What did the USS Battleship Maine have to do with the Spanish-American War?Im doing a paper on Spanish American War and one of the causes is USS Battleship Maine. I would like to know is there...

What did the USS Battleship Maine have to do with the Spanish-American War?

Im doing a paper on Spanish American War and one of the causes is USS Battleship Maine. I would like to know is there anything about the USS Battleship Maine for me to talk about in one or two paragraphs?

What is the USS Battleship Maine? What were the causes that led USS Battleship Maine  to the Spanish American War?

Asked on by brooke89

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larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The above answer does not discuss the impact of Yellow Journalism as an important element in the advent of the Spanish American War. The Cuban insurrections were nowhere near as graphic and horrendous as the previous answer indicates; rather they were played up by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer who were in a bitter battle for newspaper subscribers. Each was willing to bend the truth to sell papers, and as a result, sensationalism was more important than truth. The Cuban insurrections were fair game for the two. One journalist commented:

It was a battle of gigantic proportions in which the sufferings of Cuba merely chanced to furnish some of the most convenient ammunition.

William Randolph Hearst referred to the Spanish commander with more hyperbole than accuracy:

Weyler the brute, the devastator of haciendas, the destroyer of men.

Estimates of casualties and brutality were grossly overestimated. In one instance, Hearst sent Frederick Remington the famous photographer/artist to film war atrocities. When Remington wired him back that there was no war, much less atrocities, Hearst presumably replied: "You furnish the pictures; I'll furnish the war."

Into this fray, the U.S.S. Maine steamed to Havana Harbor on a "courtesy call."  Although the Spanish were not happy to see the Maine there, they were courteous.  The Maine exploded six days later on February 15, 1898 when most of the officers and men were on shore attending a dance given by the Spanish. When the explosion occurred, a number of Spanish workers on the dock jumped into the water at great risk to themselves to rescue sailors thrown into the harbor.

The Captain of the Maine almost immediately suspected an accident, and advised caution; but too many in the U.S. wanted what Secretary of State John Hay called a "splendid little war." Hearst and Pulitzer called it a "dastardly act of sabotage," and offered huge rewards for the capture of the person or persons responsible. Headlines screamed "Remember the Maine." Among those determined to have war was then Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, who said

We will have this war for the freedom of Cuba in spite of the timidity of the commercial interests.

Spain did all it could to avoid war; its concessions were tantamount to surrender. The war interests were too great, however, and President McKinley ordered a blockade of Cuba. This was itself an act of war so Spain declared war on the U.S. on April 24, 1898. Not to be outdone, Congress declared war on April 25, but backdated the declaration to April 21 in a "we got here first" move.

As noted, the Rickover Commission concluded that the sinking was indeed an accident; however it provided a convenient excuse for those who were determined to provoke a war.

enotechris's profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

The sinking of the battleship USS Maine in 1898 was the critical event that brought the United States closer to armed conflict in the Spanish-American War, similar to the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the sinking of the Lusitania beginning the United States' entry into World Wars II and I, respectively. Revolutionaries in Cuba revolted in the late 1860's to overthrow the Spanish government; American sympathies favored the rebels, but nothing was concluded.

In 1895, the Cubans attempted to free themselves from Spain once again, this time the Spanish military established concentration camps that resulted in the starvation deaths of over 100,000 Cubans.  In January, 1898, increased rioting in Cuba threatened the lives and property of US citizens in the country; President McKinley sent the Battleship Maine to Havana as a show of force;  Ironically, the Spanish government had actually agreed for the ship to be sent to Cuba, having completely lost any authority in the country.  On February 15th, the ship exploded and sank, which killed over 500 servicemen. The diplomatic impasse that followed brought no solutions; Cubans would accept nothing but total independence, Spain would not accept losing Cuba; public outrage in the US regarding the sinking would not abate.  Relations with Spain continued to deteriorate, and the US declared war on April 25, 1898.

Initial reports suggested that the ship had hit a mine; much later (in 1976) examination suggested that the coal in the bunker of the ship spontaneously caught fire, which ignited the ship's magazine.



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