And the fidelity of these could not be greatly trusted, in view of the fact that many of the rioters wore Spanish uniforms, showing that the hostile feeling was deeply intrenched in the army.

The United States government had been previously informed by Consul-General Lee of the critical state of affairs in Havana. It was well aware, also, that Spain was covertly preparing for war, having taken steps in the latter part of 1897 to increase her naval strength by purchasing ships in other European countries. Measures of this kind, whose threatening character was apparent, were not calculated to allay the irritation existing in the United States, and the riots at Havana were quickly followed by a significant act on the part of the government,—the North Atlantic Squadron of the navy being ordered to rendezvous at Key West and the Dry Tortugas. The squadron reached Florida on the 20th, and was joined there by the battle-ship Maine, which on the 25th was ordered to Havana harbor, ostensibly on a friendly visit, but probably with a view to protection of the American residents in case of a renewal of the riots. Other steps were taken which indicated preparation for possible hostilities, orders being sent to United States vessels in foreign waters to be ready to sail for home at short notice. Commodore Dewey, in command of the squadron at Hong Kong, was advised to hold himself in readiness to sail to the Atlantic. All these measures were significant of coming war. In return for the visit of the Maine, the Spanish cruiser Vizcaya  was ordered to the United States, and reached New York harbor shortly after the wrecking of the Maine. She was received there with every courtesy.

The strained relations were greatly added to by an event that took place in early February. Senor Don Enrique de Lome, Spain's representative at Washington, had written a confidential letter to Senor Canalejas, whom Sagasta had sent to Havana to make a quiet investigation of the situation. This letter failed to reach the hands for which it was intended, being stolen from the mail by a Cuban sympathizer in the Havana post office, probably on account of its bearing the stamp of the Spanish legation on the envelope. By him it was sent to the Cuban Junta in New York, whose members, perceiving its value to their cause, had photographed copies made, which they gave to the public press. The original was sent to the State Department at Washington.

The publication of this letter raised a storm. It was bitterly insulting to President McKinley, of whom it spoke as a "low politician," who catered to the rabble. It proposed that the question of commercial relations should be agitated, "even though only for effect," and indicated that the Spanish government was insincere and playing a double part in its negotiations. The letter further acknowledged that the military operations of Spain had been failures, and seemed likely to continue so. The war dragged on tediously, it admitted, and intimated that if Spain could conquer Cuba at all she would be ruined in the effort.

This letter rendered De Lome's position in Washington untenable. He was not slow in perceiving this, and hastened to cable his resignation before Minister Woodford could have an opportunity to demand his withdrawal. De Lome lost no time in leaving the country in which he had so suddenly brought his usefulness to an end. He was succeeded in March by Senor Polo, whose father had represented Spain in Washington many years before.

The turning-point in the tide of events came on the night of the 15th of February, 1898. The battle-ship Maine  then lay in all seeming security in Havana harbor, where she swung at anchor about five hundred yards from the arsenal and two hundred yards from the floating dock. About two hundred yards away lay the American Ward Line steamer City of Washington, and a little farther off the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. This vessel had saluted the Maine  with great display of amity upon her entrance to the harbor, and had been greeted with equal courtesy, each displaying the national ensign of the other and saluting with thirteen guns.

The night of the 15th was one of intense darkness. The crew of the Maine  were asleep in their quarters. Captain Sigsbee was in bed in his cabin, and the executive officer, Lieutenant-Commander Richard Wainwright, was smoking in his quarters, when, at the hour of nine-forty, the silence was broken by a terrific explosion. The great vessel was lifted as if she had been a leaf floating on the waves, and in an instant was rent and tom almost out of all semblance to a ship-of-war. As the reverberation of the explosion died away, the darkness was broken by a great flame that burst from the ruined ship and illuminated the harbor far and near. On shore the shock of the explosion had extinguished the electric-lights, thrown down many of the telegraph poles, and shaken the whole city front.

This dreadful event was met with great coolness and courage by the officers of the Maine. Wainwright, the executive officer, was in an instant on his feet, struck a match, for darkness prevailed in his quarters, and hurried to the captain's cabin. He found him uninjured, though the explosion had hurled him from his berth to the floor. Hurrying to the deck, the captain at once gave orders to a seaman to flood the magazine, which contained some five tons of powder. The man did so, but failed to return. He had fallen a victim to the catastrophe which had slain so many of his comrades. The explosion had wrecked the forward part of the ship, immediately under the quarters of the men, most of whom were instantly killed, while that portion of the ship was frightfully shattered.

Meanwhile the whole city had been aroused, and people were running to the water-front to learn the cause of the terrible shock. It was now easy to perceive, for the darkness was effectually broken. In addition to the glare from the burning Maine, a number of search-lights were turned on the dark surface of the waters, and electric-lights glowed on shore and ships. With the utmost haste boats were lowered from the two neighboring steamers and rowed to the wreck of the Maine, where every effort to render service was made. Thirty-seven of the wounded men were rescued by the boats of the Spanish ship and twenty-four by those of the City of Washington.



Captain Sigsbee did not for a moment lose his self-possession and worked diligently to rescue the remnants of his crew. In this his officers actively aided him. Such of the boats of the Maine  as had escaped destruction were filled with the wounded, who were taken to the hospitals in Havana, where every care was given them, General Blanco lending all his influence to the work of mercy. Of the ship's company of three hundred and fifty-three only forty-eight escaped without injury. Captain Sigsbee was the 18st man to leave the ship, going in the launch to the Alphonso XII, where he thanked the captain and officers for their active aid. He then went to the City of Washington, arriving about midnight, and meeting there Consul-General Lee and others of prominence.

At three o'clock on the morning of February 16, President McKinley was awakened to hear a message of startling import which had just been received from Captain Sigsbee. It described the frightful disaster in the most temperate language:


"Maine blown up in Havana harbor at nine-forty to-night and destroyed. Many wounded and doubtless more killed or drowned. Wounded and others on board Spanish man-of-war and Ward Line steamer. Send light-house tenders from Key West for crew and the few pieces of equipment above water. None had clothing other than that upon him. Public opinion should be suspended until further report. All officers believed to be saved. Jenkins and Merritt not yet accounted for. [These two proved to have been lost.] Many Spanish officers, including representative of General Blanco, now with me to express sympathy."


The suspension of opinion asked for by Captain Sigsbee was not accorded by the people, whose indignation was extreme on learning of the terrible event. The general opinion, aided by statements concerning the appearance of the vessel as she lay in the mud of Havana harbor, was that the loss of the Maine  was not due to the explosion of her own magazines as the Spaniards maintained, but that she had been blown up by a mine beneath her hull, and that the disaster was not the result of accident, but of Spanish malignity. The fact that among the numerous expressions of sympathy from foreign powers were cabled messages from General Blanco, the Spanish cabinet, and the Queen of Spain did not suffice to change the public opinion or to allay the excitement. No one thought that any of these had anything to do with the explosion, but many believed that Spanish officials were in some way concerned in it; and this feeling grew, instead of subsiding, as time went on.

A plot of ground in the cemetery at Havana was given for the interment of the victims, nineteen of whom were buried there with the greatest show of honor and sympathy, fifty thousand people crowding the streets and paying respect to the dead. Shortly after the destruction of the Maine, the Spanish cruiser Vizcaya, as already stated, reached the harbor of New York, where she was placed under close guard by federal and city authorities to prevent any injury to her through revenge. She remained there for a brief period and then set sail for Cuba, full courtesy and consideration being shown her officers while in New York.

The Maine  was the oldest battle-ship of the American navy. While second-rate in size, being of less than 7000 tons displacement, she was a fine and powerful ship, and had been built at a cost of $2,500,000, which expenditure had been greatly added to by the cost of her arms and equipments. In addition to the total destruction of the ship itself was the loss of two hundred and sixty-six lives, including those who died from their wounds and the two officers named in Captain Sigbee's message, who had hastened to their posts of duty on being aroused by the explosion and had perished in consequence.

This state of affairs gave rise to a natural feeling of resentment in the minds of the American people, which quickly deepened to a thirst for revenge and a feverish impatience which could scarce await the deliberate movements of a committee of investigation. Had the general feeling been accepted, the country would have been plunged into war at once, but the government was less hasty in its decision, feeling that investigation should precede action, and that it remained to be shown whether the disaster was due to the explosion of an external mine or of the ship's own magazines. A naval Court of Inquiry was therefore appointed by the Navy Department, consisting of Captain W. T. Sampson of the Iowa, Captain F. C. Chadwick of the New York, Lieutenant-Commander W. P. Potter of the New York, and Lieutenant-Commander Adolph Marix of the Vermont.

Divers were sent with all convenient despatch to Havana harbor to examine the condition of the sunken hull and furnish evidence for the committee to act upon. The investigation proceeded with a deliberation that was exasperating to the mass of the people, who had formed their opinion without waiting for the evidence. A thorough examination was made of the condition of the wreck. Here, though no trace of a submarine mine could be found, there were abundant indications that some powerful explosive had been set off below the hull of the ship which had force sufficient to cause a frightful distortion of her hull and practically to break her in two.

The evidence presented before the court was very voluminous, the testimony covering twelve thousand type-written pages. Every item of evidence was thoroughly considered and sifted. A unanimous decision of the court was reached March 21, 1898, after more than four weeks of deliberation. The verdict, as summarized, was as follows: "That the loss of the Maine  was not in any respect due to fault or negligence on the part of any of the officers or members of her crew; that the ship was destroyed by the explosion of a submarine mine, which caused the partial explosion of two or more of her forward magazines; and that no evidence has been obtainable fixing the responsibility for the destruction of the Maine  upon any person or persons."

This decision, given to the public on March 25, was in full accord with the opinion almost universally entertained by the American people. The long-continued investigation by our divers was followed by a hasty one ordered by Spain, which took only a day or two for its completion, and resulted in, judging from its rapidity, what may have been a predetermined decision, that the cause of the explosion was wholly internal. A settlement of the question by arbitration was demanded.

This, under the aggravating circumstances of the case, the United States government was in no mood to accord. Efforts were made to recover the heavy guns and other valuable material from the wreck, but these proved in great part futile, and the shattered hulk, as a coffin for the gallant crew, was permitted to sink into the soft and deep mud of the bottom of Havana harbor.

The Maine  was not to perish unavenged. The hostile feeling of the people was reflected in the government, and active preparations were made by the War and Navy Departments for possible war. Movements in this direction had been made early in the year. They were intensified by the Maine  horror. The fortifications of the coast were strengthened, war-material was collected and distributed with energy, recruiting went on for all branches of the service, and the greatest activity was manifested in adding to the strength of the navy. The ship-yards engaged on government work were kept busy day and night. All vessels needing repair were hurried into the dry-docks. The old monitors at League Island were overhauled with all haste. A fleet of auxiliary cruisers was added to the regular naval force, including a number of the largest and fastest passenger-steamers.

A naval officer was hurried to Europe to purchase suitable war-ships found for sale in foreign ship-yards, and large numbers of the smaller cannon and a great quantity of ammunition were bought abroad. Of the several vessels purchased only one came into important use during the war, the New Orleans  (formerly the Amazonas), a fine cruiser obtained from Brazil. The Buffalo  (formerly the Nictheroy), a dynamite gunboat obtained from the same source, proved of little utility. Two small cruisers were purchased in England, the Topeka  and the Albany, the latter being detained, as the war had begun before she could be removed from her English port.

Anticipating the decision of the Court of Inquiry, Congress did not wait for its verdict, but on the 9th of March, at the request of the President, voted $50,000,000 as an emergency fund for the national defence. This money was at once employed in purchasing ships and war-material at home and abroad, and in adding to the strength of the army, a bill being passed for the recruiting of two regiments of artillery, to be employed in manning the heavy guns in the forts along the coast.

Captain William T. Sampson was put in command of the fleet at Key West, with the rank of acting rear admiral, while a "Flying Squadron" was organized at Hampton Roads, under the command of Commodore Winfield Scott Schley, with the armored cruiser Brooklyn  as flag-ship, the battle-ships Massachusetts  and Texas, and the cruisers Columbia  and Minneapolis, the fastest afloat in the navies of the world.

In addition to the ships purchased and subsidized, work on the battle-ships under contract, five in number, was hastened, and a naval bill was passed by Congress carrying an unusually large addition to the navy, embracing three battle-ships, four monitors, twelve torpedo-boats, and sixteen torpedo-boat destroyers. This provision was made without any reference to the hostile relations with Spain, but simply in response to the war sentiment abroad and the general feeling that our navy was too weak for the possible needs of the nation.

On March 17, Senator Proctor made a speech before Congress, in which he described, with the simple eloquence of facts, the terrible scenes of destitution he had witnessed in his visit to Cuba, of which we have already spoken. The horrors of the reconcentration policy were depicted by him with a clearness never before realized by the people, and his words sent a shudder of horrified feeling from end to end of the land. Senators Gallinger and Thurston added their testimony to his, arousing the deep indignation not only of the people, but of Congress, whose members had not before fully appreciated the condition of affairs in Cuba.

From all sides came fervent appeals from people and press for the relief of the starving inhabitants of the desolated island. The $50,000,000 appropriation for defence had been passed by a unanimous vote. But preparation for war, not for defence, was now demanded, since, aside from the disaster to the Maine, it was felt that the barbarous policy of Spain had rendered war inevitable.

The decision of the Maine  Court of Inquiry, which quickly followed, and was transmitted by the President to Congress, with an accompanying message, on March 28, added fuel to the flame and roused the House to a grim determination which no advocate of the policy of peace could restrain. Speaker Reed in vain attempted to hold it back The Senate was equally bent on war. The disaster to the Maine  was but a match touched to the powder of public sentiment. War must have come without it if Spain did not change her policy, and this she showed no intention of doing. The terrible spectacle of nearly a quarter of a million of unoffending people dying of sheer starvation was more than the moral sentiment of the American people could endure. Spain would not succor the people and could not conquer the insurgents. Nothing remained but for the United States to intervene.

Meanwhile President McKinley endeavored to avert hostilities. On March 27 he submitted a proposition to Spain asking that country to grant an amnesty to the insurgents, to continue till October I. during which time the United States would conduct negotiations for peace. He also asked that steps should be taken for the return of the reconcentrados to their farms, promising that the United States would relieve their wants until they were able to support themselves. This communication met the usual fate of negotiations with Spain. An evasive and unsatisfactory reply was returned, deferring the immediate cessation of hostilities and proposing a scheme for II preparing peace." The offer of aid to the reconcentrados was accepted, and a proposition to arbitrate the Maine  affair was added.

The President had made his final effort. Spain's policy of procrastination could no longer be endured. He now turned the matter over to Congress, preparing a special message, in which the whole question at issuewas considered and the situation delineated from its various points of view. Congress was asked for legislation. This message was ready April 4. but was kept back for a week to give time for the American consuls and other citizens to leave Cuba. It was sure to cause violent excitement in the Cuban cities, and might give rise to riotous assaults on the consulates, and the safety of American residents counselled delay.

On April 9 Consul-General Lee left Havana. There were no hostile demonstrations by the people, but General Blanco treated him with marked discourtesy, and the soldiers on guard at the palace were permitted to act in an insulting manner. Many other Americans left the Cuban ports, few or none remaining, and on April 11 the message of the President was sent to Congress, a final decision on the question of peace or war being left to that body. There was added to the document, in the form of a postscript, the statement that Spain had just granted the amnesty asked for,—as usual, too late.

We have already quoted from this message. A further quotation will be in place. "The efforts of Spain," it said, "added to the horrors of the strife a new and inhuman phase happily unprecedented in the modern history of civilized Christian people. The policy of devastation and concentration inaugurated on October 21, 1896, in the province of Pinar del Rio, was thence extended to embrace all of the island to which the power of the Spanish arms was able to reach by military occupation or by military operations. The peasantry, including all dwellers in the open agricultural interior, were driven into the garrisoned towns or isolated places held by troops. The raising and movement of provisions of all kinds were interdicted. The fields were laid waste, dwellings unroofed or fired, mills destroyed, and, in short, everything that could desolate the land and render it unfit for human habitation or support was commanded by one or other of the contending parties and executed by all the powers at their disposal."

The President described in thrilling language the results of this terrible policy, with the frightful destitution, misery, and starvation to which it had given rise, saying that "The only peace it could beget was that of the wilderness and the grave." There had arisen in consequence what he designated as an "intolerable situation." "The only hope of relief and repose," he said, "from a condition which can no longer be endured is the enforced pacification of Cuba. In the name of humanity, in the name of civilization, in behalf of endangered American interests, which give us the right and the duty to speak and to act, the war in Cuba must stop." In view of the facts presented, Congress was asked to authorize the President to take measures for the termination of hostilities and to secure a stable government in Cuba, "and to use the military and naval forces of the United States as may be necessary for these purposes." Evidently the President had given up all hope of peace, for these words meant war.

In addition to his message, President McKinley transmitted to Congress an extensive series of reports received from the American consuls in Cuba during the preceding year in reference to the treatment of the reconcentrados. These had been asked for by Congress on February 14, but the sinking of the Maine  on the following day had put them out of sight, and they were only now transmitted to the legislative bodies. They fully confirmed all that had been stated by General Lee, Senator Proctor, and others in regard to the inhuman treatment of the unarmed people by Spain, and furnished ample confirmation of all that the President had said, and an argument for war on the highest grounds on which a resort to arms can be based, those of humanity and the preservation of the moral standard of mankind.

An impassioned debate followed the reception of the message and continued for several days. In this scarcely a voice was raised for peace. The vast majority of the members were bent upon war, the question at issue being that of the recognition or non-recognition of the republic of Cuba, on which a prolonged disagreement was developed between the Senate and the House. This question was finally shelved, and on April 19 the two bodies of Congress united upon the following joint resolution, which was approved by the President on the 20th:

"JOINT RESOLUTION for the recognition of the independence of the people of Cuba, demanding that the government of Spain relinquish its authority and government in the island of Cuba, and withdrew its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters, and directing the President of the United States to use the land and naval forces of the United States to carry these resolutions into effect.

"WHEREAS, The abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than three years in the island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been a disgrace to Christian civilization, culminating, as they have, in the destruction of a United States battle-ship, with two hundred and sixty-six of its officers and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana and cannot longer be endured, as has been set forth by the President of the United States in his message to Congress of April 11, 1898, upon which the action of Congress was united: therefore,

"Resolved, By the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

"1. That the people of the island of Cuba are, and of right ought to be, free and independent.

"2. That it is the duty of the United States to demand, and the government of the United States does hereby demand, that the government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in the island of Cuba, and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters.

"3. That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and empowered to use the land and naval forces of the United States and to call into the actual service of the United States the militia of the several States to such an extent as may be necessary to carry these resolutions into effect.

"4. That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people."

There could be but one outcome from these resolutions. No one dreamed for a moment that Spain would accede to the conditions offered her. In truth, she was quick to act. She was to be given until noon of the 23rd for an answer, but on the 20th Senor Polo, the Spanish minister, asked for his passports and left Washington. General Woodford, the American minister at Madrid, was not given an opportunity to present the ultimatum of the United States to the government of Spain, his passports being sent him before he had time to act. Spain thus took the initiative in inaugurating the war. Woodford left Madrid on the night of the 21st, not without some efforts at violence on the part of the excited people. On April 24 Spain issued a declaration of war. On the 25th Congress passed a resolution that war between the United States and Spain "is declared to exist, and to have existed, since April 21." After a period of thirty-three years of peace and prosperity war had again come to the great republic of the West.

War was in the air long before it was declared. The verdict of the Maine  Court of Inquiry, taken in connection with Spain's denial and repellant attitude, had rendered hostilities inevitable unless some radical change should take place in the demeanor of the Spanish government and in the situation in Cuba. Of such changes there was no indication. Spain was actively engaged in efforts to purchase ships and munitions of war, and in other preparations for hostilities. Nothing was being done in Cuba, other than to permit American charity to aid the suffering. In early April, 1898, the Spanish cabinet, either shamed into action by the activity of American benevolence or for effect, voted three million pesetas-more than $600,000—for the aid of the starving reconcentrados. That this succor would reach them was very questionable. The soldiers were in almost as pitiable a state as the pacificos. General Lee, questioned concerning this subject on April 12 by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, replied: "I do not believe $600,000 in supplies will be given to these people and the soldiers left to starve. They will divide it up here and there—a piece taken off here and a piece taken off there. The condition of the reconcentrados out in the country is just as bad as in General Weyler's day, except as it has been relieved by supplies from the United States."

Atlantic Ocean


Whatever effect such a belated act of charity was likely to produce, it came too late to check the tide of hostile feeling. Like all Spanish yieldings to the pressure of circumstances, it was delayed until its force was spent. In every reform proclaimed by Spain in Cuban affairs the fatal fault of procrastination appeared. Manana  (tomorrow) should be taken as the national motto of Spain. In no instance that can be named has a reform measure been offered except under the absolute pressure of events, and all such have been vitiated by conditions which would quickly have negatived their effect. Such was the case with the various Blanco reforms. The natives remembered too well the result of the Zanjon capitulation to accept any pacification on the same terms. The appropriation for relief was like all the other steps of reform, —it came too late. In the state of affairs then existing, it was like Dame Partington's effort to keep back the ocean with a broom.

In fact, for a month before the declaration of war such a result of the controversy had become inevitable. There was talk of friendly intervention of the nations of Europe, and the representatives of six of the great powers made an official call upon the President in the interests of peace. The courteous but decisive reply of the Executive put a final end to all efforts in this direction. Attempts to influence Spain to withdraw from her hostile attitude were also made, but without effect. The affair had gone too far to be checked without a resort to arms.

Meanwhile, preparations for hostilities went on with all activity. In addition to the movements of the fleet mentioned, the battle-ship Oregon was ordered to the Atlantic, and left San Francisco on March 19 for a long journey around the South American continent. She was accompanied in part of her course by the gunboat Marietta. The activity displayed in the navy was now paralleled in the army. Orders were issued on April 15 for the concentration of the troops at different points in the South, six regiments of cavalry and the light batteries of five regiments of artillery being ordered to rendezvous at Chickamauga, where a military camp was established. Eight regiments of infantry were set in motion for New Orleans, seven for Tampa. Florida, and seven for Mobile; making a total force of twenty thousand men. During the week ending April 18 the troops of the regular army began moving rapidly by rail towards these camps.

This movement had been under contemplation for some time, its purpose being to acclimate the troops to a climate approaching the tropical; but it had been delayed in view of the expense entailed and with the hope that an accommodation might be reached. But with the near approach of war, immediate action became necessary, and the army was set in rapid motion, converging from all points upon the new camps in the South. The whole army was under the command of Major-General Nelson A. Miles, its several divisions being under Major-General J. R. Brooke and Brigadier-Generals W. B. Shafter, J. J. Coppinger, and J. F. Wade.

While the United States was thus actively preparing for the threatened war, Spain was no less active. Her agents were abroad purchasing war-material in the other countries of Europe and seeking to obtain warships that had been built for other nations. In the latter effort she was unsuccessful, and no additions were made to her fleet. A squadron embracing some of the finest vessels in her navy was sent to the Cape Verde Islands, in preparation for a rapid run across the Atlantic should necessity demand. Thus the two nations stood at bay, while actively preparing for what seemed an inevitable strife.

The powers of Europe looked on meanwhile with much apprehension, not knowing to what complications a war might lead. Yet they had no warrant for intervention. It could not be denied that the highest interests of morality sustained the United States in its course. On the other hand, Spain was preparing to fight for its colonies, as any of these nations would have done. The loss of the Maine  was an added provocation sufficient to have plunged any of these powers into war. In consequence, the European governments confined themselves to amicable efforts, which proved of no avail in preventing the appeal to arms.